Might wanna limit your intake of these foods

Ultimate List of Top Foods That Cause Leaky Gut Syndrome

Leaky Gut Syndrome is a reality for millions of people. It’s caused by toxins and food particles from the intestines entering the gut biome. As a result, you can experience a number of unfavorable GI issues, skin conditions, and mental health problems. The primary reason that people get Leaky Gut Syndrome is due to adverse reactions from the system caused by the foods they eat. Here are the top foods that cause Leaky Gut Syndrome.

Why Do Foods Cause Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Our gut is lined by a clutter of millions of endothelial cells. These cells have a porous texture. This feature allows the nutrients from digested food in the intestines to enter the bloodstream 1. That way, our body can absorb the nutrients and convert these minerals into the energy necessary to push us through our day.

The foods we consume play a monumental role in our gut health. Whenever you eat food, the molecules that make up its physical matter interact with the cells in our system. Suffice to say, several cuisines in the Standard American Diet (SAD) cause a wave of issues with our cells.

In small doses, our gut cells can take these triggers on the chin. Unfortunately, our tendency to overindulge never gives our microbes a break. That’s why around 60% of people deal with chronic inflammation 2. Let’s take a look at the foods that cause Leaky Gut Syndrome.

Which Foods Cause Leaky Gut Syndrome?

There is an alarmingly large amount of foods that cause Leaky Gut Syndrome. Even more nerve-wracking, many of these foods are considered healthy. Furthermore, everyone’s system is different. These variables make it challenging to determine which foods cause Leaky Gut Syndrome for you. So, let’s take a look at a list of foods that are common in cases of people with Leaky Gut Syndrome.


Gluten has been put under fire by a lot of health advocates, and with good reason.

This protein stimulates the liver and intestinal cells to release an enzyme known as zonulin. A meta-analysis on zonulin production and autoimmune disease confirmed,

“Among the several potential intestinal luminal stimuli that can trigger zonulin release, we identified small intestinal exposure to bacteria and gluten as the two more powerful triggers 2.”

Ann N Y Acad Sci.

Zonulin stimulates the endothelial cells on our tight junctions to relax. When this happens, it makes it easier for undigested food particles to burst through. Furthermore, these solid food particles can trigger inflammation and tear the tight junctions further.


As the only mammal to drink another animal’s milk, it’s safe to say that our body hasn’t evolved to break down all the potential triggers of dairy just yet. There are a few molecules in dairy that may spark inflammation in the system. 

These common allergens are:

  • Lactose
  • Whey
  • Casein

In fact, a government-funded analysis about lactose intolerance confirms that,

“Approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. Lactose intolerance in adulthood is most prevalent in people of East Asian descent, with 70 to 100 percent of people affected in these communities. Lactose intolerance is also very common in people of West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, and Italian descent 3.”

Genetics Home Reference 

When we are infants, we rely on our mother’s milk. Breast milk is rich in probiotics and immune cells. As we get older, we wean off the breast milk and transition to cow’s milk.

Many dairy farms use antibiotics to treat udder ulcers from over-milking. Plus, they’re treated with hormones to keep them pregnant to produce milk. So, these practices can also alter microbes in our system, which may cause Leaky Gut Syndrome.


Lectins are proteins in many healthy foods that are extremely hard for our bodies to break down. Unfortunately, lectins bind to carbohydrates. Therefore, they may zap our nutrients and leave us void of energy.

There are two types of lectins that pose a threat to our systems:

  • Agglutinins
  • Prolamins

These two lectins are found in many plant-based foods. Therefore, someone with a vegan diet may be more susceptible to Leaky Gut Syndrome. However, it’s not impossible to live lectin-free as a vegan.

Primary sources of lectins include:

  • Chickpeas
  • Beans (Black, Kidney)
  • Peas
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Eggplant
  • Tomato
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes

While members of the nightshade family have elevated levels of lectins, don’t lump sweet potatoes in that category. This vitamin A-enriched root is low in this immune system stressor.

Refined Sugars

SAD perpetuates a sweet tooth. This sticky substance is added to so many foods to add flavor, texture, and thickness to their formulas.

An analysis conducted by SugarScience, a department within the University of San Francisco, found,

“The average American consumes 17 teaspoons (71.14 grams) every day.2 That translates into about 57 pounds of added sugar consumed each year, per person 4.”

University of San Francisco

Processed sugar is stripped of any nutritional value. Instead, it ends up sticking to the sticky adipose tissue that is around our gut lining.

Furthermore, probiotics in your gut biome can’t eat these food sources. As a result, pathogenic bacteria thrive. In turn, they spark inflammation. 

The more sweets we eat, the longer this inflammation will rage on. Consequently, the tight junctions cells will weaken. This result is why refined sugars are some of the worst foods that cause Leaky Gut Syndrome.


A glass of wine might have benefits for the heart, and a fermented beer might be good for the gut. However, excessive alcohol use is doing a number on the gut health of millions.

One analysis of the complicated relationship between alcohol and gut microbes found,

“Studies in animals and humans confirm that alcohol increases intestinal bacteria (Canesso et al. 2014). This overgrowth may be stimulated directly by alcohol, but some studies suggest that it also could be an indirect byproduct of poor digestive and intestinal function caused by alcohol consumption 5.

Alcohol Res.

Furthermore, they found that liver damage caused by alcohol consumption affects gut motility.

Since the liver is responsible for zonulin production, liver corrosion caused by alcohol can cause a communication problem.

Too much zonulin can cause the problems we discussed in the gluten section.

However, a lack of zonulin can cause other GI symptoms associated with Leaky Gut Syndrome, such as cramps and bloating. Not to mention, you’ll miss out on essential nutrients secreted from the intestines to the bloodstream.

Unhealthy Vegetable Oils

Most foods crafted under the SAD umbrella are made with unhealthy vegetable oils. We’re talking about potato chips, mixed nuts, and drive-thru hamburgers.

Stay away from:

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Partially-Hydrogenated Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Peanut Oil (Remember Lectins?)
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Sunflower Oil

These particular oils have elevated levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Many of us get an adequate amount of these fatty acids through animal fats.

So, smothering them in vegetable oil and frying these foods aren’t doing any favors in bringing the balance back to omega-3 fatty acids. In turn, the body sparks inflammation, which can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome.

One analysis on the discrepancy between omega-3s and omega-6s stated,

“Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today’s Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects 6.

Biomed Pharmacother.

    Now, oils get a bad rap. There are many benefits to avocado, coconut, or extra virgin olive oil. We need the essential fatty acids found in healthy fruit oils. They are pivotal for everything from repairing the gut lining to nutrient absorption to improving mental health.


    There are so many health benefits to coffee. Unfortunately, this stimulant doesn’t agree with everyone’s gut.

    Coffee has high acidity. As a result, it can make the pH level of your stomach imbalanced. This change in acidity may destroy the endothelial cells of the tight junctions.

    Furthermore, caffeine influences gut motility 7. Therefore, you might feel the need to use the restroom before all of your food is digested. This reaction may cause us to pass food before we absorb its nutrients. Additionally, this unwarranted bathroom trip can cause stress on the system. After all, activating gut motility may cause cramps.

    We may further intensify the situation by forcing a bowel movement through. Not only can this cause unnecessary gut pain, but it may cause the development of hemorrhoids.

    What to Do About Foods that Cause Leaky Gut Syndrome?

    Seems like every food you eat causes Leaky Gut Syndrome? You’re not alone. Try an Elimination Diet. Notice how your symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome feel. Once they subside, slowly introduce some of these items back into your diet, such as caffeine, lectins, and alcohol.

    The best way to see which foods to avoid, get your gut tested with Ombre.

    We test your stomach bacteria to get a better idea of what’s going on in your gut biome. Based on who has taken up residence, we can help you determine which foods made it possible for them to thrive.

    With that knowledge, we can let you know which foods to avoid and which ones to implement into your healthy gut diet plan.  


    • 1 Krüger-Genge, A., Blocki, A., Franke, R. P., & Jung, F. (2019). Vascular Endothelial Cell Biology: An Update. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(18), 4411. doi:10.3390/ijms20184411.
    • 2 Fasano A. (2012). Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1258(1), 25–33. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06538.x.
    • 3 “Lactose Intolerance – Genetics Home Reference – NIH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance#statistics.
    • 4 “How Much Is Too Much?” SugarScience.UCSF.edu, 8 Dec. 2018, sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-growing-concern-of-overconsumption.html#.XgoPQkdKhdo.
    • 5 Bishehsari, F., Magno, E., Swanson, G., Desai, V., Voigt, R. M., Forsyth, C. B., & Keshavarzian, A. (2017). Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation. Alcohol research : current reviews, 38(2), 163–171.
    • 6 Simopoulos, A P. “The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & Pharmacotherapie, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909.
    • 7 Boekema, P J, et al. “Coffee and Gastrointestinal Function: Facts and Fiction. A Review.” Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. Supplement, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1999, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10499460.

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