Healing Leaky Gut with Fasting and Liquid Nutrition

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Healing Leaky Gut with Fasting and Liquid Nutrition

It seems like digestive disorders are growing in their prevalence in our society. Poor digestion, gas, bloating, heart burn, and colon disorders are increasingly common to have. These things are not normal and they can be quite a disruption to daily interactions. Leaky gut in particular is causing a lot of health issues. Healing leaky gut may just be the one thing holding you back from getting well.

By learning about what it is and what causes it, we can begin to devise a plan to help reverse it. As you may have gathered by the title of this article, fasting and liquid nutrition are critical in the healing process. Later on in this article we will discuss my go-to strategies.

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut is when the intestinal barrier loses its ability to properly regulate what does and doesn’t pass through it. This is something that often develops over time as a consequence of many different stressors.

Once this break-down occurs, things like undigested food particles cross into the blood. These particles are typically foreign to the body and this create an immune response. When we continue to eat foods that contain those same particles, we get chronic inflammation that affects the entire body.

heal leaky gut, 6 Nutrients That Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome

Symptoms of Leaky Gut 

Because of the chronic inflammatory response mentioned above, the symptoms of leaky gut can range widely.  First and foremost, those with leaky gut will likely experience digestive issues like gas, bloating, indigestion, poorly formed stools, or constipation.

Additionally, these effects can span throughout the body and even lead to things like brain fog, mood disorders, autoimmune conditions, and fibromyalgia.  Because of the wide range of systems affected by a poorly functioning gut, healing leaky gut is extremely important for optimal health.

gut brain, Is The Gut-Brain-Skin Axis to Blame For Anxiety and Acne?

The Importance of Gut Health

We often think about the skin as a protective barrier to keep invaders from entering our blood. Well, the digestive tract plays the very same role for things that we ingest.

The critical difference to note is that the skin contain 3 thick layers of protection that are each several layers of cells deep. The digestive tract on the other hand, only has one layer of cells that act as a barrier.

This means that the digestive tract is much more fragile when it comes to incurring damage. When that one layer of cells become compromised, we lose an important aspect of the immune system. This opens up the doors for a wide range of undesirable health effects.

The GI lining also contains tiny hair-like projections called villi that are largely responsible for breaking down and absorbing the nutrients from food. The villi often become damaged before leaky gut occurs which can result in malnourishment regardless of diet.

Healing leaky gut will therefore have a massive impact on your overall health.

healing leaky gut inflammation

Major Contributors of Leaky Gut

In my experience, there are many common factors that provoke gut inflammation and damage. Addressing these factors is critical for healing leaky gut.

Essentially, we must remove as many stressors as possible in order to allow healing to occur. The following are major stressors that must be addressed to get well in this regard.


Grains are one of the most pervasive leaky gut stressors. The first step in healing leaky gut is removing grains and sugars. When I refer to grains, I generally refer to any kind of food that can become planted and grow into a new organism. This includes nuts and seeds as well. Regularly consuming these foods contribute both to chronic inflammation and autoimmune conditions by breaking down the intestinal barrier (1).

The reason these foods are not great for the gut is due to their built in protective mechanisms like phytates and lectins. These compounds help grains to resist digestion so that when animals eat them, they can pass through the digestive tract untouched and become planted once they are expelled from the body.

Lectins, Why You Should Avoid Lectins in Your Diet!


Alcohol is toxic for the gut and brain. Eliminating it from your diet is important for healing leaky gut for two reasons.  One, it disrupts beneficial bacteria in the gut. This opens the doors for opportunistic bacteria and yeast to overpopulate. This causes inflammation and stresses the gut lining.

Two, once leaky gut conditions have begun, alcohol can permeate the gut lining and have an exaggerated effect in the body without proper processing by the liver. This can be very harmful to the brain in particular.

This combination effect also places a heavy toxic load on the liver as harmful bacteria and toxic byproducts enter circulation and must be removed by the liver (2).

Food Sensitivities 

Each person has their own unique food sensitivities. These can potentially be genetic or be developed due to increased intestinal permeability. Foods that might be beneficial for one person, could be potentially harmful and destructive to the gut for someone else.

The key is to identify your food sensitivities so that you can eliminate them from your diet while healing leaky gut. This is an approach that is being considered clinically for treatment of ADHD and autism spectrum disorder – two conditions which commonly have a component of leaky gut involved (3).

Strategies to identify food sensitivities will be discussed later in this article.

Chronic Stress

When the body is under stress, digestion is not prioritized. This results in an under-production of stomach acid and enzymes. Digestive juices actually provide a protective role in sterilizing the food we eat which maintains an optimal balance in the microbiome.

Eating while chronically stressed can slow down bowel motility, causing food to remain in the small intestine and colon for longer than necessary. This further promotes dysbiosis bacterial growth and inflammation. This dysbiosis overgrowth of bacteria produces toxins that enter the bloodstream and cause more problems throughout the body.

Infections or Dysbiosis

As has been mentioned a few times already, having an overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria, viruses, or parasitic infection all create toxicity and inflammation. This is obviously a major factor to address in healing leaky gut.

Not only addressing unwanted microbes, but repopulating the gut with beneficial microbes will be key. The strategies we will discuss later will be the critical first steps to take in order to create a more desirable environment in the gut microbiome.

Antibiotic Overuse

Having a history of antibiotic use increases your chances of suffering from leaky gut by lowering the population of beneficial microbes in the gut. In fact, antibiotic use is associated with long-term cognitive impairment, potentially due to a dual compromising of the gut and blood-brain barriers (4, 5).

Taking past antibiotic use into account when healing leaky gut is important. Running a lab to assess the current microbial makeup of your digestive tract can very beneficial in determining if this is a leaky gut stressor.

healing leaky gut

Non-Organic Food 

Non-organic food, for the most part, is sprayed with different chemicals to protect it from being eaten by bugs. The way a lot of these chemicals work is by destroying the digestive tract of the bugs that try to consume the sprayed crops.

One example of the harmful effects of these chemicals is glyphosate. Glyphosate is one of the most heavily sprayed herbicides in the world. Research has shown that exposure to glyphosate contributes to dysbiosis, depletion of vital minerals, and disrupts bile flow. This combination of effects may contribute to a variety of neurological conditions (6).

Medication Use – NSAIDs and PPIs

Medications like NSAIDS and PPIs have the capacity to disrupt intestinal barrier function and contribute to leaky gut conditions (7). These medications have been implicated in conditions such as IBD, IBS, chronic infection, and Celiac disease.

PPIs in particular are especially destructive to the gut as they lower stomach acid production. This effect opens the doors to harmful infections as well as malnutrition.

healing leaky gut

Low Stomach Acid Production

At this point in the article, you likely understand the importance of proper stomach acid production when it comes to healing leaky gut. Just to reinforce this idea, stomach acid is important for digestion and sterilization of food we consume.

If you have low stomach acid, this opens the doors to malnourishment and different types of infections in the gut. This ultimately contributes to leaky gut and the many branching health effects we have covered so far.

If you chronically deal with indigestion and heartburn, this is likely a sign that you have poor stomach acid production.

Healing Leaky Gut Naturally

At this point, we have discussed the symptoms, causes, and consequences of leaky gut syndrome. If it is not taken care of, leaky gut will eventually lead to chronic inflammation, autoimmune conditions, cognitive impairment, and all around poor health.

The following are some of the most effective strategies for healing leaky gut once and for all.

healing leaky gut

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a great starting point for reducing stress on the gut. IF is basically going longer periods of time without eating, which naturally confines eating to a smaller window of time.

In milder cases of leaky gut, IF can be helpful in conjunction with an elimination diet that cuts out your unique food sensitivities.

Begin with a 12 hour no-eating window between dinner and breakfast for 2 weeks. When you are comfortable, progress to 14 hours for two weeks. Continue like this until you have reach a daily fasting window of 16-18 hours.

healing leaky gut

Prolonged Water Fasting

While intermittent fasting is helpful for healing the gut, prolonged water fasting will accelerate the process significantly. This is simply where you consume no food and drink plenty of reverse osmosis water for a period of time.

Doing so quickly reduces stress and inflammation in the gut, allowing it to heal and rebuild. Fasting also helps to bring down dysbiosis microbial growths that are causing digestive issues.

A window of time that seems to provide the most benefits is 3-5 days. Begin with a 1-day fast. If you do well with that, progress to 2-3 days. Oftentimes, people find that when they reach the 3-day mark, they actually get a burst of energy and mental clarity. This is likely due to entering a state of deep ketosis. If you feel good on day 3, you can work up to 5 days. 5-7 days is likely the maximum span you will want to experiment with.

healing leaky gut

Bone Broth Fasting

Bone broth fasting is another excellent strategy for healing leaky gut. This can be done on its own or even following a water fast.

Bone broth contains a wide range of minerals and amino acids that help to heal and strengthen the gut lining. It is especially rich in gelatin, collagen, and glutamine which are all powerful gut healers.

Doing this kind of fast is great on its own or can even be a great follow-up from a water fast. A great way to incorporate both would be to start with a 3-day water fast and follow that up with a 5-7 day bone broth fast. Finally, finishing that off with the liquid nutrition or elemental diet outlined below for 30 days will be a powerful protocol.

Testing for Food Sensitivities

When you come off of a fast, it will still be important to incorporate a nutrition plan that is devoid of inflammatory foods to ensure continued healing. Working with a functional nutrition practitioner can be great for getting set up with the necessary lab work to identify your unique food sensitivities.

I have written extensively about what options exist for identifying your food sensitivities in this article: What is the Best Food Sensitivity Testing Method?

Testing for Infections

As we discussed extensively already, infections or microbial dysbiosis in the gut is a chronic stressor that can prevent the gut from healing properly. This is another aspect of gut health that can easily be identified through functional lab work.

One of the most comprehensive labs that currently exist for this purpose is the GI MAP which looks at both beneficial and potentially harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites. It also takes a look at markers of inflammation and upregulated immune response in the gut. These are all valuable tools in determining the best approach for healing leaky gut.

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Liquid Nutrition

After completing a water and/or bone broth fast, using liquid nutrition for a period of 30 days is great for gently stimulating digestive processes, ingesting more gut-healing nutrients, and providing adequate nutrition for the body. For this purpose, the following is my go-to gut healing stack:

Protein and Nutrients: Gut Healing Protein or Bone Broth Protein

Mucosal Barrier Support: Gut Repair

GI Immunity Support: Gut Defense

These can be mixed with water or coconut milk such as this one. Adding in ¼-1/2 cup of blueberries can be great as well.

Using these products together in a shake for breakfast lunch and dinner, or within a confined eating window in conjunction with intermittent fasting, is a great way to heal leaky gut. Together these will provide a full array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and compounds that lower inflammation while supporting the formation of a healthy mucosal barrier in the gut.

Elemental Diet

For especially challenging cases of leaky gut, the liquid nutrition phase needs to be a little more specific. For example, if someone has food sensitivities to rice or peas, then the gut healing protein mentioned above may not be the best option.

An elemental diet is a liquid nutrition plan that provides already broken down and hypoallergenic ingredients. An effective option for this is the Integrative Therapeutics Physicians’ Elemental Diet which can be ordered through a qualified healthcare professional.

Alternatively, the elemental diet can be somewhat replicated using the following ingredients:

Collagen Peptides

Bio-available Multivitamin

MCT Oil Powder

L-Glutamine Powder

Tapioca Starch

This mix can be combined in water 3 times a day and the proportions can be easily changed to meet nutritional needs.

healing leaky gut

Summary and Protocol

Leaky gut is when the protective barrier of the gut becomes compromised and allows undigested food and toxins into the blood. This causes an inflammatory reaction that can have many negative consequences for your health.

Fasting and liquid nutrition (including the elemental diet) are key strategies for healing leaky gut for good. Additionally, identifying food sensitivities and underlying gut infections are key strategies  in healing.

The following is a protocol involving the strategies discussed in this article that may be helpful for you:

Water Fast Phase: 1-3 days of water, herbal teas and sea salt (can be extended to 5 days if you feel good, listen to your body)

Bone Broth Fast Phase: 5-7 days

Liquid Nutrition Phase (Elemental Diet): 30 days

Reintroduction Phase: Reintroduction of Cooked Solid Foods – Ideally this would include non-sensitive foods as discovered on a food sensitivities panel.

After 60-90 days of only eating non-sensitive foods, you can begin adding back in new foods one at a time. During this time it can be helpful to keep a journal to document any adverse reactions to new foods. This way you can really hone in on the ideal diet for you.

healing leaky gut

Sources for this Article Include 

1. De punder K, Pruimboom L. The dietary intake of wheat and other cereal grains and their role in inflammation. Nutrients. 2013;5(3):771-87. PMID: 23482055
2. Crews FT, Vetreno RP. Neuroimmune basis of alcoholic brain damage. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2014;118:315-57. PMID: 25175868
3. Ly V, Bottelier M, Hoekstra PJ, Arias vasquez A, Buitelaar JK, Rommelse NN. Elimination diets’ efficacy and mechanisms in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017;26(9):1067-1079. PMID: 28190137
4. Becattini S, Taur Y, Pamer EG. Antibiotic-Induced Changes in the Intestinal Microbiota and Disease. Trends Mol Med. 2016;22(6):458-478. PMID: 27178527
5. Fröhlich EE, Farzi A, Mayerhofer R, et al. Cognitive impairment by antibiotic-induced gut dysbiosis: Analysis of gut microbiota-brain communication. Brain Behav Immun. 2016;56:140-55. PMID: 26923630
6. Samsel A, Seneff S. Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases III: Manganese, neurological diseases, and associated pathologies. Surg Neurol Int. 2015;6:45. PMID: 25883837
7. König J, Wells J, Cani PD, et al. Human Intestinal Barrier Function in Health and Disease. Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2016;7(10):e196. PMID: 27763627

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  1. So much conflicting information
    Who knows what to believe, example, nuts and seeds are bad
    For the gut,their is a multitude of
    Studies that says the organic nuts
    and seeds are good for you, just
    The opposite of what your saying
    I think it’s the pesticides, that’s the
    Cause,these problems didn’t exist
    Before pesticides were invented.

  2. Hi, Dr Jockers, I am a very long-time reader and have been going thru my own version of microbiome problems, but with other conditions popping up. I used antibiotics daily for decades and have come to learn I have Leaky Gut, SIBO and Candida extensively. Two concerns with this posts recommendations – I have many, many ‘allergies’ to food, hormones, weather (heat), smoke and much more. But this is Histamine Intolerance and I am achieving some healing by using DAO in place of the enzyme in the small intestine, compromised by SIBO, that controls the histamine reaction. And I have an RO unit in my kitchen but now have large deficiencies of minerals and vitamins as I recently found out that RO water leaches these out of your body to balance its lack. So to compensate, I put pure mineral drops in every glass of RO water, but not enough because they also cause a Histamine Reaction in me! Maybe you could address these in future articles? Thank you.

  3. I am recovering from a massive h. Pylori overgrowth and the leaky gut it caused. Bone broth makes the h. Pylori population exode, and I’m terribly intolerant to the collagen and starch in the elemental diet. My tolerable foods are 24-hr yogurt, low-corn turkey and wild rice. I’ve been eating breakfast 3hrs after I wake up for several months and that way I don’t get a headache when I do eat breakfast. But feel such sharp, intense hunger in the period 1hr-1.5hr after I wake up that it affects my memory and work performance. If I do more than a 12-hr fast between dinner amd breakfast I can’t sleep. Do you have suggestions for staying asleep while fasting and for conquering the debilitating morning hunger?

  4. Hi Dr. Jockers, thanks so much for all the information! Truly appreciate it. I have SIBO and just started the elemental diet. Would it be okay to have bone broth while on the elemental diet just for another variety of drink? Also which herbal teas would be okay?
    I’m also getting extreme nausea and gripes in my upper stomach. I am drinking the elemental formula really slowly but that doesn’t help. Any suggestions?

    1. Yes it can for many individuals. However, about 60% seem to do just fine on moderate coffee usage. In fact, the polyphenols in it help to favor the development of a healthy microbiome and gut landscape.

  5. Hi! I have a few questions. 1. Is this diet OK for people with sulfur sensitivity? 2. Are there any alternatives to fasting, such as for cases where a person has serious anxiety when attempting to fast from stress hormones.

    Thank you!

      1. Thanks so much for the response. To be clear, I wasn’t asking if fasting was OK for people with a sulfur sensitivity. I was wondering if the supplements recommended in this article, such as the elemental diet, would be sulfur sensitivity safe?

        Thanks again!

  6. Hi
    My wife has struggled with SIBO and leaky gut and or candida. We have seen some results over the past 18 months, however, with the loss of her father and root canal (which may have brought back SIBO), she quickly was gaining weight (117-127 in two weeks while only eating 1000calories a day – healthy foods). So we decided (with her dr.) to do the water (1-3 days) broth 3-5 days and elemental diet for 30 days. The broth was a horrible experience (anger. moody and terrible thoughts), so we went to the 30-day elemental diet after 3 days of broth. She is nearing the end of it in 7 days, and we are trying to map out the reintroduction phases. She has a full panel of sensitivity foods (so she will not eat those), but we have a simple questions
    1) do you recommend an article we could read to help her in the reintroduction phase
    2) is it better for her to just start eating food or do as some think to eat 1 item food for 1 meal wait 72 hours (while drinking the elemental diet) then after 72 hours if went well eat it as much and introduce another 1 item food once and wait 72 hours and so on
    3)She would love to make coconut yogurt to start the re-intro phase but she would need to add honey and probiotics collagens is this ok?
    4) Can she take Total Restore pills while doing the intro stage? Thank you

  7. I’ve been struggling for years to understand how to heal this issue.
    This is the most concise and complete explanation that I have seen.
    I’ve done many of the things you suggest but always failed because I was missing the follow thru part.

  8. how long does it usually take people who suffer from very bad adrenal fatigue due to leaky gut/constipation to heal both their gut/adrenal fatigue? Also, is doing the liquid fasting more difficult to manage the adrenal fatigue?

    1. It can take 1-4 months depending upon the individual, how long they have been suffering and if they are on the right protocol. Liquid fasting can be very beneficial for adrenal fatigue but it is important to get enough salts in which will help stabilize your blood sugar levels.

  9. Hi Dr Kickers,

    I’ve had a suffered from aniexty and stress for the past year and antibiotics have really thrown my gut haywire. I’m now looking for some help. My naturopath has told me I’m in fight or flight constantly and it’s caused a lot of IBS/inflammation/weightloss – I’ve been cleared for IBD or other nasties. Could you please help me where can I look to treat myself ? Thank you

  10. Would you recommend this protocol to someone who is underweight (a BMI of 15 or 16) as a result of leaky gut and food allergies/intolerances? If not, what would you recommend?

  11. Hello Dr. Jockers…..i Suffer from Psoriatic
    Arthritis, Eosinophilic Esophagitis, Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis and Eosinophilic Gastritis I also suffer from SIBO…..I am allergic to plenty of foods.
    What supplements or plan you suggest i start off with. What supplements should i buy from your site. Thank you for this article

  12. I had the GI map study done and have insufficiency dysbosis.i have a nutritional consult scheduled in 10 days for supplemental recommendations. Would the water fast and bone broth fast be helpful for this..All foods give me bloating and abd pain at night.so I’m thinking withholding food would help.

  13. Hello Dr I’ve lost muscle and bone mass due to my gut problems. Is it possible to regain back what I lost?

  14. I’d love to try this protocol. question re bone broth and heavy metals + Sibo. I have both and was told that the bone broth would feed the Sibo and contains heavy metals. Please note I would only drink beef bone broth. I look forward to hearing from you.

    1. Hello Nicole, this isn’t true. Bone broth is a great healing food. I would recommend getting the Kettle & Fire brand which uses pasture-raised animals and is tested for contaminants.

  15. Physicians’ Elemental Diet from Integrative Therapeutics may help with leaky gut health and Inflammatory bowel disease. It’s formulated with essential vitamins and mineral supplements to support and maintain normal GI function.

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