Leaky Gut Leaky Brain


You may have heard about leaky gut already, but what about leaky brain? It sounds terribly weird doesn’t it! However, it is exactly what can happen when the delicate cells that are usually joined together by tight junctions become weakened and toxic substances such as heavy metals, pesticides, damaging proteins and PCBs begin to seep in. What happens then? Well, unfortunately this leads to inflammation of the brain, brain fog, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, dementia, cognitive decline, headaches, migraines, ADHD among other conditions. Leaky brain is intricately linked to the health of the digestive system and leaky gut can lead to leaky brain. It is an interesting concept to delve into and it may just be the underlying cause of some of your current health symptoms.

What is a Blood-Brain Barrier

Our brains are protected from potentially harmful substances that travel in the blood stream by the blood brain barrier. Think of it as a protective fence. It is similar in structure to the barrier within the gut. Most of us have heard of ‘Leaky Gut’ and ‘Leaky Brain’ is similar to this condition. The blood brain barrier is needed to keep toxic substances out and allow nourishing nutrients, oxygen, glucose and hormones to travel safely through. However, when this barrier is compromised we experience a range of health issues.

What Causes Leaky Brain?
The brain is intricately linked to the gut. It has been confirmed over and over again that the gut microbiome has a profound affect on the function of our brains. Many of the same things that cause leaky gut, can also cause leaky brain. These may include; poor gut health, poor diet, food intolerances, food sensitivities, toxins and infections. We are also becoming more aware of how wheat affects us and studies have shown that wheat can damage the lining of the gastrointestinal system and also the blood brain barrier. This is because wheat contains a protein called gliadin that increases another protein called zonulin. Zonulin can open tight junctions and cause leaky gut. Zonulin release can also be triggered by autoimmune conditions, type 1 diabetes and gut bacteria. Basically, what ever causes leaky gut can also lead to leaky brain. Other causes of leaky gut are conditions that trigger systemic inflammation such as;

  • Gut Dysbiosis (infections)
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Mental Health Conditions
  • Stress & Vagus Nerve Dysfunction

The blood brain barrier is also affected by;

  • Bacterial infections deteriorate the BBB allowing bacteria into the brain where they do not belong
  • Mold toxins trigger inflammation, promote oxidative damage in the brain, and disrupt the BBB
  • Excess glutamate overstimulates nerves causing the BBB to breakdown increasing permeability to potentially harmful agents
  • Free radicals benefit inflammatory as well as aging processes further damaging the BBB
  • High blood sugar and diabetes represent dramatic changes in blood sugar which produce oxidative stress and inflammation
  • Elevated homocysteine, seen in individuals living with heart disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease or those who survive a stroke, changes tight junction function and prevents the BBB from functioning properly
  • High-fat, high-calorie diets and obesity increase oxidative damage and deprive the brain of oxygen
  • Liver damage releases a signal called MMP9 into the bloodstream that increases BBB permeability
  • Low quality sleep interrupts the sleep-wake cycle interrupting the uptake of nutrients and offload of toxins while increasing inflammation

How to treat leaky brain?

Treating a leaky brain starts by healing a leaky gut. By looking after you gut you will also be taking care of your brain health. This may involve eliminating all the causative factors of leaky gut and leaky brain and then adding dietary and lifestyle factors that support brain health.

Following these steps will lower inflammation in the body and brain, maximize the transport of oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients into the brain, facilitate better removal of toxins out of the brain, reduce oxidative stress, and help rebuild tight junctions to restore the integrity of the BBB.


  • Consuming gluten and foods that the individual cannot tolerate
  • Stop consuming sugar and processed foods
  • Ignoring stress
  • Allowing bacterial and viral infections to fester before getting treatment
  • Drinking alcohol in excess
  • Exposure to environmental toxins in air, water and food


  • Detoxifying the body of pesticides, and heavy metals
  • Taking in probiotic foods to keep the gut balanced
  • Eating essential fatty acids, which are vital for the brain, including avocado, coconut oil, flaxseed, hemp seed, oily fish, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts
  • Reducing inflammation through the diet
  • Making quality sleep a priority
  • Reducing psychological and emotional stress through exercise, meditation, chanting/song

Supplements that help repair the BBB. Always seek the advice of your naturopath before trying any supplement.


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