Do You Have Leaky Barriers?

do you have leaky barriers?

Do You Have Leaky Barriers?

You’ve probably heard the term leaky gut. But, what about leaky brain, skin, and lungs? Although talked about less, these leaky barriers are extremely important to be aware of. Often, they can be the missing piece to experiencing optimal health.


What are Leaky Barriers?

In the body, leaky barriers occur when the gastrointestinal tract becomes permeable (in other words, leaky). In a perfect world, the gut is strong and secure, with tight barriers, to protect substances from being leaked into the body. However, various causes of inflammation can loosen this protective barrier. In the case of leaky gut (the most common leaky barrier system), food, substances, and toxins are leaked from the gut through these loose barriers. As a result, particles travel throughout the body, often triggering an inflammatory response. It’s a vicious cycle.

When discussing leaky barriers, I like to think of our bodies as a donut. Stay with me here. Imagine a classic glazed donut. The top of the donut hole is like our mouth, while the underside of the hole is our anus. In other words, this hole symbolizes where our food enters and leaves the body. Despite common belief, the intestinal tract is not internal, as we likely imagine. It’s external, like the hole of the donut. If you think about it, the gastrointestinal tract is actually located externally to our “insides” (bloodstream, extracellular matrix, visceral organs, etc.).

In the case of leaky barriers, substances (even seemingly “healthy” ones) enter the body through the loosened intestinal tract. This elicits an immune response. More often than not, the body doesn’t recognize these substances as harmless food particles, but as “non-self” or “invaders.” This leaky barrier process is the beginning of an inflammatory cascade, leading to chronic illness and immune dysregulation. Sometimes, the protein sequences of particular foods can actually resemble our tissues and organs. This is called molecular mimicry and can lead to autoimmunity.

While the gut is most commonly “leaky,” the rest of the body can be affected, too. For example: the lungs, brain, and skin can all be deemed “leaky” when the barrier malfunctions. When functioning optimally, these barriers should act as the first method of self-defense against foreign invaders.

READ MORE:  Hashimoto's 101


Common Signs of Leaky Barriers

The prevalence of leaky barriers is steadily increasing in America. However, it’s really no surprise. Our processed diet and chronically stressed and sick lifestyles lead directly to leaky barriers. The most common triggers are:

        • Underlying infections
        • Environmental toxins: heavy metals, long-term medication use, pollution, smoking, recreational drugs
        • Food sensitivities: such as gluten and dairy
        • Stress: emotional, mental, physical, or hormone/cortisol imbalances
        • Sugar and highly processed foods
        • Trauma: physical or emotional, head injuries, whiplash, concussions,
        • History of antibiotic use
        • Over-sterilization 


In response to these common lifestyle and dietary triggers, the most common signs of leaky barriers include:

        • Skin– rashes, acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea
        • Gut– IBS, constipation, diarrhea, ulcers, joint pain, gut dysbiosis, SIBO, heartburn
        • Brain– brain fog, dizziness, anxiety and/or depression, moodiness, fatigue, headaches, seizures
        • Lungs– cough, difficulty breathing, wheezing


When there is a breach in more than one barrier system, you might experience symptoms throughout the whole body. Also, when you experience “mysterious” or “random” symptoms, they are often linked to leaky barriers. Since leaky barriers are frequently the root cause of common diseases, it’s important to be aware of and address any leaky barriers.


Autoimmunity and Leaky Barriers

Many people who experience chronic illness, like autoimmunity, and sensitivity also struggle with physical and emotional barriers. The Hygiene Hypothesis helps explain this connection: Interestingly, while first world countries are known for having less cases of hygienic illnesses, they have a sky-high prevalence of autoimmunity. Could this be linked to an increase in leaky barriers? The answer might just surprise you. According to Wikipedia, “Studies have shown that various immunological and autoimmune diseases are much less common in the developing world than the industrialized world and that immigrants to the industrialized world from the developing world increasingly develop immunological disorders in relation to the length of time since arrival in the industrialized world.” This strong link is likely due to over-sterilization, the Standard American Diet, and chronic stress– all of which increase overall inflammation, leading to leaky barriers and autoimmunity. 

READ MORE:  6 Types of Sensitivity

Interestingly enough, Ayurvedic medicine, an Eastern medicine approach, is rooted in these barrier systems. The three “doshas” are vata (the blood-brain barrier), pitta (stomach barrier), and kapha (the lung barrier). The Ayurvedic approach addresses the imbalances in these three doshas, achieving healing throughout the body. 


Functional Solutions for Leaky Barriers

The Western medicine approach to leaky barriers often includes masking the symptoms through the use of creams and pills. However, once you identify the presence of leaky barriers through functional medicine, it is actually possible to nip the root cause at the source and experience true healing. These are the most effective, functional solutions for leaky barriers:

Remove Triggers

Know your triggers and eliminate them from your life. Think: food sensitivities, causes of stress, and underlying infections. 

Gut Repair Protocol

Healing the gut is the second most important step in healing. Include more gut-healthy nutrients and foods such as fish oils, L-glutamine, deglycyrrhized licorice root, marshmallow root, slippery elm, zinc carnosine, probiotics, prebiotics, bone broth, collagen gelatin, and fermented foods. Simultaneously, it’s best to avoid processed foods, gluten, refined sugar, conventional dairy, alcohol, and excess caffeine.

Improve Vagal Tone

Establishing a strong vagal tone encourages a healthy brain-gut connection. Simple ways to improve vagal tone include humming, cold showers, and laughing.

Mind Body Practices

Mind body practices help process physical, emotions, and mental stressors. This can also help with trauma healing, which plays a role in leaky barriers.


Photobiomodulation, or light therapy, is known to reduce inflammation, activate mitochondrial function, stimulate ATP, promote circulation of blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients, and reduce oxidative damage. A functional practitioner can use low level or cold laser therapy on the body. At home, you can self-treat with infrared saunas and handheld devices.


Leaky barriers might be a chronic health issue, but it is possible to heal them. Through the use of food, mind-body practices, and other functional approaches, leaky gut, skin, lungs, and brain can be sealed and tightened, reducing the risk of “leaks” throughout the body.


Dr. Natasha F
[email protected]

Dr. Natasha F is a Doctor, Designer, Speaker and Artist. She specializes in healing autoimmunity through integrative chiropractic, functional neurology, functional medicine, nutrition, homeopathy and narrative medicine.

No Comments

Leave a Comment