Paleo Foods to Heal a Leaky Gut

Gut Healing | The Paleo Diet

Many of those that have made the switch to The Paleo Diet, previously subsisted on a Standard American Diet (SAD) that relies heavily on grains, dairy, simple carbohydrates, sugars, and unhealthy oils. A diet rich in SAD foods can contribute to gut dysbiosis or “leaky gut” which can lead to autoimmune disorders and other ailments such as chronic fatigue, inflammatory bowel disease, rashes, diabetes, mental disorders, and other health related problems. To add insult to injury, the modernized human being has typically had their fair share of gut damaging antibiotics and prescription drugs which only serve to further throw off the intricate balance in one’s digestive tract.

If you have yet to achieve success after adopting your Paleo lifestyle, there is a good chance that your gut functioning is not up to par and your digestive system could be allowing toxins into your bloodstream and preventing adequate nutrient uptake regardless of how healthy you may be eating.

To support immune function and overall well being one must account for the importance of gut health. Fortunately, there are many foods and lifestyle practices you can adopt to restore your gut’s equilibrium.

Gut Healing Foods

As obvious as it may seem, the gut should be thought of as the primary interface between the human body and the environment. Every food that is put into your system will create a reaction in your gut. Certain foods will increase gut permeability with long term exposure, thus allowing normally digested food particles into the bloodstream invoking an immune system response. Over time, this response can lead to the formation of autoimmune illnesses and other health issues. Avoid these foods on a gut healing protocol:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Sugars
  • Unhealthy oils (corn, vegetable, soybean, cottonseed)
  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Excessive carbohydrate consumption

Individuals with autoimmune disease may want to limit or omit:

By removing the foods outlined above, you should be able to reduce overall body inflammation and assist in restoring gut health.

Certain foods, however, should be incorporated into your Paleo Diet to accelerate the healing process.

Gut Healing Foods

Probiotic rich foods are essential. The gut is home to roughly 100 trillion organisms, and many gut related problems stem from loss of gut flora diversity. These foods are tremendously rich in probiotics and should be consumed regularly:

  • Fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi)
  • Kombucha
  • A multi-species dairy-free probiotic supplement can also be equally beneficial

Heal the Intestinal Wall

  • Bone Broth, rich in glycine, gelatin, and glutamine which is essential for intestinal repair
  • Fermentable fibers, like sweet potatoes
  • Healthy fats sources including pasture raised animals, avocado, coconut oil, pure olive oil
  • Omega-3 rich foods like seafood and salmon

Finally, a vital part of gut health is to be able to adequately manage stress. Excessive stress results in heightened cortisol levels which can over time wreak havoc on hormone functionality and other bodily processes including gut functioning.

It is important to avoid chronic stress and to incorporate activities you enjoy in your day-to-day. Activities such as hiking, meditation, playing with your kids, or socializing with friends and family are all great ways to reduce stress.

Stick to these tips and you will be well on on your way to achieving a healthy gut!

Kyle Cordain, The Paleo Diet Team

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“35” Comments

  1. i am suffering from urticaria since last 4 years. tried every medication… montelukast desloratadine..and other antihistamines… each and every food reacts to me and i get swelling on every part of my body..can this be an indication to a leaky gut……..please help me….my life has become hell with this …pls HELP

    • Hi Sophia, I had an autoimmune disease (graves disease) since 2010, starting sept 2015 my autoimmune gone wild and I started having urticaria. I had to take antihistamine once every two days to help me get some sleep. About a month ago I started paleo diet in order to heal my leaky gut. I believe this is the cause of autoimmune problem. I avoid grains, diary, legume, sugar and start consuming bone broth, coconut yogurt & kombucha. Now I have almost 3 weeks without antihistamine and sleep very well every night. Wishing you a healthy life..

  2. I Love this article. I have had chronic health issues for many years, and some of it is neurological, called, “dysautonomia”. However, I recognize that leaky gut is an important factor to consider in healing, and I’m truly struggling with it. I’ve begun a paleo diet, since about 8 weeks ago, and it has helped some. BUT, due to the fact that I have sooooo many food allergies and sensitivities, it has been difficult to get the most healing foods into my diet. I am slowly integrating some raw sauerkraut, and I can eat sweet potatoes. I’ve dumped potatoes and dairy. It’s been years since I ate any grains. There is something else that is helpful, though, that really needs to be said about how stress affects the healing process of chronic illness.

    Our stress seems to come from our life situations, but the truth is the stress comes from our perspectives on the life situations. We have been programmed to stress out and worry. We worry about the symptoms in our bodies, and what triggers those symptoms, and even those worries add to our stress. Much of our symptoms are being triggered by our fears! So, how do we stop worrying and stressing? I’ve been working with this program: http://tinyURL.com/guptaprogramme and it really does assist my healing process immensely. My sinusitis cleared up, even without diet changes, using that program. The sinuses are very intimately affected by the nervous system. Many people who are chronically ill become hyper-sensitive to odors. It is because the autonomic nervous system is on chronic high alert. I highly recommend that program, linked above, to help learn how to use neural linguistic programming and meditation to calm the stress responses in the body.

    I have a question about probiotics, please? I’ve been taking a high potency probiotic by Klaire Labs, which is also a company that only sells by doctor prescription, (which I think is stupid!) I’ve been taking them for a few years, and have to say that I don’t think they are working very well, despite the quality of them. I read, online, that it may be that the good bacteria is destroyed in the stomach before it reaches the intestines, and therefore you need to use a probiotic that will make it to the intestines, intact. Will fermented foods help with this? Maybe I would be better served to drop the probiotic supplement and use foods instead? If there are good supplements that make it to the intestines, I would need them to be hypo-allergenic….and that is difficult to find.

    Thank you!

    • Foods would be a better option. Consider sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, etc. That being said, both fermented foods and probiotics were not available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Probiotics can be beneficial in the short term for gut healing, but I think it is better to stick to a diet that allows the gut to heal instead of using probiotics to counteract gut damage.

    • The best most comprehensive probiotic supplement is Klean Probiotic from douglas Laboratory. All their suppelments are certified by ISO900, ISO 9001, ISO17025 and NSF. These certifications are necessary to ensure that a supplement is using correct bioavailable forms to easily assimilate in the body. You will have to ask a licensed healthcare professional to become an affiliate. It can be a nurse. This is the only way you can buy from them. Hope that helps.

  3. Hello All,

    I am in the process of trying to get rid of my Psoriasis, and I have a question: Some people say not to eat meat, but Dr. Cordain is saying certain meats are OK. The people that are saying not to eat meat prefer that you eat Legumes and a few grains instead; Dr. Cordain says no legumes and grains, but meat is OK. I’m really confused. I do weight training so I need to know where to get my protein. I just ordered some hemp protein, hoping this might be OK, although I’m really confused. Someone please help! -Craig

  4. This is the right web site for anybody who wishes to understand this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic that has been written about for decades. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!

  5. Hello,

    For those of you with SINUS problems…be very careful. I suffered from sinus problems and chronic inflammation for well over a decade. I had sinus surgery and I can’t tell you how many rounds of augmentin(sp?) and prednisone was prescribed to me. Even after all of the treatment, I would go back and have a CAT scan and the inflammation would still be there. Fast forward to today and my ANA is positive which is concerning. After reading about autoimmune disorders, I switched my diet and my inflammation is slowly subsiding. What I don’t understand is why PCPs or ENTs don’t bother telling you the inflammation could be caused by poor digestion, or other gastro issues. As a matter of protocol, this should happen, as a leaky gut can progress to RA, SLE, and other serious autoimmune diseases. Not only that steroids and antibiotics can only worsen the problem. So take it from me, if you have sinus issues, or you snore, and unless it is life or death, do not take steroids or antibiotics, try adjusting your diet first. It could literally save your life.

    • That is great information. I also have chronic inflammation. I was advised to have sinus surgery but I decided against it. I have been diagnosed with leaky gut by my acupuncturist. So I can honestly say, adjusting your diet is the key to all of this. I’m working on that adjustment as we speak.

    • Carla, thanks for posting. I have had two major sinus surgeries and about 6 months later i continue with debilitating headaches. Iam at my wits end. I don’t know what to do. Your post caught my eye. Iam researching the Paleo diet. Hoping it will help.

  6. Hi there, I have recently been diagnosed with Leaky Gut (via urine testing by my integrative medical doctor). She has recommended your website for dietary advice. I would like to know how I would know if I should limit or omit:
    Nightshades
    Nuts and Seeds
    Eggs (Egg whites in particular)

    I know I have a sensitivity to nightshades (as per previous hair testing), but appear to be ok with nuts/seeds and eggs. I have read other literature on Leaky gut and the clearly state avoiding these altogether for everyone that has leaky gut.
    Thoughts and advice please
    Thanks
    Sophie

    • Sophie,

      It may be best to eliminate nuts, seed, and eggs in addition to nightshades for at least a month or two to ensure proper healing of the gut. You could try to slowly add these foods back in as you progress with healing your gut, and see if you have any adverse reactions. Alcohol should be avoided as well if you are trying to heal your gut. There is really good information circulating on the web about gut health and its relation to the “Autoimmune Paleo Protocol.” You should be able to find plenty of information with a quick Google search on this subject. Also, if you are trying to heal your gut you should be consuming probiotics and bone broth regularly in your diet. Good Luck!

  7. Took a sip of some bone broth I made from chicken bones. HUGE HEADACHE! Turns out I’m sensitive to glutamic acid but I still want to heal myself, as I know I’m still suffering from what I had eaten in the past. Any suggestions? I’m already taking magnesium and a multi.

  8. I was diagnosed with IBS, but then I did a colonoscopy and I had inflammation with visible sores in the entire colon. I was immediately “diagnosed” with crohn’s and I was on a special diet for a month (didn’t eat anything other than theese highly sugary processed milkshakes). my symptoms were even worse. then came the biopsies results and they showed that I couldn’t have IBD because of some numbers that were normal and wouldn’t be otherwise.
    2 months later, I did another colonoscopy and I didn’t have sores, but I still had a “mild chronic inflammation” which my doctor can’t explain. DO you think this might be because of a leaky gut? I know for a fact that I have a big bacterial overgrowth in my small intestine because I did a breath test which came positive, and I cannot eat anything, especially sugars like fructose and lactose(intolerant), or starch, without being completely bloated and distended.
    I think my IBS might have a root in this SIBO so it’s my main goal to treat it, that’s why I started following the GAPS diet and plan to stay on in for a big while.
    Do you think that the gaps diet is appropriate for me (eating fermented DAIRY and EGGS) or should I avoid all allergens? would appreciate an opinion, kind of desperate due to my country’s lack of scientifical knowledge.. Thanks!

    • For SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) you need to check out the FODMAP diet. I am working on healing my stomach from leaky gut and found through trial and elimination that I cannot eat any legumes, garlic, raw onions or sugars ending in -ol…IE sorbitol, mannitol, etc. If I have any of these items, I end up with a SIBO infection.

  9. I was diagnosed with lichen planus and I am thinking it may have been caused by a leaky gut. I am very confused on what I should be eating. Not to mention how upset this is making me feel. Talk about eliminating stress well not sure if that can happen now.. So very frustrated.. Any suggestion will be greatly appreciated.. TIA

    • Theresa, this info may assist you. Before I came to this site, I made notes from the blog of a male physician who had self treated his issue with Lichen as it related to Phimosis (tight penis foreskin) for which I am assisting my partner to treat (along with Type 2 Diabetes). This physician followed a low oxalic diet and noticed a 50% improvement in 2 weeks. He then added a multi species probiotic (in his case VSL#3) for 4 weeks to obtain a 98% recovery. He then rubbed on a small amount of coconut oil and obtained a 100% recovery. All symptoms had recovered.

      I would expect the same would apply for a woman.

      My partner (male) is just starting the full Paleo diet, which we have adapted to his Blood Type O re: Dr D’Adamo (removing foods that are inflammatory for his blood type), which we have further adapted to be very low carb ketogenic (T2DM recovery & shed weight) re: Dr Sandra Cabot. We intend to heal his leaky gut (using probiotic rich foods, a probiotic, bone broth, healthy fat sources, omega rich fish) and detox Liver (juicing).

      The Paleo diet, adjusted for Blood Type (removing biocidic foods within the range of Paleo foods), along with the physician’s remedy mentioned above, is how I would treat this issue in my own self.

    • Hi Theresa; for your stress i have been introduced to the Adrenal Reset Diet by Alan Christianson, NMD…it is pretty interesting way to deal with stress and i’ve been following it and i like the science behind it all. I bought the book at Chapters. Good Luck!

  10. I have had major sinus congestion for 7 years and took antibiotics and prednisone
    and 2 sinus surgeries. However I discovered that my congestion was from a leaky gut and stop diary,gluten and sugar has greatly improved my congestion.

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  13. Interesting! My problem with respect to this health condition is my belly becoming a gas generating chamber. It is specially embarrassing when I am in class.

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  15. I stumbled upon this site by accident. About 5 month ago I started getting very intense pressure in my head, I thought it was just a tension headache, but it lasted 2 months! My first doctor told me it was a sinus infection and prescribed a very powerful dose of azithromycin. I started getting extreme anxiety and still had the headache. Finally saw a differ doc and she told me it was allergies. Rhinot is to be exact. I’ve never had allergies, so this was confusing, but she said it was from California’s drought combined with bad air quality. Flash forward 3 month and 2 nasal sprays later, my symptoms have not improved and I’ve developed allergic reactions to everything I put on my face, like lotions and makeup. And im breaking out in hives when i take ibuprofen. Now I’m starting to have some constipation and diarrhea boughts. I’ve been taking ACV with lemon, but I’ve also been drinking lots of caffeine for the headaches. Could this be what I have?

    • Katrina, your symptoms are almost identical to mine, and I’ve been having them for 6 months so far. For me, it started with dizziness, and I was told it was a sinus infection. The third doctor I saw told me I have allergies (I never had allergies before). I was prescribed 3 courses of antibiotics (Levaquin twice and Amoxicillin once), a steroid (Medrol dose pack) AND a steroid shot (Kenalog). NOTHING helped. I started having anxiety, heart palpitations, and both of my ears have been blocked for almost 6 months now (they can’t ‘pop’ because they are still inflamed/swollen). I am having ‘issues’ with food (I am out of breath after eating, I get dizzy and anxious) – and the foods that cause these issues are always different. If I had a sip of coffee, I was dizzy for days. I am still taking Zyrtec-D and a nasal spray, but I feel like they’re not working. Nothing helps with the allergies, so I am wondering if allergies really are the problem. Also, my hormones seem to be all over the place.
      I know this post is not new, but I hope someone can post a reply regarding our issues and maybe tells us more about what could be going on. Doctors prescribe medications that clearly do not help – or cause even more issues.
      Best wishes to you.

      • Nina, levaquin and steroids have caused the anxiety and severe reactions in many people. It happened to me and many I have talked to. please look into flouroquinolone toxicity and sypmtoms. I am having major joint pains and many other symptoms. the doctors say it is rare, but it is very common. everything you are going through sounds like symptoms from fqt. please check it out, I had most of the same things as you.

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  19. This is exactly what I needed to read! I never heard of the term a leaky gut, but I’m sure that is what is bothering me at the moment. I’m taking the advice and hoping my gut will heal.

    • Not only does caffeine dehydrate the tissues and constrict the small blood capillaries necessary for moving blood to the mucosa for healing but it is very acidic; an alkaline body is a healthy body. An acidic body is not conducive to healing any illness. This diet restricts most acid foods so adding caffeine especially to excess will cause inflammation just like alcohol would. Believe me I tried a cup of Joe and my foot swelled up with fluid-the proof is in the test for me. Milk would be an acid which is why it is prohibited. Susan Wind

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