Leaky Gut Diet - 17 Best Foods To Eat & Your Gut’s #1 Favorite
If you’re experiencing intestinal hyperpermeability - something more commonly known as Leaky gut - then you’ve probably been looking for the best diet to eat. So in this article, we’re going to look at the best foods to eat to support your intestinal wall, so it stays strong and less ‘leaky’.
Table of Contents
If you’ve done some research into the best leaky gut diet to eat, you’re probably more confused than when you started. Thankfully our research team here at Essential Stacks has done all the hard work for you, and made it really simple to understand.
1. Which foods are best to eat on a leaky gut diet?
Fish - eg salmon
Lettuce - eg arugula
Herbs - eg cilantro
Seafood - eg shrimp
Other healthy oils - eg avocado
Leafy greens - eg spinach
Some spices - eg ginger
Poultry - eg chicken
Some nuts - eg almonds
Vegetables - eg broccoli
Meat (in moderation) - eg grass fed beef
Sprouted seeds - eg flax seeds
Fermented veg - eg sauerkraut
Organic eggs *
Root veg - eg sweet potato
Gluten free grains - eg rice
Low sugar fruits - eg blueberries
* If tolerated
So as you can see from the above table, when you’re just starting out and trying to fix your leaky gut, the main foods you want to focus on are healthy proteins and fats, as well as some carbs.
As you can see this sort of diet avoids any foods that can potentially cause inflammation, and instead focuses on the following:
- Whole foods packed with amino acids, healthy fatty acids and nutrients, which can feed and nourish the intestinal wall
- As well as probiotic rich foods that can strengthen the microbiome
- And of course…some easy to tolerate fiber rich foods, which can feed the good bacteria in your gut and create beneficial fatty acids like butyrate…which are also really helpful for strengthening the lining of your gut barrier
And if you want the full rundown of which foods you should and shouldn’t eat on a leaky gut diet, check out our free Leaky Gut Diet Food List.
2. Which foods are best for leaky gut?
Now out of all these foods…the ones that are arguably most important for fixing leaky gut, would be those high in an amino acid called glutamine. And the reason for that is glutamine is the preferred fuel source for the cells lining your intestinal wall.
In other words, Glutamine is your gut’s favorite food. Not only does it love to consume it, but it is also what helps the gut barrier stay strong. Meaning it is less permeable or leaky.
In fact, this 2011 meta analysis of 86 different studies on glutamine and gut permeability, found
“A significant body of evidence indicates that glutamine preserves the gut barrier function."
And just as importantly the researchers found
“Glutamine is considered the most important nutrient for healing of ‘leaky gut syndrome’ because it is the preferred fuel for enterocytes and colonocytes.”
And just in case you don’t know: enterocytes are cells that make up the lining of the small intestine wall. While colonocytes are cells that line your colon, which is also known as the large intestine.
So to sum all of this up and make it easy to understand, you can kind of think of it like this - while strongmen love to eat protein to fuel their big muscles, your gut will prefer to eat a diet rich in glutamine to stay strong.
3. How can you get more glutamine in your diet?
Well, since glutamine is an amino acid, it is found in protein-rich foods like beef, chicken, eggs and salmon. As well as some plant based foods like spinach, nuts and beans - although often in lower quantities.
In fact, in this 2000 research paper published in the World Journal of Surgery, researchers found
“Most naturally occurring food proteins contain 4% to 8% of their amino acid residues as glutamine”.
In other words, roughly 6% (on average) of the protein in foods comes from glutamine. And that means if you want to eat more glutamine, you simply need to eat more protein rich foods. And to help you do just this, I’ll run through what a day of sample meals might look like on a glutamine rich diet.
4. High glutamine breakfast
So to kick start your glutamine fuelled day, it’s hard to go past eggs. Thanks to a 2009 study that appeared in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition we know there is exactly 0.56 grams of glutamine for every 100 grams of eggs. So if you eat 2 eggs with breakfast, which each weigh approx 70 grams or 2.5 ounces, then you’ll enjoy nearly 0.78 grams of glutamine.
To add more glutamine to this, you might want to add some glutamine-rich plant-based foods to your plate. For example, you might consider adding 1 cup of cooked spinach, which delivers 0.3 grams of glutamine per cup.
All in all, this breakfast would offer you 1.1 grams of glutamine.
5. High glutamine snacks
As you can see from breakfast, getting enough glutamine each day from diet alone is not easy. So eating some high glutamine snacks can be helpful. Unfortunately, when it comes to high protein and thus high glutamine snacks, you may not have a lot of options. And that’s because many of the best glutamine rich snacks are from dairy sources.
For example, a glass of milk will deliver around 0.65 grams of glutamine. But you may struggle to drink it due to the lactose sugar or casein protein in it. And although there are lower lactose dairy products like greek yogurt, which deliver 1 gram of glutamine per 170 gram or 6 oz serving, even they may be tough on your gut.
You could of course try a protein powder shake. After all, 1 scoop of whey protein can be tolerated by most and will deliver nearly 2 grams of glutamine per serve. And for most of you, a handful of almonds might work as well. And this would deliver you around 0.36 grams of glutamine.
So if you consume some whey protein and almonds as a morning snack, you’ll add about 2.4 grams of glutamine to your daily intake.
6. High glutamine lunch
Moving onto lunch now. It’s hard to go past a tuna salad or a chicken salad. As they would both deliver a good serving of glutamine, and without any inflammatory foods.
In fact, both tuna and chicken have similar amounts of protein, which means they will each deliver approximately 1.68 grams of glutamine for every 100 grams. So say for example you eat a 6 oz or 170 gram serving of either food, that would mean you enjoy 2.85 grams of glutamine.
Ideally, you’d want to try and bump the glutamine content of this salad up by eating some glutamine-rich plant-based foods. But here’s the thing - most high glutamine plant-based foods we found probably aren’t going to be easy to digest if you have leaky gut.
For example, corn is a great source of glutamine, delivering around 0.66 grams of glutamine per cup. Meanwhile, tofu is even better, giving you 1.52 grams of glutamine per cup. And of course, beans (for example pinto beans) are outstanding as they can give you a whopping 2.14 grams of glutamine per cup. Unfortunately though, all of these have the potential to exacerbate intestinal permeability.
But, let’s say for example, you can eat a quarter cup of pressure cooked pinto beans - since the pressure cooking process will help reduce any potential anti-nutrients in them. And let’s also assume you can eat something like broccoli, which has around 0.2 grams of glutamine per cup.
Well, then your lunch will deliver around 3.59 grams of glutamine.
7. High glutamine dinner
So by this point in the day, you will have consumed around 7 grams of glutamine. Which means you’ve consumed a lot of gut nourishing amino acids! The question becomes, what should we eat for dinner?
Well, a healthy source of glutamine would be salmon, which can give you around 2.4 grams of glutamine per 1 filet.
In addition, you can accompany your meal with some high glutamine plant based foods. For example, from the 2009 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition which we mentioned earlier, researchers found white rice was quite a respectable source of glutamine, offering 0.6 grams per 1 cup.
So if we now add up the glutamine content across the full day of eating, you’ll see you’re enjoying a lovely 10 grams of glutamine per day from your diet.
8. Problems with a leaky gut diet high in glutamine
But before we celebrate too early like NBA player Nick Young, let's look at the potential problems with a high glutamine diet.
- Firstly, let’s talk about the amount of protein. So to eat 10 grams of glutamine you have to eat roughly 166 grams of protein per day. And the major issue here is that your digestive system may struggle to break down this much protein. Especially during the initial stage of digestion in your stomach. Which means you might experience more GI symptoms like bloating, reflux and diarrhea.
- The second big problem as you saw is that many of the high glutamine foods we researched - both animal and plant based - might be hard to tolerate for those with a sensitive gut, such as dairy products, corn, tofu etc.
- The next potential problem with a glutamine rich diet, is that you need to eat quite a lot of food. And in doing so it might put you over your daily calories target. Meaning weight gain is a possible outcome.
- And the fourth problem is an economical one. You see, most of the foods we talked about are not cheap. And eating protein-rich meals throughout the day…day after day…can cost a lot of money.
9. Easiest way to get more glutamine each day to fight leaky gut
So all of this might leave you wondering how can you easily consume more glutamine each day, and without experiencing any of those issues?
Well, as you’ve seen, we’ve tried to build a diet rich in glutamine to get you there. And that’s because we like to take a food-first approach to supporting your gut health. But as you also saw, it is not always easy to get enough glutamine using food alone. So while you should definitely eat some glutamine rich foods each day, if you find yourself struggling to eat enough, then glutamine in supplement form can be handy. Kind of like a top up source of glutamine.
Obviously we’re biased here, since we make this glutamine powder.
But the reason we think it's such a great solution is that it takes care of all the issues we talked about…
- For example, 1 scoop of glutamine powder gives you 5 grams of glutamine, and I think we can all agree that’s a lot easier than eating 2 serves of meat for example.
- In addition, there’s no gut irritants in glutamine powder.
- It’s also low calorie.
- Meanwhile, Gut L-Glutamine is not made using any animal products. So it’s perhaps the best vegan friendly source of glutamine.
- And of course glutamine supplements don’t cost a lot of money. For example, while a filet of chicken and salmon may deliver 5 grams of glutamine together, they will also cost around $15. By contrast, 1 scoop of Gut L-Glutamine, which also delivers 5 grams of glutamine, costs around 50 cents.
Now importantly…you don’t need to use our L-Glutamine. Just make sure you buy one that follows the same quality standards as ours.
10. How to pick a high quality glutamine supplement
The top things to look for in a high quality glutamine supplement would be…
- Made in USA - that’s really important, since most glutamine supplements are actually made overseas where quality standards can vary.
- Make sure it offers 5 grams of glutamine per serve, as this is the ideal amount for gut support.
- Obviously, check that it is free of allergens like gluten, dairy and soy.
- And of course, that this has been independently 3rd party tested.
An evidence hierarchy is followed to ensure conclusions are formed off of the most up-to-date and well-designed studies available. We aim to reference studies conducted within the past five years when possible.
- Systematic review or meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
- Randomized controlled trials
- Controlled trials without randomization
- Case-control (retrospective) and cohort (prospective) studies
- A systematic review of descriptive, qualitative, or mixed-method studies
- A single descriptive, qualitative, or mixed-method study
- Studies without controls, case reports, and case series
- Animal research
- In vitro research
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- Gleeson M. Dosing and efficacy of glutamine supplementation in human exercise and sport training. J Nutr. 2008 Oct;138(10):2045S-2049S. doi: 10.1093/jn/138.10.2045S. PMID: 18806122.
- Rao R, Samak G. Role of Glutamine in Protection of Intestinal Epithelial Tight Junctions. J Epithel Biol Pharmacol. 2012 Jan;5(Suppl 1-M7):47-54. doi: 10.2174/1875044301205010047. PMID: 25810794; PMCID: PMC4369670.
- Lacey JM, Wilmore DW. Is glutamine a conditionally essential amino acid? Nutr Rev. 1990 Aug;48(8):297-309. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.1990.tb02967.x. PMID: 2080048.
- Ogden HB, Child RB, Fallowfield JL, Delves SK, Westwood CS, Millyard A, Layden JD. Gastrointestinal Tolerance of Low, Medium and High Dose Acute Oral l-Glutamine Supplementation in Healthy Adults: A Pilot Study. Nutrients. 2020 Sep 27;12(10):2953. doi: 10.3390/nu12102953. PMID: 32992440; PMCID: PMC7601811.
- Drugs and Supplements - Glutamine (Oral Route) - Mayo Clinic
- Examine.com - Glutamine - Kamal Patel - Evidence-based analysis on glutamine features 111 unique references to scientific papers