How To Test For Leaky Gut At Home (2024)

Test For Leaky Gut At Home

Welcome to my blog, ‘How to test for leaky gut at home.’

What Is Leaky Gut?

The gut has the most significant exposure to antigens. The gut lining is selectively permeable – it allows the right stuff through, and prevents the wrong stuff from entering our blood stream. However, various things can compromise the gut microbiome, and the gut barrier, leading to increased intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut). Leaky gut can allow the entry of harmful agents through, which pass into the bloodstream and affect various organs and systems.

Thus, leaky gut syndrome is associated with both diseases of the gut, such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as conditions outside the gut (what we call extra-intestinal diseases), including heart diseases, obesity, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and celiac disease.

What Are The Symptoms Of Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut may be responsible for a huge variety of health issues, ranging from ‘minor’ symptoms such as bloating, cramps, fatigue, food allergies and sensitivities, gas, and headaches to “bigger things” such as autoimmune conditions, depression and other mood disorders, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis (source). It has also been associated with musculoskeletal injuries. (source)

What Causes Leaky Gut?

Factors such as stress, an unhealthy diet over an extended period of time, excessive alcohol, antibiotics, and drug consumption can compromise the composition of the gut microbiome, leading to increased leaky gut.

Risk Factors For Leaky Gut

 

Causes Of Leaky Gut

Leaky Gut And Food Sensitivities

While associations between food allergies (an IgE mediated reaction) and leaky gut have been well-characterised, the relationship between food sensitivities (an IgG mediated reaction) and leaky is not well-described in the literature.

In one study the researchers tested for associations between leaky gut and food-specific IgG antibodies.

The biomarkers tested for leaky gut were anti-lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and anti-occludin IgG and IgA antibodies, andanti-vinculin or anti-CdtB IgG antibodies.

Anti-lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and anti-occludin IgG and IgA antibodiesbut not anti-vinculin or anti-CdtB IgG antibodies, were significantly and positively associated with IgG-mediated food sensitivities.

The results support a strong association between levels of IgG antibodies and leaky gut  biomarkers, to the extent that the presence of multiple IgG antibodies to food, and increasing IgG food titers, can be considered indicative of increased antibodies to LPS and occludin (source).

How To Test For Leaky Gut At Home

You can test for leaky gut at home by completing a stool test to evaluate for the biomarker zonulin. Click on the gut microbiome below to learn more.

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The advantage of completing a stool test is that you will also be testing the gut microbiome and the digestive capacity of the gut, both of which may be helpful in understanding why you have leaky gut, if indeed you do.  For example perhaps you have low levels of butyrate producing bacteria, inflammation or an infection.

SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) may also need to be considered/tested, if appropriate, as this is also a cause of leaky gut.

Another way to test for leaky gut at home is via basic blood testing. As per the diagram above things like insulin, HbA1c, cholesterol and inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein are associated with leaky gut. While these aren’t directly testing for leaky gut, the more data points we have the better our understanding of what might be needed to heal the gut.

Another way to test for leaky gut at home is via urine or blood tests that do directly evaluate the integrity of the gut lining but these are only available when working with a nutritional therapist or functional medicine practitioner. You can search for a practitioner to work with using this directory.

How To Heal Leaky Gut

The ONLY way to successfully heal a leaky gut is to restore balance/function to the mechanism that was causing it in the first place. Some of the more common underlying mechanisms are: stress, poor diet, poor blood flow to the gut, a systemic health issue (such as thyroid issues) that is not being adequately addressed, SIBO, a gut infection, inflammation, or neurological issues (brain trauma or neurodegeneration).

Therefore, the above is the first step – understanding the mechanisms. This will require working with an experienced practitioner who wants to help you get to the bottom of your health issues. The below considerations are still helpful, but may not ‘fix’ the problem on their own, unless you have a very simply case of leaky gut due to a course of antibiotics for example.

Diet

The research on treating leaky gut is mostly based on avoidance of high amounts of sugar and fat and implementation of FODMAP diet. I’d disagree with this however – while the FODMAP diet may alleviate symptoms it may not address the underlying mechanism causing leaky gut and thus may not be warranted. I find the diet needs to be tailored to the individual as it depends on so many factors – does someone have histamine intolerance? Do they have oxalate issues? Do they have low stomach acid? Issues with their gall bladder?

As basic as it sounds, many may simply need a nutrient dense whole food diet to heal their gut (and yes I have had leaky gut, all three types of SIBO, gut infections etc….you name it).

Stress Management

Stress can impact the gut lining and has been associated with an increase in gut permeability.

In one study a public speaking based stressor, small intestinal permeability was significantly increased. Interestingly, this was only seen in those individuals who also had a significant elevation of cortisol. (source).

Probiotics

Among the many benefits of probiotics is the maintenance of the gut barrier. Other benefits include regulation of intestinal transit, the production of short-chain fatty acids and vitamins, and providing enzyme digestion activities for the degradation of undigested fibers. Probiotics could also help modulate intestinal permeability affecting the mucus, epithelium and microbiota (source).

Another positive effect of some probiotic microorganisms on the epithelium is the increase in the expression and secretion of defensins. Defensibs have antimicrobial activity against a wide range of variety of bacteria, fungi, and some viruses. This might partly explain why probiotics do indeed help treat SIBO.  (source)

Interestingly probiotics also increase the levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA)-producing cells in the gut lining and promote the secretion of secretory IgA (sIgA). (source)

You may like to read my blog What Are The Best Probiotics.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are fermented by the colonic microbiota leading to the production of a range of metabolites including short chain fatt acids. Thus, prebiotics represent a dietary approach to increase levels of short chain fatty acids and improve leaky gut. (source)

Dietary Fibre & Postbiotics

Dietary fibers may also maintain a healthy help gut lining. The microbiome ferments fibres and produces short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, propionate, and acetate. In particular, the beneficial species of Bifidobacterium bacteriaand Lactobacilli are related to the production of short-chain fatty acids and the immunostimulation and inhibitory effects on the growth of harmful bacteria.

The short-chain fatty acid is the primary energy source for the colonocyte’s that line the gut wall.

Vitamin A & D

Vitamins A and D play crucial functions in regulating gut health . In clinical trials, these vitamins impacted the components of the mucosal barrier, including epithelial integrity, immune system, and gut microbiome.

In human studies, vitamin A-sufficient children have more diverse microbiome when compared to vitamin A-deficient children.

Vitamins A and D are necessary for the integrity of the gut lining and gut microbiome and modulate immunity. (source)

Zinc

Zinc excess or deficiency are associated with many intestinal diseases, such as IBD, IBS, and colorectal cancer. (source)

Zinc is crucial in the maintenance of the gut lining. Studies have suggested that zinc supplementation increases the villus height and reduces the crypt depth and increases the number of intestinal goblet cells and the expression of MUC2. (source)

Zinc deficiency leads to a decrease in gut microbiome diversity and an outgrowth of certain species of bacteria. (source)

Glutamine

This amino acid is critical to nourishing gut health as a barrier to the permeability of pathogens, allergens, and toxins into the epithelium.

Glutamine is considered a crucial amino acid capable of regulating the expression of tight junction proteins. Preclinical studies have indicated that adding glutamine improves gut inflammation.

Glutamine with probiotics can have beneficial effects when treating leaky gut in patients with severe disorders. This combination could generate a synergistic effect by increasing the amount of Lactobacillus, slowing down the growth of Gram-negative bacteria, improving the structure of the gut microbiome, and restoring damage to the gut lining.

It can also effectively reduce the intestinal endotoxin level, restoring the damage of the gut lining and thus reduce the passage of gut bacteri metabolites across the gut wall. (source)

Polyphenols

To date, the mechanisms of action regarding polyphenols with intestinal permeability have not been well understood. Nevertheless, polyphenols are involved in a direct/indirect matter with leaky gut by inflammatory pathways (NF-κB inactivation – a pathway identified as among the most significant arbitrators of inflammation). (source)

Initially, the beneficial effects of polyphenols were attributed to their antioxidant capacity. There is increasing evidence that its benefits are strongly related to the ability to interfere with redox signaling pathways. It is considered that oxidative stress could be involved in the cause of leaky gut.

Research suggests that the diet’s consumption of polyphenols contributes to restoring redox homeostasis and increasing the activity of antioxidant enzymes. (source)

Recent studies indicate that a polyphenol-rich diet lowers the risk of intestinal barrier dysfunctions. Polyphenols such as quercetin, epigallocatechin gallate, catechin, epicatechin, berberine, resveratrol, and curcumin have been studied intensely to provide health benefits in leaky gut-related diseases.

Medicinal Herbs

Medical plants have phytochemicals such as organic acids, flavonoids, iridoid glycosides, saponins, chlorogenic acid, secoiridoids, berberine, sesquiterpene, and sesquiterpenoid. These phytochemicals have proven to treat diseases such as obesity, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. As noted before, a leaky gut is usually related to diseases such as dysbiosis, immune system imbalance, IBS, and nutritional deficiencies. Herbs are useful for medical therapy and practical nutrition to help leaky gut-associated illnesses.

The mechanism of actions in medical plants is broad, including regulating intestinal microbiota and permeability, upregulating both mRNA and protein expressions of claudin-1, lowering extracellular signal-regulated kinase activation in hepatocytes, suppressing MLCK-MLC phosphorylation signaling pathway, and protecting on IECs against LPS-insult. Recent studies suggest that herbs alleviate leaky gut-related diseases in animal studies and clinical trials. (source)

Options include ginger, liquorice, marshmallow.

Mushrooms

In leaky gut-related diseases, mushrooms have been demonstrated to potentially treat pancreatitis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, colitis, obesity, and diabetes. Mushrooms were found to modulate the gut microbiome by stimulating the production of catecholamines, their metabolites, and the inflammatory response. As mentioned, mushroom polysaccharides can also affect short chain fatty acid. (source)

Options include: Turkey tail, chaga, maitake, lion’s mane, shiitake.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are a few tests to consider when you want to test for leaky gut at home. These range from stool tests to urine or blood tests and you can test directly, as well as test biomarkers that are associated with leaky gut. This might flag that there are issues with blood sugar regulation, or, systemic inflammation that might need to be considered as part of the overall health plan (if working with a practitioner).

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