Leaky Gut Syndrome

Leaky Gut Syndrome | The Paleo Diet

Dr. Cordain,

I have just finished watching your appearance on Dr. Oz yesterday, and am interested in following up on your comment regarding the need for study groups looking into “Leaky Gut Syndrome.” I have recently been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s autoimmune disorder, after many years of undiagnosed symptoms, much testing, and many life style changing debilitating symptoms. I am currently under the care of a very knowledgeable, thorough nurse practitioner who specializes in functional and integrative medicine. Throughout all of the many doctors I have seen, she is the first to ever talk about “Leaky Gut” and the multitude of symptoms it can cause.

If you know anything about study groups being formed, or have any pieces of advice you would be willing to share with me, I would love to hear!

Thank you for your research and information!

— Martha

Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Hi Martha,

Many thanks for your kind words about my research.  We have completed a large (~100) case survey of autoimmune patients including a substantial group with Hashimoto’s and other thyroid.  We examined medical records of the patients pre-post adoption of a Paleo Diet, and were encouraged by the results, particularly in autoimmune thyroid patients and those with Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis.

We believe that increased intestinal permeability (“a leaky gut”) may represent an environmental trigger for many autoimmune diseases in genetically predisposed individuals.  I have written about the mechanisms involved in the scientific literature (these papers are available as free PDF downloads at my website).  In my latest book, The Paleo Answer, I have devoted a number of chapters explaining how various foods compromise intestinal function and promote a leaky gut. The Paleo Diet severely reduces or eliminates these foods (grains, dairy, legumes, potatoes) and describes how patients with autoimmune disease should proceed cautiously with other foods known to cause a leaky gut such as capsaicin (hot) chili peppers, some nightshades, alcohol, antacids, alfalfa sprouts and a few others I describe in my book.

I hope you achieve success with The Paleo Diet.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

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“17” Comments

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  2. Do women suffer more from this than men? My wife has been in constant pain because she can’t seem to eat many types of food. After keeping a diary and monitoring the food types causing the problem we have been able to eliminate about 80 percent of the stuff that irritate her gut.

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  8. Hi all, My name is Brian. I have a few questions regarding Leaky Gut Syndrome & Candidiasis & the various types of treatments available. I have read the book ‘One Cause, Many Ailments’ & found it to be very informative & insightful. Can anyone recommend any other helpful books on Leaky gut and also on Candida Abicans/candidiasis? I’d also like to get some valuable tips from anyone who had any success attempting the more unconventional & not so common forms of treatment but I will get to more of that in a bit.

    I would like to tell you a bit about myself and my struggles thus far.

    I’ve been dealing with Leaky Gut Syndrome probably for some time without even knowing it & Candida overgrowth too. Just recently things got so bad that it literally took over my entire life & completely stopped me from living. Never before in my 38 years on this earth have I ever experienced such incapacitating feelings of absolute horror!

    Wen I First started feeling ‘sick’ I went to my Doctor who took a urine sample, did a few minor checks & gave me a clean bill of health. I thought he wasn’t very thorough but I ignored it & left. Then still felt sick a few days later & a bit worse so I went for numerous scans, blood tests & so on. You name it I got tested for it & tests all came back negative which made me think I was going crazy! You must understand, I’m a big built guy & on the outside I look healthy as can be so Doctors kept saying I have nothing to worry about! This went on for nearly 10 months & I just kept getting worse & worse. Everyone kept telling me I’ve been for every test imaginable so I must be fine but my body & mind told me otherwise.

    Anyway I found a Doctor who specialized in integrative & alternative forms of medicine who said my symptoms could be related to Leaky gut &/or Candidiasis so I was tested and after 2 weeks tests confirmed I have both!

    I always thought I could handle anything life threw my way, I always managed to handle anything & everything up until that point. I am an ex marine, I went through the most extreme training & in the worst conditions imaginable so I am physically strong, extremely tough & always thought I could handle anything but I can’t seem to handle this! It seems impossible!

    Since discovering I have LGS & Candidiasis & the symptoms I’ve been experiencing especially as of late, I just lost all interest in life. I can’t even build up the energy or enthusiasm to play with my little boy & I used to play with him every day after day care. I have since lost my job due to this, my wife is constantly threatening to divorce me(we are currently separated), I never leave the apartment anymore I basically don’t have a life anymore whatsoever. I have been robbed of it thanks to LGS & candidiasis & no one seems to understand what I’m going through & it makes this that much harder to cope with! Just knowing I could lose my wife at any moment causes me so much stress & makes my condition a lot worse.

    I keep getting ‘advice’ from friends & family on how to deal with this but no one I know has dealt with this before so how can they think they know what they’re talking about or what I’m going through?? I know they have good intentions but when I tell them their advice or tips does not work or help my situation they think I’m just being difficult or unreasonable & this infuriates me!!!

    Even my family doesn’t really support me through this because they think I’ve turned into this evil monster who wants nothing to do with them & that’s the furthest thing from the truth! I was always full of life & the one constantly cracking jokes but now I am the complete opposite. I have started treatment & I know I will get better but it doesn’t make things any easier for me.

    I’ve read about & spoken to so many people online who went through this, overcame it & had the support of their loved ones but my own wife can’t understand how I can let this affect our marriage. Like I would do that intentionally! I have done everything for her, helped her through a serious drug addiction just 2 years ago when no one wanted anything to do with her & now that I’m sick all she does is complain that I’m not there for her & our boy. When she was battling addiction she wanted to be left alone but I stuck by her & when I bring that up she says I can’t compare what I have to the addiction she had. She claims my situation isn’t as serious as hers was! I can’t believe she would say something like that! All I expect from her is to try & understand like I did & be patient with me & allow me to deal with this & not make everything about her! It’s going to take time but I will get better. & when I do I will spend time with her again doing romantic things but right now that’s the last thing on my mind because of how dreadful I feel on most days. I can’t force myself to feel happy no matter what anyone thinks. It’s just not possible.

    I learned a lot about Leaky gut so far but the way I understand it is that food particles leak through the gut & into the blood stream causing the immune system to spring into full on attack mode. This causes a variety of symptoms which may vary from person to person. My symptoms vary from time to time but include overwhelming fatigue, itchiness in the face/neck, major anxiety/depression, feeling cold, pins & needles, muscle weakness, severely itchy skin, tremors/muscle twitches & a few other symptoms. Candidiasis alone can give you most of the symptoms I mentioned & lots more. The main thing I can’t get a grip on is how severely my mood & state of mind is affected & how awful & hopeless it makes me feel!

    When this all occurs I can’t do anything, I just have to wait until it fades away. It’s not just a matter of changing my attitude or finding fun things to do like so many people tell me to do because that doesn’t work! Are you kidding me? It takes over my mind and body & no amount of focus can alter the physical & mental hell I endure during the course of these episodes! I simply have to lay still until I feel better & that sometimes takes a few hours. That’s all I can do but people seem to think I’m allowing this to control my life. I’m not allowing it to, it’s doing it all on its own, I don’t have a say in the matter FFS!!

    I get these symptoms on & off generally after eating & I’ve learned it’s because of multiple food sensitivities developed from having a leaky gut. When I’m in bed at night especially after about 9pm I basically never get any of these symptoms. It makes a lot of sense as my last meal I eat is around 5pm so by 6pm my food will have been digested. If I experience any symptoms after that then it stops after a few hours & I don’t eat any more after that so no more symptoms because I haven’t eaten again. So usually after 9pm I am almost guaranteed to not experience any episodes unless of course I eat something. I never do though. Too risky.

    I don’t experience symptoms all the time & every day. I do go through occasional days with no bad symptoms but it’s still hard to get out because I know my symptoms come at random times & so unexpectedly & the only place I want to be when I get them is at the apartment so I permanently stay there. Again-no one understands this because they don’t have to worry about having these nasty episodes in the middle of a dinner or movie, I do, so how can they give advice on something they personally know nothing about?

    I have tried to continue working & tried to get out at times when I felt okay enough but I so often got my symptoms while being out & it sometimes turned into what can only be described as a full blown panic attack which seriously freaked me out! Other times while being out or at my job I didn’t get the panic attacks but the symptoms would be so extreme that I just had to leave & get to the apartment & into my bed because I felt if I didn’t I would just lose all control. That’s the anxiety which I also can’t control. At those particular moments, it didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing, all I knew is I needed to get to the apartment & I needed to get there fast! Again, no one understood how any type of symptom could cause me to need to get to my apartment & away from everyone but to me it’s the only place I felt I could go to feel a bit of relief.

    Of course I lost my job & that’s something I have to deal with but there was no way I could continue to function with my symptoms being that severe. I just had to accept that fact. No one will understand it & I try to accept that too but it’s difficult. All everyone says is how can I allow myself to lose my job or neglect my wife & my little boy! No matter how many times I try to explain it or how many different ways I try, no one ever tries to believe me or at least attempt to understand how this all really affects me & others out there!

    Makes me so freakin mad that no one gets it or even attempts to be more understanding of what I tell them! It’s as if everyone thinks I’m making all of this up & wanted to lose my job & cause my wife to move out with our little boy. The only people who understand are fellow sufferers & I am grateful for meeting them online. Makes me feel like I’m not crazy & I’m not alone & just knowing others out there can relate to what I’m going through helps immensely.

    I am already noticing some slight improvements & a reduction in the severity of my symptoms due to the treatment plan I’m on so I am feeling good about that. I would like to know if anyone has tried any unconventional methods that have helped with recovery in both Candidiasis & leaky gut? There are so many different methods, a lot of conflicting info but a lot of people with success stories too. Some who I have already been in contact with. I’m always open to new ideas. Any tips or advice will be highly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance & thanks for reading my story. I am willing to listen to & offer support to anyone who needs it. I feel we can all help each other even if in just a small way, it all helps.


    • Hi Brian,
      Your story sounds almost identical to mine. I, too, went it many dr’s and got no where. I was told that I had leaky gut and candida, as well. My first step to feeling somewhat “normal” was getting the ALCAT test done to show what foods were actually making me so sick. My insurance didn’t cover it, but it was the best money I ever spent! That was 5 years ago. I would first cut out all food dyes, additives, artificial flavors, grains, alcohol, tobacco and dairy. See how that goes. I drink mostly water with one cup of black coffee per day. Eat lots of spinach and other leafy greens. If you have a extra money I would highly recommend the alcat so you know what foods to eliminate right off the bat! I really hope you start feeling better soon. I know all too well how debilitating and lonely it can be..
      Let me know how you’re doing,

    • Hi Brian, Your story sounds so familiar to mine. I believe that I have leaky gut syndrome but my intestional permeability test came back normal. I am curious what tests where done by the alternative doctor to tell you that you definitely have leaky gut syndrome and candidiasis? I also saw an alternative/holistic doctor but she did not do any tests. I feel I have both also – leaky gut syndrome/intestional dysbiosis/Candidiasis. I have had IBS-D for 35 years and up until recently has been controlled by diet. But now I have chronic diarrhea and are homebound. Very difficult for me to leave the house. I have had the SIBO test done, stool Specimen test, Hydrogen breath test and many many more and all came back normal. For 25 years I have suffered with chronic sinus infections and have taken advil cold and sinus and antibiotics repeatedly. My newest gastro doctor believes I have leaky gut syndrome and candidiasis. She put me on a probiotic called VSL#3 (DS) double strength. This probiotic has 900 billion good bacteria. So far it is staying in my gut, but I still have the diarrhea problem and exhaustion. She also put me on a very strick no sugar, no dairy diet. meat, fish, rice and cooked veggies is all I eat. I can’t eat fruit because of my IBS-D. But I was very concerned when my permeability test came back normal. Do I really have leaky gut syndrome or not? I understand what you are going thru because I have never been so sick in my 63 years of life and it is so frustrating. I am sick of wearing diapers and having fecal incontinence attacks that are so humiliating and disgusting to live with. I have tried so many drugs thru out the years, I know I have tried them all and they all failed – nothing helps. And I have no support from my family either. They don’t get it. I am sorry you lost your job. That had to be tuff. I retired in September because of my IBS and all the diarrhea. Couldn’t stand it anymore. What treatment plan do you refer to that you are on right now? You are not crazy, there are many like us out in the world – I feel it. But they can’t get help either. I wish you well.


    • Brian, I hope you have no reason to come back to see any more responses as I pray things are better for you now! With that said I will tell you that if you haven’t gotten a handle on this or don’t really soon, the the possibilities of you remaining big and strong in stature could potentially cease! I know from personal experience, and one may never get back to where they were before falling victim to such a debilitating, awful and most ignored and misunderstood hellish condition!! I can’t give you or anyone else advice as I am not a doctor nor am I qualified in any way. I can only tell you that with me it didn’t stop at the point where you were at the time you submitted your post. Let me tell you I was where you were a few years ago and all the professional health care workers I saw said about the same thing to me too “Your Fine”. I still can’t imagine why no one detected the problem with the many symptoms I had even then which was several years back and that there is so many affected with this I have learned, surely they must see it quite frequently one would imagine. Anyway I feel you must know by now what you are dealing with as time has passed since then. You should know it doesn’t necessarily stop at the point you were at, at the time of your post, I certainly wish it did! The potential for further health issues with this potentially deadly condition is dramatic to say the least, that is in my case and other sufferers that I’ve read about who have also fallen victim to this hideous illness , and believe me I have been reading just almost daily, literally for years now!… Listen, I now suffer from osteoporosis, rapidly growing cataracts, hair loss, eczema, dandruff, loss of appetite, and that’s when one begins shrinking in stature among other terrible health issues that seem to get out of control for lack of nourishment, and it can come to that, at least it has in my case and so many others I have read about, and for some reason it seems to victimize females more often than males, and it isn’t limited to the human race either it even affects dogs and cats and I would venture to say, most probably about any thing that lives and breathes. I stopped buying G M O foods and changed my diet and I feel the change from G M O is an extreme must although the diet is about to reduce me down to nothing! The limitation of carbohydrates is the killer that comes with the disorder. Imagine being on the first floor of a building and yelling to to someone on the third floor to drop you some food but when they do an arm reaches out from the second floor and grabs it before it gets to you. now every time you request something else, and they drop it, the same thing happens and you are literally starving by then. You realize you are losing weight and reducing in size but you see that the arm that keeps grabbing your food is getting bigger and stronger. In essence that is how it has been with me and that’s when it takes control. What you want to avoid is a too stringent diet as I was told to go on early on, it just makes things worse and at the same time one has to be careful not to consume the wrong foods as it grows every time you feed it until it is the monster that it is working to achieve. I would like to be able to correspond with you or anyone else here and exchange ideas and theories, methods and/or whatever.
      And by the way, the respondent two posts below mentioning the diaper thing……been there done that too and am ever so grateful that’s over with but there always seems to be a whole new array of issues on the horizon.
      Sorry about the extremely dim, discouraging post I’ve written but there is not one thing positive about this crud that I can think to say! Uhmm, I’ve even had to beat cancer in 2012 due to this, not saying that’s where your going as every one’s case isn’t the same. Hypochlorhydria was and still is a major concern for me as is a no bile production as I am told the candida clogs up the biliary tubes and the liver and slows down or stops production of these extremely necessary stomach acids. I was first diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, again probably from a stoppage in one or more of the pancreatic ducts, I’m told. I believe in my case there were way too many PPI’s and too many procedures and as a result too many antibiotics! Whatever you do don’t stop searching for your answer and as I’ve heard before “It’s okay to give out but never give up”. It’s a long fight with a short stick but hang in there with all you’ve got left and pray and believe for the best as that is all we have anyway, that and hope…….don’t forget hope!

      Good fortune to you and all that read this and all be blessed

    • Hi Brian,

      I just came across your story, though I see it’s from a few years ago. I feel everything you shared – especially the mental difficulties and aloneness this illness can foster. I too am a veteran, and I believe our time in the military helps contribute to some of this as well (as I’ve been researching this on so many levels for the last two years now). I don’t know if you’re still suffering, have found complete relief or are still looking for suggestions. Let me know if you’d like to continue a dialogue…also, the number one most magical thing I’ve introduced that has all but wiped away any physical sickness (no more food allergies, 4-hour episodes of sickness especially after eating etc.) has been taking Super Enzymes. I can eat anything now without suffering. If that helps at all.


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  10. When you have leaky gut coupled with other problems it is really difficult to find suitable supplements and foods that do not aggravate your condition. The most important thing is to free your mind of all stress and relax. Yes, certain things are out of your control. You can not help it. Instead focus on things that you have control over. Listen to your body and try to eat only those foods (natural and organic) that do not further irritate your gut.

  11. HI Dr. Courdain, I am 33 years old with Fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel and Arthritis. Also a Celiac. Also tendency to diabetic from my dad side, currently hypoglycemic. Have you investigated in these diseases by chance? Do you think your book will help for me, too? Thanks a lot

    • Hi Reyna – I just found out I’m hypoglycemic. It is a nightmare. Mind if I ask how you deal with it? I started having symptoms 3 months ago. All my blood tests came back normal and the Dr’s think I’m crazy. I just started eating 6-8 small meals last week after my acupuncturist recommended it. I get the “tension” headaches that are scaring feeling and about once a week heart palpitations wake me up around 6am. Thank you for any advice!

      • Hi, as for hypoglycemia, I was getting it with crazy things, sometimes even a date would be enough to make me fall asleep. When I got an upper cervical adjustment, it controlled it, amazingly enough. Turns out my atlas (top bone the skull rests on) was out of place for decades, and pressing on my spinal column, which of course relates to the nervous system, digestion, and tons of other functions. There is also a pill, chromium GTF which is supposed to help. I would also recommend kundalini yoga to balance one’s systems, it works with energy in the spine, and balances hormones and helps in many many ways (recommend Ravi Singh’s Fat Free Yoga DVD specifically). I’m eating some grain now, but the hypoglycemia is gone, possibly because of my adjustments (only upper cervical care chiropractor does this), or dietary changes. I’m eating lots of fermented foods now which will help restore health to your gut, which may correct many things. Make fermented veggies yourself with a starter, and water kefir. Good luck!

      • I have hypoglycemia. I control it with diet. When you eat carbs, your pancreas is overloading you on insulin, which gives you lower blood sugar than before you ate. So you have no energy, and you have brain fog, and you are hungry and craving again. The answer is this: cut out ALL the carbs. I only eat meat, natural fats and leaf greens. Carbs are genuinely addicting and insulin is the pusher. After a week of withdrawals, you will have tons of energy and double the brain power because your body will be able to USE the food that you eat. This diet is called Nutritional Ketosis. I have been on it now for 28 years. I have lots of energy, clear thinking, my depression evaporated, it has kept me thin and I have NO health problems. I was upset when my endo put me on it, but now I could kiss his feet for giving me the fountain of youth. I have read many, many books to educate myself about how it works, but one I like a lot is called “Life without Bread by by Allan and Lutz. There are many FB pages about ketosis full of recipes and help. Good luck. 🙂

  12. Hello Dr. Courdain, my husband has had Crohn’s disease for most of his life along with many surgeries. I have been advised to check out the Paleo Diet but have noticed that it encourages eating leafy greens. Our problem is that he cannot eat any type of leafy greens or roughage, as much as he would love to, it would go right through him and cause him severe stomach pain. I am strongly considering trying this way of life (a lot of which we have already incorporated), but do not want to if its not feasible for my husbands health. Do you have any suggestions to help me along this path? Your response is greatly appreciated! Thank you

  13. Hi Dr. Courdain

    I have been diagnosed with poylmyalgia with temperol arteritis…would that paleo diet book help me with my disease…and where could i buy this book…thanks

  14. Hi Doctor Cordain,
    I am interested in your comments on any studies you did with Hashimoto patients, as I was diagnosed with this last year, and have had many crazy changes to my body. I am new to the Paleo way of eating (only one week into it) and would love it if besides taking better care of myself and losing weight, if this could also help my Hashimoto symptoms. Any insight you have to share would be appreciated! Thanks, Kim

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