Leaky gut is not currently recognized as a medical condition amongst conventional doctors and researchers. However, evidence shows that there is a strong link between gut health and other conditions such as autoimmune diseases. Some people have managed to cure many health problems with the carnivore diet which modern medicines have failed. Can the carnivore diet heal leaky gut as well?

Available evidence shows that the carnivore diet can potentially heal leaky gut syndrome because it is a diet that eliminates many root causes of this condition including plant toxins, added sugar, industrial seed oil, ultra-processed food, and alcohol. The carnivore diet is also a nutrient-rich diet that can provide your body with what it needs to detox and heal your body from the inside out, including your damaged gut.

Let’s have a look at the leaky gut syndrome, its symptoms, and causes in more detail below before looking at whether the carnivore diet can help with this condition.

What is leaky gut syndrome?

Leaky gut syndrome or increased intestinal permeability is a condition where your intestinal lining is compromised allowing the passage of toxins, antigens, and bacteria in the lumen to enter the bloodstream.[1]

The gastrointestinal tract which begins in the mouth and ends at the anus is a very complicated and highly specialized system. Its main role is to break down nutrients in food and absorb these nutrients. While doing its job, it faces environmental threats such as food antigens, commensal bacteria, pathogens, and toxins. Luckily, there is a specialized barrier that blocks the entry of these antigens and toxins. The front line of this barrier is maintained by only a single layer of specialized epithelial cells that are linked together by tight junction proteins.[2]

In healthy individuals, the intestinal barrier can effectively protect the rest of your body from antigens, bacteria, fungi, and toxins while allowing the absorption of nutrients.

However, if the intestinal barrier is compromised for whatever reason, the intestinal permeability will increase and allow the entry of bacteria, toxins, and food particles into the bloodstream. Inflammation then follows as a result of the immune system’s response to these foreign substances. [3]

Health problems associated with leaky gut

Multiple diseases may arise or be exacerbated due to a leaky gut, including autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, autoimmune hepatitis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and systemic lupus erythematosus, skin issues, joint pain, hormone issues.[4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]

Causes of leaky gut

There are a number of factors that can affect gut permeability:[10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16]

  • Poor diet. Standard Western diet is negatively associated with the diversity and functionality of the gut microbiota. This is not surprising given this diet is high in ultra-processed foods, added sugar, industrial seed oil and liberal use of additives
  • Chronic alcohol consumption. This results in intestinal barrier dysfunction, alterations on both the quality and quantity of gut microbiota and other diseases
  • Chronic stress. It has been found that chronic stress can disturb gut microbiota, thereby triggering immune system response and promoting colitis
  • Low dietary fiber. Low-fiber diet consumption was found to associate with the expansion of mucus-degrading bacteria
  • Other factors such as chronic infection, antibiotic overuse, birth control pills, and prescription drugs may also alter gut microbiota.

The carnivore diet

A carnivore is an animal that feeds on other animals. Therefore, strictly speaking, by definition, someone on the carnivore diet will basically just eat animal source food such as ruminant meat, pork, poultry, and seafood and drink water.

However, a broader version of the carnivore diet can include all foods that come from or are produced by an animal including ruminant meat (e.g. beef, lamb, goat, and bison), pork, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, and honey.

What to eat on the carnivore diet?

On the carnivore diet, all you can eat are food from the animal kingdom. Some people reported doing well with just muscle meat and water. However, some advocates a nose-to-tail approach on this diet where one eats not just meat but also organ meats because they are considered the most nutrient-rich food.

Why did people start the carnivore diet?

People start the carnivore diet for many reasons including weight loss, treating health issues such as inflammation, autoimmune, gut issues, skin issues, metabolic syndromes.

The International Center for Medical Nutritional Intervention clinic in Hungary used a meat-based diet called ‘Paleolithic Ketogenic Diet’ to successfully treat an extensive range of autoimmune and metabolic diseases, such as type I diabetes, type II diabetes, cancer, and Crohn’s disease since 2013.[17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26]

The logic behind this diet

There are three main reasons why the carnivore diet makes sense to many people:

  • The carnivore diet is consistent with our genetic make-up. Evidence from human physiology and genetics, archaeology, paleontology, and zoology show that humans were hyper-carnivorous apex predators that ate mostly meat from large animals for 2 million years. Living conditions and human behaviors have changed rapidly in a short period of time, but our genetic makeup remains virtually the same as that at the end of the paleolithic period. The human body is designed to eat meat still. [27, 28]
  • Plant-based food is full of plant toxins. As plants can’t defend themselves like the way animals do, to deter predators, they produce toxins, in their leaves, stems, flowers, seeds, and roots. Although plants can be full of nutrients, they are also full of toxins or natural pesticides.[29] It doesn’t make sense to eat plant food and consume these toxins while you can eat animal-based food that is nutrient-dense and free from toxins
  • Anecdotal evidence of the benefits of the carnivore diet. While there has been no recent scientific research on the health benefits and its associated risks, the carnivore diet has shot up in popularity thanks to anecdotal evidence. Many people have managed to lose weight, treats health problems that modern medicine has failed, and improve their general well-being on this diet.[30]

Can the carnivore diet heal leaky gut?

By looking at the underlying causes of the leaky gut syndrome and what the carnivore diet is, in my view, the carnivore diet can potentially heal leaky gut because it removes many elements that cause leaky gut syndromes. In particular:

  1. The carnivore diet removes all plant toxins including the most trouble-some ones for the gut such as gluten and lectin
  2. The carnivore diet replaces a poor diet with a nutrient-dense diet. The standard American diet is high in ultra-processed food, simple carbohydrates, added sugar, industrial seed oil and additives. All of these are known to cause inflammation in your body. By relacing these with the most nutrient-dense animal-based food, you provide your body with what it needs to detox and heal your body from inside out, not just your intestinal lining
  3. The carnivore diet has the potential to reduce stress and improve mental health, and, as a result, improves your gut health as well. Physical health and mental health go hand in hand, if you improve one, the other does benefit
  4. Alcohol should be removed because it is not a carnivore drink. I have written an in-depth article on whether you should drink alcohol on the carnivore diet here. The answer is a definite no because alcohol is a psychoactive drug that is capable of seriously affecting neurological pathways in your brain, alters your behaviors, and adversely impact your health and wellbeing. The removal of this psychoactive and toxic drug will definitely benefit your gut health.

One of the potential causes of the leaky gut syndrome listed above is a low-fiber diet. I disagree with this view.

I have written in detail about why we don’t need fiber on the carnivore diet here. In summary, you don’t need fiber on the carnivore diet because it has absolutely no nutritional value. Based on available evidence, fiber does not improve bowel function or provide any proven health benefits. In contrast, eliminating fiber has actually been found to be beneficial with secretion. You can find all evidence supporting this argument in this post.

Dr Tan and Seow-Choen, in a 2007 editorial for the World Journal of Gastroenterology, call fiber “the ultimate junk food. It is neither digestible nor absorbable and therefore devoid of nutrition. People who ingest fiber are ingesting them to make feces only“.[31]

Anecdotal evidence

There are only a few cases that I can find on the zerocarbzen.com website and Reddit where people have reportedly healed their leaky gut syndrome or significantly improved their digestive health with the carnivore diet. [32, 33, 34]

If you suspect that you might be suffering from this condition, please talk to your doctor, get tested, and seek help.

If you would like to start the carnivore diet to see if it can improve your gut, I’ve written a detailed guide on how to start the carnivore diet here. Please check it out, it will definitely save you a lot of time.

DisclaimerThe information in this post is for reference purposes only and not intended to constitute or replace professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.