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5 Root Causes of Leaky Gut (That Your Doctor Won't Tell You)

I don't know why my gut is a mess starter pack - how to heal your gut

(Just a forewarning, I’m sharing some hard facts on gut healing inside this blog that not everyone will want to hear. But stick around, this information may save your gut for good!)

The most common question I get from women in my practice is, “I eat sooooo healthy, I take all the supplements, I’m doing everything right, why is my gut such a mess??”

I completely understand - I've been there. You've worked with multiple doctors and practitioners, consumed all the green smoothies, spent $1,000's on labwork and supplements (hello, supplement graveyard!) but you're still dealing with mystery bloating, constipation, food sensitivities and irregular bowel movements. So what gives?

Let's take a deeper look into the main stressors that are preventing your gut from healing fully.

1. Hormonal Birth Control

hormonal birth control impacts gut health

Hormonal birth control (“the pill”) has been proven to cause iron overload, estrogen dominance and mineral dysregulation, all of which wreak havoc on the gut lining.. Massive NO-GO’s when it comes to your gut health.

"Oral estrogen has been shown to modify intestinal permeability, a critical step in the pathophysiology of inflammatory bowel disease. Second, exogenous hormone use through its effect on endogenous levels of hormones may enhance the development of Th1- and Th2-mediated inflammatory diseases. Lastly, recent data have linked modification in the gut microbiome to endogenous levels of androgens, which are also known to be altered with exogenous hormone use and influence the development of autoimmune diseases." (1)

2. You're Addicted to STRESS!

Stress and cortisol cause damage to the gut lining

Let's paint a picture: You woke up tired and didn't have time for breakfast before your morning HIIT workout. So you grab a coffee on the way to the gym and drink it within minutes on an empty stomach. Sound familiar?

There are so many physiological stressors in those two little sentences. And I don't blame you. Society has trained us to believe that those behaviors are normal. But in reality this "go-go-go" mentality is ramping up cortisol and sending signals to your body that you are under constant stress. This is what I like to call “living in survival mode”, and it’s no bueno for your gut health or sex hormones.

"Stress and depression can reshape the gut bacteria’s composition through stress hormones, inflammation, and autonomic alterations. In turn, the gut bacteria release metabolites, toxins, and neurohormones that can alter eating behavior and mood. Some bacterial species may encourage dysregulated eating." (2)

3. Bye Bye Veganism. No, seriously.

Vegan diet is not good for gut health

If you’re like me and spent multiple years of your life downing "healthy" vegan foods like salads, legumes, nuts, raw vegetables and green juices, your gut is likely a mess. All these foods have one thing in common: they are super hard to digest. These foods can also cause mineral imbalances due to the high amount of anti-nutrients they contain. Anti-nutrients like oxalates and lectins impede your body's ability to absorb critical nutrients which are needed to form the basic building blocks of your gut's mucosal barrier.

"There’s scientific evidence showing oxalic acid can harm glandular function, connective tissue function, neurological function and the function of excretion routes, particularly the kidneys." (3)

4. Get Back To Primal Eating

A primal paleo way of eating is best for gut health

While you were focused on the kale craze, you also missed out on critical gut-supportive nutrients like bioavailable protein, zinc, retinol, saturated fats and copper from grassfed animal products. Time to reincorporate grassfed beef, organ meats, wild caught seafood and bone broth! Your gut will thank you in the long run.

"Here are some of the facts about proteins: protein is essential to a healthy heart and a healthy body; animal sources of protein including eggs are better for you nutritionally since they contain all of the essential amino acids; as with most nutrients and vitamins, both too much and too little protein have detrimental effects on the body; and, protein cannot be “stocked” up like fat but must be eaten daily. Protein is the basic nutrient and plays an essential role in carrying cholesterol and preventing heart disease. (4)

5. Ditch the Screens

Screen time, blue light and circadian rhythm disruption harms gut health

On top of everything mentioned above, you most likely spend a ridiculous amount of time staring at screens compared to our ancestors. Yes, I'm looking at you and your screen report of 6h+ per day! Excessive blue light exposure throws your circadian rhythm out of whack, which is intricately tied to gut health. Add in poor sleep hygiene, lack of sunlight and excessive time indoors, and you have yourself a recipe for disaster.

"Scientists have found that circadian rhythm disorders are tied to serious health issues, including metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, cancer, obesity, and cognitive dysfunction." (3)

...and that's only the short list of why your gut is a mess. I didn’t even get to parasites, nervous system health or environmental toxins! But you see where I'm coming from, right? At the end of the day, “eating healthy” is typically not enough to heal a highly stressed gut. There is much more to the picture and healing always requires a systemic, holistic approach! If your goal is life long gut healing, make sure you’re addressing all of the necessary factors. Do you feel like you've "tried everything" to heal your gut, but nothing gives?

In my comprehensive online course The Root Cause Academy™, I discuss the main root causes of bloating, constipation and poor gut health that I see in my practice on a daily basis. In this course, we cover important topics related to gut health like nervous system dysregulation, functional nutrition, gut-damaging toxins like parasites and mold, and much more. Learn more about what's included in RCA and enroll today!


1. Khalili H. Risk of Inflammatory Bowel Disease with Oral Contraceptives and Menopausal Hormone Therapy: Current Evidence and Future Directions. Drug Saf. 2016 Mar;39(3):193-7. doi: 10.1007/s40264-015-0372-y. PMID: 26658991; PMCID: PMC4752384

2. Madison A, Kiecolt-Glaser JK. Stress, depression, diet, and the gut microbiota: human-bacteria interactions at the core of psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition. Curr Opin Behav Sci. 2019 Aug;28:105-110. doi: 10.1016/j.cobeha.2019.01.011. Epub 2019 Mar 25. PMID: 32395568; PMCID: PMC7213601.

3. The Damaging Effects of Oxalates on the Human Body,

4. All Proteins Are Not the Same, The Weston A. Price Foundation,

5., by Catharine Paddock, Ph.D. on November 29, 2018
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