If you struggle with a leaky gut, you might feel frustrated and overwhelmed—hopeless, even—when it comes to what you can or should eat. While it can take some practice, patience, and personalization, eating for a leaky gut doesn’t have to be all that complicated. It doesn’t even have to be that restrictive. For most people, it comes down to eating a nutritious, anti-inflammatory, whole-food-based diet. To help get you started, we’ve put together a food list and several leaky gut recipes.
How to Eat for a Leaky Gut
The secrets to eating for a leaky gut are not all that different than those for weight loss and better overall health. Yes, there are some nuances, but overall, the closer you can stick to the following principles, the better your odds of experiencing success:
- Plan ahead. Create a weekly meal plan.
- Keep it simple. Most people will do incredibly well with a stable of a few core recipes (that are super easy to prepare as well as enjoyable).
- Stock up. Make a grocery list, go shopping, and make sure you have all the foods on hand that you’ll need to execute your plan.
- Prepare. You need to have healthy options readily available, or there’s a good chance you’ll revert to old habits. Prep in advance as much as possible.
- Winning lineup. Most people will find that a combination of non-offensive proteins, healthy fats, and smart carbs will be most favorable.
- Eat real food. The emphasis should be on whole, minimally processed, anti-inflammatory foods. Be mindful, though, as even “healthy” foods can be problematic for some.
- Pre- and probiotics. Include as many prebiotic- and probiotic-rich foods as you can tolerate. This can take some experimentation, as these foods can be somewhat problematic for some folks.
- Probable suspects. Keep a safe distance from inflammatory foods—such as processed, packaged, and junk foods, which typically contain poor-quality, inflammatory oils, refined grains, and added sugar. Other common offenders you may react to can include grains, dairy products, FODMAP-containing foods, and nightshades.
- Slow down. Speaking of mindfulness, how you eat is just as important as what you eat. Remove distractions, calm yourself, slow down, take your time between bites, and eat only until satisfied.
- Get personal. The best leaky gut diet plan is going to be the one that best suits your unique body and personal preferences. This means your leaky gut diet is likely to evolve over time, diversifying as you heal.
- It’s not just about the diet. Properly managing stress, maintaining a physically active lifestyle, getting adequate restorative sleep, nourishing healthy relationships and connections, spending time outdoors, limiting your exposure to environmental toxins, and pursuing your purpose are all game-changers when it comes to healing a leaky gut.
If you are to take away nothing else from the list above, here’s the bottom line: Eat real, whole foods, and avoid processed, artificial, and inflammatory foods, especially those that trigger a leaky gut flare-up (including ones which may be otherwise “healthy”).
Leaky Gut Food List
If you have much experience dabbling with different diets—and chances are that you do if you’ve been battling leaky gut for any period of time—you’ll probably notice that this leaky gut food list looks a lot like a Paleo-ish version of a low-FODMAP diet.
- A wide variety of prebiotic-rich vegetables and fruits, such as dark leafy greens, lettuce, sprouts, zucchini, cruciferous vegetables (if you can tolerate them), blueberries, bananas, and apples.
- Starchy roots and tubers, including sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets.
- Fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, kombucha, yogurt, and kefir, if you can tolerate them.
- Cold-water fatty fish and seafood, such as salmon, sardines, anchovies, rainbow trout, mackerel, oysters, and mussels.
- Grass-fed meat and eggs, including beef, pork, and poultry.
- Bone broth.
- Healthy fats, such as avocados, olives, extra-virgin olive oil, and extra-virgin coconut oil.
- A wide variety of nuts and seeds, including walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed meal, and chia seeds.
- Legumes, such as lentils and beans, and gluten-free whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, and millet, if you can tolerate them.
- Anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, including turmeric, cocoa, garlic, ginger, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.
- Condiments free from gluten, added sugar, and artificial ingredients, including coconut aminos, tamari sauce, mustard, mayonnaise (made with avocado oil), and healthy salad dressings (no inflammatory oils).
- Pantry essentials, including canned coconut milk, chicken stock/broth, coconut flour, and shredded coconut.
5 Leaky Gut Recipes
You can easily build a stable of simple recipes plugging the foods above into the basic formula of protein + healthy fats + smart carbs seasoned with herbs, spices, and healthy condiments. To help get you started, though, here are 5 simple leaky gut recipes.
1. Gut-Healing Bone Broth (Instant Pot®)
- 2 ½ lbs poultry or beef bones
- 8 cups cold water (or enough to cover the bones)
- 2 carrots, rough chopped
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 – 3 slices ginger root, peeled
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- Dump the carrots into the Instant Pot and toss in your bones (frozen is fine).
- Cover with water.
- Add seasonings.
- Then, cover and lock the lid, and program the Instant Pot to cook under high pressure for 50 minutes.
- Let the pressure release naturally when done cooking.
- Remove the lid, skim off the scum, and strain the broth. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
2. Cinnamon Berry Smoothie
- 1 ½ cups canned coconut milk
- ½ avocado
- 1 cup kale
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 5 drops vanilla extract
- Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth.
3. Fruity Nut “Cereal”
- 1/3 cup chopped nuts (e.g., walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts)
- 1/3 cup fresh berries (e.g., blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
- 1 Tbsp dried berries (e.g., blueberries, cranberries)
- 1 Tbsp dried unsweetened coconut flakes
- ½ cup coconut yogurt
- Dash of cinnamon
- Add nuts to a bowl.
- Top with fresh fruit, dried fruit, and dried coconut.
- Add coconut yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
4. Chicken and Pineapple Salsa-Stuffed Avocados
- 1 lb shredded chicken
- 4 radishes, diced
- 4 avocados, cut in half with pit removed
- 1 cup mango, diced
- 1 cup pineapple, diced
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped finely
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- Pinch salt
- Dice mango, cilantro, pineapple, and radishes. Add to a medium bowl with juice of one lime and a dash of salt.
- Add shredded cooked chicken to bowl and toss to combine.
- Halve the avocados and remove pits. Spoon a large scoop of the chicken-salsa mixture into each avocado half.
- Serve immediately.
5. Crispy Chicken Nuggets
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup coconut flour
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the flour, spices, and salt to a medium bowl and stir to combine.
- Add chicken pieces to flour and spice mixture and toss evenly to coat.
- Add coconut oil to the preheated pan. Using tongs, place half the chicken nuggets into the pan. Allow these to cook for approximately four minutes on each side until golden brown and all cooked through. Add remaining nuggets until they are all cooked.
- Serve these with a dollop of mustard and a side salad.
Leaky Gut Recipes: A Recap
Eating real, whole foods and avoiding processed, artificial, and inflammatory foods, including those that trigger a leaky gut flare-up (including those that may be otherwise “healthy”) is a winning game plan for helping heal a leaky gut. An anti-inflammatory diet combined with an overall healthy lifestyle will likely lead to a significant improvement in leaky gut-related issues. Armed with this food list and some leaky gut recipes, you are ready to experience the difference for yourself!