How does leaky gut cause anxiety?

Answered on April 30, 2016
Created October 06, 2013 at 7:31 AM

How does the leaky gut syndrome lead to persistent anxiety? To me, it would not make sense as for gut irritation to cause persistent 24/7 vigilance. Can someone explain this to me better? Specifically, I want to see the science behind it!

Background: Shortly after taking an antibiotic for three months in 2007, I've dealt with insomnia, severe depression, anxiety and gut issues which have not been solved by any naturopath or medical doctor (I've seen at least a dozen during that time period.) Now, my quest is to understand the process as to determine the root cause and hence true cure. In 2012, I saw miraculous improvements with the Paleo diet, but I have not seen resolution of these problems. I still take sleep aids every night (I cannot sleep without a sleep-aid) and yet can barely sleep even on sleep-aids... frequently not at all.

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5 Answers

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on April 30, 2016
at 06:48 PM

I had leaky gut, depression, anxiety, digestive issues, food allergies and mood swings for many years. So I went to the doctor and took a blood test, but turned out according to the results I was fine, which i got upset about because of all the symptoms I was having, I knew something was wrong with me but could not solve the puzzle.  So I looked into leaky gut and read all the symptoms and they seemed to match mine, which I knew I had leaky gut from eating a lot of sweets when I was younger and the food allergies.  I know that all that sugar intake was the main cause of it.  I looked up how to cure leaky gut and the main thing is Probiotics. Which I heard, your gut is your second brain and the bacteria in your gut controls your emotions, so if you have too much bad bacteria, then, you are very most likely to have depression, anxiety and all that crap you don't want.  I knew I had Candida overgrowth as well, so I looked up herbs and food to kill off candida, and one of the best supplements to kill it off is Kryolic Candida Cleanse & Digestion which you can find on Amazon, the  majority of it is Garlic, which is very beneficial to killing off bad bacteria and yeast overgrowth.  I started taking it for a few days during meals along with probiotics before bed.  I ve seen improvement the first few days!  More energy, less obsessive culpulsive and less anxious and irritable.


on June 02, 2015
at 05:37 AM


I had been sick for many years with horrible anxiety, depression, brain fog, ringing in ears, exaustion etc.  I too had seen many docs (both alopathic and naturopatich) and spent tens of thousands of dollars without any results to justify.  I was desperate and finally discovered  that i had a high degree of Candida after taking a stool test.  As I understand it, Candida or other pathogens produce toxins that enter the blood stream an reach the brain cuasing anxiety. If you have a leaky gut, anything you eat has the potential to leak into your bloods stream where it doesn't belong including pathogens.   As the pathogens die off, they release more toxins that filter through the body causing even more feelings of anxiety/depression.  I wish I was a scientist and able to say for sure exactly how this works, but from what I understand it is the pathogens that cause the anxiety.

I must say that the only program that helped me with all of this was the GAPS protocol.  It's similar to Paleo in a lot of ways but it has quite a few restrictions.  It took over a year for me to start feeling better but I did feel close to normal towards the end of last year (2014.)  However, it was the holiday season treats and sweets that set me back big time.  I got too comfortable since I was feeling good and after "cheating" for several months I felt the symptoms come rushing back. It takes a long time to undo the damage.  If you do go on the GAPS protocol, stick with the program strictly and don't cheat!  Even cheating once will set you back big time.  Remember, your gut is huge, if laid out it would cover a tennis court.  That is a lot of area to try to repair, so give it years, not months, to repair the damage.

As for me, I'm back on the bandwagon baby!  Been drinking alcohol and cheating the past several months and I always pay for it.


on May 26, 2015
at 03:02 PM

My daughter (age 8) suffers from extreme anxiety, and we recently had lab tests run by a Functional Medicine Practioner (though you can order the same tests online yourself: the OAT or mOAT by Great Plains Laboratory). The testing revealed that she had very high levels of a strain of Clostridia that excreted a neurotoxin called HPHPA. HPHPA causes agitation and anxiety (as well as lots of other psychological disorders) by "shutting off" the enzyme that allows dopamine to convert to norepiphrene (sp?), thus causing an excess of dopamine in the brain. She also has high levels of yeast and lots of food sensitivities; therefore, alas, leaky gut. It's very common with leaky gut to have high levels of bad bacteria, and this one is fairly common and has been linked directly to anxiety. My daughter would have mild stomachaches sometimes but her primary symptom was the anxiety -- we did this testing as a last resort before trying medication and were very surprised at what it revealed and what we've since learned. (We've only been on her new diet and supplements for a week, though, so I can't vouch for whether fixing her gut will fix her anxiety. It does have research to support it, though.)


on January 05, 2015
at 02:55 AM

Hello.  I am wondering if you have ever found an answer to this question/post?  My husband is dealing with severe anxiety following 5 knee surgeries and rounds of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.  I feel that it is all due to leaky gut and chronic gut dysbiosis, but I am wondering if there is anything that can definitively point to the fact that leaky gut can cause this kind of anxiety.  There is nothing that can "take his mind off it" when the process starts. And it "comes and goes" - mostly goes these days, but the episdoes are still disheartening.  Any answers on how you're doing or more information that you found out would be greatly appreciated.  


on October 07, 2013
at 01:22 AM

leaky gut and/or dysbiosis (gut flora imbalance in quality and quantity) can result in chronic low grade inflammation in your gut. this causes chronic release of cortisol that suppresses immune function and increase sympathetic nervous system activity. Thus anxiety. Chronic dysbiosis can lead to pathogenic changes and result in a leaky gut which will allow undigested food particles to enter into the blood stream and cause the immune system to respond. This is a general understanding. Chronic Stress of any kind causes the sympathetic nervous system to be constantly 'on' until it becomes exhausted.

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