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Why Your Gut Lining May Be Weak and What It Means For Your Health


Everyone is quick to talk about the gut microbiome but fails to discuss the importance of the gut lining. This post breaks down what the gut lining is, how our diet, lifestyle, and environmental toxins negatively affect the gut lining, and what you can do about it, plus our favorite foods and nutrients to help repair the gut lining. 


The gut-lining is exactly what it sounds like: the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. However, the gut-lining is much more complex than many realize and is composed of a couple of layers with a mucus layer on top and a layer of epithelial cells (the cells lining your intestines) underneath, which are connected by tight junctions. The significance of these tight junctions is to act as a barrier by blocking the movement of particles, except for a select few vital substances, from inside the gut to moving outside of the gut. 

A variety of stressors can impact the mucosal lining and tight junctions resulting in a weakening of the gut-lining and compromised barrier function (aka enhanced intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”). This may result in food particles, bacteria, toxins, etc., leaving the gut and entering the bloodstream, alternatively comprising your gut and overall health. 


A telltale sign of a weakened gut lining is often inflammation, given the heightened immune response to these substances in the bloodstream. Unfortunately, since this inflammation is not localized to the gut, it may become systemic given the presence of these substances throughout the body in the blood. Therefore, symptoms may begin local to the GI tract but slowly manifest throughout the body. 

Common signs and symptoms weakened gut lining: 

  • Chronic Bloating
  • Chronic Diarrhea/Constipation
  • Many food allergies/food sensitivities
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Brain Fog 
  • Joint Pain
  • Skin Issues (acne, eczema, rosacea) 
  • Weight loss/Weight Gain
  • Thyroid Conditions
  • IBS and IBD
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Fibromyalgia

If you are skeptical of having a weakened gut-lining as you are experiencing the symptoms above, not to worry. Once the underlying cause of the weakened gut-lining is addressed, and the gut-lining is repaired, these symptoms often resolve.


Unfortunately, many of the things we, directly and indirectly, consume in our diet and environment today can break down the gut lining. While virtually impossible to remove all potential disruptors of the gut lining, what we can do is bring attention to the foods we consume, products we use, and overall lifestyle we live; then make an effort to clean up our diet, lifestyle, and environment to the best of our abilities. 

  • Chronic Stress – Stress plays a huge role in gut health and overall health in general. Click here for 6 tips on how to reduce stress!  
  • Emulsifiers and Gums – Make sure to read the ingredient list! Even many healthy brands have these ingredients hidden. 
  • Artificial Sweeteners (aspartame, stevia, monk fruit, etc.) – Our suggestion is to limit the artificial sweeteners as more research demonstrates their negative effect on the gut. Instead, stick with natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and dates!
  • Refined Oils (canola, rapeseed, vegetable, sunflower, etc.) – These oils are often found in processed food and even in some “health” foods when in fact, they are highly inflammatory. Try and stay clear of these and look for olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil!
  • GMOs and Pesticides – The best thing you can do here is go organic whenever possible and be sure to wash your produce thoroughly!
  • Refined grains and heavily processed foods – Often inflammatory
  • Gluten – While not all people are sensitive to gluten, many are, and even if they’re not, most wheat products are heavily processed and contain pesticides and other chemicals. Sadly so are many gluten-free products are too these days! Instead, try to find a grain-free alternative (almond flour, coconut flour, cassava) or an organic brown rice alternative. 
  • Dairy – About 70% of the population is lactose-intolerant. Additionally, many dairy products contain a protein that may be harmful to gut-lining. Instead, try a dairy-free alternative!
  • Environmental toxins and chemicals (heavy metals, toxins, home and beauty products, plastics, etc.) – You would be shocked to find out how many environmental toxins you are exposed to in your home alone! Go plastic-free, fragrance-free, and opt for non-toxic products when possible!
  • Insufficient Vitamin D and Zinc – Vitamin D and Zinc are essential for your immune function, which negatively impacts the gut-lining considering 70% of your immune system is in the gut! Consider a Vitamin D and Zinc supplement if your practitioner believes your levels are not optimal.
  • Antibiotics – Wipes out the beneficial bacteria in addition to harmful bacteria, resulting in an imbalance of the gut microbiome. Try avoiding antibiotics when possible, but when on them (and in general), we often suggest taking a quality probiotic. 
  • NSAIDs – toxic to the gut-lining, specifically the mucosal layer, and break it down
  • Other drugs (birth-control, steroids, etc.) – negatively affect the gut-lining
  • Excessive alcohol intake and smoking – disruptive to gut-bacteria and inflammatory 

We get it this list is overwhelming, and it may feel impossible to make all the substitutions suggested. This is why we recommend starting small and having our clients start with their diet. This may look like buying organic, focusing on whole foods rather than packaged ones, and reading food labels. Once these dietary choices become a habit (and the preference), it may be time to layer in other modifications to your lifestyle and environment. Remember, one step at a time – your gut will be sure to thank you! 

However, if your health is really struggling and you have a hunch (or have been told by a health professional) that it may be due to your gut lining, do not hesitate to reach out to a health professional knowledgeable about healing the gut (like us!). 


We look for foods that are anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, have prebiotics or probiotics, and are full of fiber so that we can begin to create favorable conditions in the gut to promote healing. 

Some gut healing foods we love here: 

  • Bone broth – rich in L-glutamine and collagen, which help heal the gut lining
  • Healthy fats (wild-caught salmon, avocado oil/avocado, extra virgin olive oil) – rich in omega 3’s and is anti-inflammatory
  • Asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke – great source of prebiotics
  • Root veggies (parsnips, carrots, beets, and sweet potato) – nutrient-dense and full of easily digestible fiber
  • Chia and flax seeds -rich in omega 3’s (anti-inflammatory) and fiber
  • Turmeric – anti-inflammatory
  • Ginger – aids in digestion
  • Leafy greens – full of vitamins and minerals and is anti-inflammatory
  • Garlic and onion – a prebiotic and has antimicrobial properties which may help gut microbiome imbalances

In addition to food, there are some supplements we love to promote that have a soothing effect and contain nutrients to help rebuild the gut-ling. 

Nutrients and supplements to support the gut lining:

  • L-glutamine – helps heal the gut lining and improve nutrient absorption
  • Prebiotics/Probiotics – helps refeed and rebalance the gut microbiome
  • Collagen – helps repair the gut lining via its amino acids like glycine and glutamine
  • Vitamin D -helps improve gut integrity and immune system
  • Omega 3’s – reduces inflammation
  • Curcumin – reduces inflammation
  • Ginger – reduces inflammation and helps motility if constipation is an issue
  • Magnesium Citrate and/or Aloe – soothing and helps motility if constipation is an issue
  • Slippery Elm – soothing to the gut lining and helps stimulate the production of mucus
  • Marshmallow root – soothing to the gut lining

Lastly, but certainly not the least important, is staying hydrated! Staying hydrated is key to maintaining a healthy gut lining!


The gut-lining plays a vital role in the GI tract and body. If the gut lining is degraded over time by stressors found in certain ingredients, products, and stress due to life in general, then the integrity of the gut lining is compromised, and your health is at risk. Addressing diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors is key to healing the gut-lining by layering in healing and anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients and removing anything that weakens the gut-lining and is inflammatory.


Check out this post on our top tips to rebalance the gut microbiome!

Check out this post on our favorite foods and nutrients to optimize digestion (hint: many of these are great for optimizing gut health as they have properties to nourish the gut microbiome and heal the gut lining!) 

Written by Alison Richman MS, RDN