Leaky Gut & Chinese Medicine


There’s a new health term floating around that you’ve probably heard of called leaky gut. It sounds like an episode from Grey’s Anatomy – the doctors are in surgery with the person’s gut literally spilling outside of the body.

Leaky gut isn’t like that at all, but its symptoms are just as disturbing.

What Is Leaky Gut?

To understand leaky gut, picture a window screen. A screen has tiny holes that allow fresh air to enter while keeping bugs out. This is basically the same way your intestines work. The lining of the small intestine, the endothelial lining, is a single layer of cells held together by tight junctions. Those tight junctions are similar to the wire woven together on a window screen.

Small intestines are responsible for absorbing vital nutrients from food (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc). Bacteria and other harmful substances can enter the bloodstream when endothelial linings are damaged, allowing them to pass through tight junctions. Similar to a window screen being torn and bugs entering.

When space between the endothelial cells of the small intestine are too large, intestinal hyperpermeability or leaky gut is the result.

What Causes Leaky Gut?

What causes leaky gut is a loaded question because there are multiple reasons it can happen. Here’s a list of common causes:

  • Environmental attacks (herbicides, pesticides)
  • Industrial food production
  • Nutrient deficient food intake
  • Overuse of antibiotics
  • Chronic stress

Symptoms of Leaky Gut

The problem with leaky gut is that it is not a health condition that affects just one part of the body, it is a systemic problem that starts in the small intestine and travels everywhere throughout the circulatory system. Leaky gut can lead to:

  • Skin problems such as hives, eczema, and acne
  • Joint discomfort
  • Fatigue & brain fog
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Anxiety & depression

Leaky gut affects more than just the digestive system.

Chinese Medicine & Leaky Gut

Leaky gut is very complex condition and must be treated with functional nutrition, natural supplements and acupuncture simultaneously.

Like many other health concerns, an acupuncturist determines the primary organs and their related channels affected by leaky gut. There are 2 main organs and channels that are treated: liver and spleen.

Liver Qi Stagnation

Balancing the liver is one of the most important treatments because of its responsibility of eliminated toxins from the body. The liver takes a beating with leaky gut especially when too many courses of antibiotics are taken without repopulating the gut with good bacteria. When the liver becomes overburdened with toxins, Qi becomes stagnant, blood is deficient and excess heat starts to accumulate.

Liver Qi stagnation shows up as abdominal bloating and distention, irritability, depression, moodiness, and for ladies moderate – severe PMS.

Spleen Qi Deficiency

After treating the liver, spleen is next. In Chinese Medicine, the spleen is the powerhouse of digestion and its weakness affects the entire body. Spleen Qi deficiency causes poor digestion, fatigue in general but even more after eating, weakness of the limbs, depression and weight gain.

Chinese Medicine is very different from modern medicine, there is no one size fits all. Liver Qi Stagnation and Spleen Qi Deficiency are just two of the most common patterns related to leaky gut and its related symptoms.

Functional Nutrition for Leaky Gut

Because leaky gut starts in the small intestinal, nutrition is essential for healing. It’s important to clean up the diet by eating whole foods and eliminating packaged processed foods. Remember, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, glucose, and fatty acids are essential for the body. Harmful bacteria and chemicals are not.

Nutrients from the food we eat help repair and heal wounds, strengthen bones, boost immunity, repair cellular damage, clot our blood, balance fluid in our cells, and repair DNA. Functional nutrition teaches patients what to eat and why to eat it. The food we eat is meant to nourish our body and provide it with the proper resources to thrive.

Natural Supplements for Leaky Gut

Natural supplements are just as beneficial as some prescribed medications, the main difference is the duration of treatment. For instance, a patient may take a prescription drug for 7-10 days. Supplements are gentle on the body and will need to be taken for at least 4-6 weeks.

One of the most common supplements to repair intestinal lining in L-Glutamine. It is an amino acid that helps with the function and growth of cells located in the stomach and small intestine.

When taking supplements, it is important to be under the care of a healthcare professional to determine if a specific supplement is right for you and to determine the correct dosage. Always use caution.

Proper nutrition is more important than taking supplements. If you are taking supplements without correcting your diet, you are wasting your money. You may feel better momentarily but the symptoms will return.


  • Leaky gut affects permeability of the small intestine allowing bacteria and other harmful substances to enter the bloodstream.
  • Symptoms related to leaky gut are systemic. It affects the skin, energy, muscles, joints, mood and more.
  • Chinese medicine treats Liver Qi Stagnation and Spleen Qi Deficiency, however, every patients treatment is different.
  • Nutrition is the most important treatment for leaky gut. Without a proper diet, symptom relief is only short-term.
  • There are natural supplements to help with leaky gut, L-Glutamine being the most common.
  • Always consult with a healthcare provider before taking supplements.

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