As dietitians specializing in gut health, we regularly provide our clients with diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations that solve digestive problems.
Today we’re sharing our favorite recipes for healing your gut and some bonus information on important topics like leaky gut and ways to make food easier to digest.
We’re also giving you the rundown on what foods to eat more of and what foods to eat less of to improve your gut health.
All of the recipes we’re providing are:
- Easy to digest
- Provide gut-healing nutrients
- Keep out foods that could be problematic for people with digestive issues.
Please note, that this blog post contains affiliate links. The Nutrition Clinic for Digestive Health earns a small commission from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.
Leaky Gut Overview
We commonly see clients struggling with increased intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut.
Leaky gut occurs when the gut no longer functions as a dynamic barrier and instead constantly allows too much to pass through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream.
Once in the bloodstream, toxins and unwanted food particles initiate an immune response that weakens the immune system.
Conditions associated with leaky gut include:
- Alzheimer’s disease (1)
- Asthma (2)
- Celiac disease (3, 4)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (5)
- Critical illness or trauma (6, 7)
- Depression (8, 9)
- Fibromyalgia (10)
- Food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances (11, 12)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (13, 14)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (15)
- Multiple sclerosis 16, 17)
- Obesity (18, 19)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (20, 21)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (22)
- Type 1 diabetes (23, 24)
A healthy gut = good health! So, if you suffer from the conditions listed above, a comprehensive gut healing protocol could be beneficial even if you do not have digestive issues.
Leaky Gut Foods to Avoid
Here’s a quick overview of foods we recommend avoiding if you’re trying to heal a leaky gut:
- Added Sugar
- Raw vegetables
|Gluten containing grains||Gluten free grains|
|Kamut||Rice (white, brown, wild, black)|
Gluten is a protein found in grains. It increases zonulin production (25).
Too much zonulin increases intestinal permeability and can cause leaky gut.
In genetically susceptible individuals, this overproduction of zonulin can lead to immune-mediated diseases (26).
For people with celiac disease (a serious autoimmune condition), eating gluten causes the body to attack the small intestine damaging the microvilli.
Since the microvilli are responsible for absorbing nutrients from food, this leads to many nutrient deficiencies.
Another way to react to gluten is not an autoimmune response but rather a food intolerance known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
If you’re wondering if you have celiac disease or NCGS, you might be looking into testing. We recommend getting tested for celiac disease before removing gluten from your diet.
It’s not uncommon for people with digestive issues to have an intolerance to dairy. There are two ways that dairy can contribute to digestive issues.
- Lactose intolerance – an inability to digest lactose (the sugar found in milk)
- An allergy or intolerance to milk proteins, specifically casein and/or whey
|Dairy products||Dairy free swaps|
|Milk||Nut, oat, hemp, flax, or soy milk|
|Cheese||Cashew cheese or nutritional yeast|
|Cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir||Almond or coconut yogurt|
|Butter, ghee||Coconut, olive or avocado oil|
|Ice Cream||Almond or coconut ice cream|
|Heavy Cream||Full fat coconut milk|
Lactose is the main carbohydrate in dairy, it requires the enzyme lactase to be properly broken down.
Lactase production decreases as we age leading to malabsorption of dairy.
According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), around 65% of people are lactose intolerant (27).
In people with lactose intolerance, lactose isn’t broken down which results in digestive symptoms. Diarrhea is very common for lactose intolerant individuals.
Undigested lactose can also be food for bad bacteria (meaning it can lead to or can contribute to dysbiosis) causing bloating and gas.
Lactose intolerance symptoms:
- Loose stools
- Stomach or intestinal cramps
Casein and Whey
Casein, one of the major proteins found in dairy, breaks down very slowly which can create an immense amount of strain on the digestive system by delaying gut transit time.
It can cause inflammation by activating the immune system which creates an inflammatory cascade causing histamine release (28). This is especially problematic in those with autoimmune conditions.
Casein intolerance can cause similar symptoms to lactose intolerance resulting in some confusion for some people regarding their response to dairy (29).
It’s important to mention here that there are two types of casein (A1 and A2).
- The A1 variety is found to be the most problematic and is in higher quantities in cow’s milk (30).
- A2 casein seems to work well for some people and can actually be protective for the gut because of its high fat-soluble vitamins and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) content (31).
- Milk that contains higher amounts of A2 casein includes goat, sheep, buffalo, and camel milk.
Even with that nuance, we still recommend remaining dairy-free while healing the gut and then doing an organized reintroduction of dairy to assess if your body tolerates it.
Whey, another protein found in dairy but in a much smaller amount, can also cause digestive issues by increasing intestinal permeability (32).
People can be allergic to whey, but what we find a lot in our practice is that people can also have a sensitivity to whey.
Symptoms of food sensitivities (such as diarrhea, bloating, rashes, headaches, etc.) can begin anywhere from minutes to 72 hours after consuming the food. This makes food sensitivities really hard to figure out on your own.
We love using the MRT Food and Chemical Sensitivity Test to help people figure out which foods are best for their bodies.
Eggs are NOT dairy! We’ve been asked this several times on grocery store tours – maybe it’s because they are kept near the milk 🤷♀️.
The overindulgence of added sugar competes with the intake of nutrient-dense foods that can heal the gut.
For a deeper dive into added versus natural sugar, check out The Real Facts About Sugar.
Instead of consuming ultra-processed snacks with added sugar, aim for more nutrient-dense options instead:
- Cacao nibs
- Freeze-dried berries or apple rings
- Dried coconut flakes
Normally for a well-rounded diet, we recommend including raw vegetables because of their nutrient density.
But in the case of healing a leaky gut, we recommend sticking to cooked veggies. Raw vegetables require more work by the body to digest.
Although alcohol isn’t a food, it’s worth noting its impact on the digestive tract.
It causes inflammation in three ways :
- Excess alcohol changes the microbiome composition causing an increase in unfavorable bacteria and decrease in beneficial bacteria (aka dysbiosis) (33).
- Increases intestinal permeability by lowering the production of proteins that keep the gut wall semi-permeable. (34)
- Damages the lining of the gut wall, leading to irritation (35)
For the reasons listed above, we recommend avoiding alcohol during gut healing protocols.
Foods Easy to Digest
The recipes linked below include foods that are easy to digest and have gut-healing properties.
You’ll notice lots of cooked veggies, soups, and smoothies since these types of recipes require less work from the digestive system.
Nutritionally speaking, the recipes below are high in:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Healthy fats
- Collagen and glutamine
We recommend using collagen peptides as the protein powder during your gut healing protocol.
- Low Carb Green Smoothie – this recipe is rich in antioxidants from the addition of zucchini and kale – it’s also full of healthy fat from the avocado.
- Rehydrating Beet Smoothie – raspberries, strawberries, and beets provide plenty of antioxidants while coconut water is helpful for providing necessary electrolytes. Skip the added honey!
- Matcha Green Smoothie – matcha, leafy greens, and ginger are anti-inflammatory – use full-fat coconut milk for a source of healthy fat
Gut Healthy Oatmeal Recipes
- Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats – the pectin in the stewed apples helps to heal the gut lining while the chia seeds provide a good omega-3 source. Skip the added sweetener in this recipe – it packs plenty of flavor without it!
- Slow Cooker Chunky Monkey Oatmeal and Quinoa – slow-cooking oatmeal can make digesting this grain easier. Leave out the maple syrup and top with cinnamon instead.
- Blueberry Breakfast Bake – this bake uses shredded coconut to give an oatmeal-like texture without including oats. The combination of walnuts, chia seeds, and eggs provides gut-healing omega-3 fats and protein.
Leaky Gut – Collagen
Collagen contains many amino acids that support gut health. Amino acids in collagen serve several functions essential for healthy digestion such as:
- Playing a role in bile production
- Repairing the lining of the gut
- Helping with nutrient absorption (36, 37).
- Make sure your collagen is sourced from animals raised in healthy environments such as pasture-raised cows or wild-caught fish. This has ethical, environmental, and nutritional implications. One brand we really love is Further Food.
- How to use: Collagen can be added to smoothies, hot liquids, baking recipes, or oatmeal.
- 20 Minute Easy Salmon Tacos – Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fats. You can serve this versatile recipe on corn tortillas or Siete grain-free tortillas to keep it gluten-free. If making the recommended dressing, skip the maple syrup.
- Ground beef Taco Bowls – This recipe includes a variety of cooked vegetables (peppers, onions, and cauliflower) for antioxidants. Instead of using raw leafy greens, we recommend wilting them for a few minutes on the stovetop. Top with avocado slices for extra healthy fat.
- Avocado Egg Salad – instead of putting this on a big bed of lettuce since raw vegetables can be tough to digest, serve it with gluten-free crackers – we love these by Simple Mills.
Gut Healing Soups
- Chicken Soup with Ginger and Turmeric – contains anti-inflammatory ingredients like chicken, sweet potatoes, ginger, turmeric, kale, and lemon. Be sure to use olive oil instead of butter to keep it dairy-free.
- Creamy Cauliflower Chowder – coconut milk gives this soup a creamy texture and provides soothing fats for the digestive tract. You can use olive or avocado oil instead of butter to keep the recipe dairy-free.
- Sausage Kale Sweet Potato Soup – includes garlic cloves which are anti-inflammatory. Leave out the wine and use extra bone broth with a splash of vinegar instead.
Leaky Gut Bone Broth
Bone broth is a great source of glutamine. Glutamine helps to seal the gut lining, reducing permeability, while also reducing potentially harmful pathogens in the gut.
Bone broth also delivers an abundance of nutrients less common in the standard diet such as minerals, collagen, gelatin, and amino acids like glutamine and glycine.
Here’s one of our favorite bone broth recipes:
- Gut Restoring Bone Broth – Swap avocado oil in place of ghee when cooking the chicken.
We recommend making this recipe in big batches and storing it in the freezer. Use it to make soups, slow cooker meals, or to sip on throughout your gut healing protocol.
It’s a good idea to keep some bone broth on hand for times when you can’t make your own! Our favorite brands are Kettle and Fire, Epic, and Bonafide Provisions.
All of these meals use a slow cooker which can make food easier to digest.
- Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili – utilizes fresh herbs like cilantro and spices like garlic to boost nutrient density.
- Slow Cooker Beef Stew – this recipe uses a tougher cut of meat that is full of collagen and glutamine. Beef is a rich source of zinc, a mineral that helps to heal the stomach lining.
- Healthy Zuppa Toscana – we love that this recipe uses coconut milk to give a creamy flavor without the dairy.
- Slow Cooker Meatballs – serve this over zucchini or rice noodles for a gluten-free dish.
- Slow Cooker Shrimp Gumbo – shrimp contains a unique antioxidant, called astaxanthin, found only in seafood.
- Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork – animal proteins, like pork, provide B vitamins and iron that are essential to repairing the damaged gut lining and replacing damaged cells.
- Sour Watermelon Gummies – these contain gelatin to repair the gut lining and reduce inflammation.
- Healthy Beet Muffins – even though this recipe was created with babies and toddlers in mind, it’s a great gluten-free option for muffins. This recipe uses oats instead of flour and bananas instead of sugar!
- Green pea snack – these baked green peas are a protein-rich easy snack option.
- Seaweed snacks – seaweed provides many nutrients that aren’t typically abundant in snack foods like iodine, iron, and calcium.
- Kale chips – these are a great crunchy, anti-inflammatory cracker alternative.
How Long Does it Take to Heal the Gut?
It can take anywhere from three months to a year for someone’s gut to heal, with an average amount of time being six months.
When we use the LEAP/MRT protocol with clients (a personalized anti-inflammatory diet based on bloodwork), the vast majority of our clients feel 50% better within 10-14 days!
When starting an anti-inflammatory diet like this you may feel worse for a few days before you start feeling better. So be prepared for that and be sure to drink plenty of water and get lots of rest.
The guidelines listed above are among the best dietary recommendations for healing a leaky gut.
There are several causes of leaky gut. Figuring out why a gut has been damaged can give further clues as to what needs to be addressed in order for it to heal.
Supplements can help, and stress usually plays more of a role than people initially realize. Past trauma and head injuries are also commonly overlooked culprits.
If you’ve tried the above diet recommendations for at least two weeks and have used our recommended supplements, your next best steps are either setting up an appointment with one of our dietitians and/or diving into some of our gut health testing.
Having the guidance of an experienced practitioner on your gut healing journey can save you a lot of time, money, and unnecessary suffering!
If this post was helpful, be sure to check out our free e-book: How to Heal Your Gut in 5 Simple Steps.
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