Is there such a thing as "leaky gut" syndrome?

I was talking with a friend the other day who asked me if I had ever heard of “leaky gut” and described her limited knowledge of the topic - namely that some people’s intestinal lining is porous and that food particles leak through and get into the blood stream, causing all kinds of long term chronic problems.

I told her that such a thing didn’t sound probable because if particles got through your intestinal lining that weren’t supposed to be there the results would be more serious and immediate. (like a massive infection among other things)

I looked it up later and couldn’t find a single medical listing in a simple web search. Most of the self-help sites that came up listed “leaky gut” as a cause of everything from autism to MS. On top of that, they all seem to be quoting the same source.

So what’s the Straight Dope on “leaky gut”? Where did this term originate, and is such a syndrome even possible?

Uh, never heard of it labelled that way, but perforated intestines happen all the time, and do lead to more immediate pain and infections.

As for waste material leaking into the bloodstream and causing slow and chronic illnesses, I don’t think it’s possible. That’s a pretty serious problem, that usually results in rapid deterioration and “multiple system failures,” followed of course by death.

The closest thing I know of is diverticulitis, in which indigestible food particles, like small seeds, get lodged in the gut causing inflamation and infection.

No, I wasn’t talking about “perforated intestines”. I’m hoping someone has heard of the term “Leaky gut”. I didn’t make this up.

“Leaky gut” is real, but is probably blamed for a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with it. Essentially the intestine can become more permeable to many molecules, which move from the gi tract into the abdomen when they shouldn’t. Its seen a lot in alcoholic liver disease and Crohn’s disease.

However there’s very little good info out there on it. Most web sites which appear when one googles “leaky gut syndrome” are not mainstream medicine information sites.

So I’d take this diagnosis with a big shaker of salt unless given to an individual by a competent gastro-enterologist after appropriate work-ups, including colonoscopy are done.


This site is not too bad in explaining it. There are theories out there about how the syndrome is related to autism; I don’t think that theory is real mainstream but who knows?

I don’t endorse these theories, I just think this is the most non-biased site I’ve found.