Is Your Medication Causing Leaky Gut?

Gut health is integral to numerous systems throughout the body. Therefore, it is important to be aware of any controllable factors that may contribute to poor gut function.

Intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut, allows substances to escape the intestine and impact other regions of the body. This results in a wide array of dysfunction and health issues that may include reduced immunity, thyroid issues and poor nutrient absorption.

There are multiple factors that contribute to the development of leaky gut. Many are not aware that their medications, prescription or otherwise, may contribute to poor gut health.

Being familiar with the essentials of leaky gut syndrome, identifying common indicators and knowing what medications impede gut function may help you treat current gut malfunction or prevent it in the future.

What Is Leaky Gut?

Intestinal hyperpermeability is the more specific term for leaky gut syndrome. Regardless of the title attributed, leaky gut is caused by a physiological issue known as tight junction malfunction. Tight junctions within the intestine dictate what substances are able to traverse the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream.

When working as intended, the semi-permeable lining of the gut allows helpful macro and micronutrients to pass through to be absorbed. It is the gut’s responsibility to ensure that important nutrients can enter the bloodstream while denying access to harmful substances. Unfortunately, many factors such as inflammatory foods, toxins, infections and stress can increase permeability resulting in greater dysfunction.

If undesirable compounds such as bacteria, toxins and partially digested food particles the intestine they can be transported to nearly any part of the body resulting in significant dysfunction and inflammation.

Chronic leaky gut results in long-term inflammation, which creates a cycle of dysfunction throughout the body. 80 percent of the immune system is located in the gut meaning that poor gut function can significantly impact immune activity. As particulates leak from the intestine and into the bloodstream, the immune system responds with substantial inflammation to quell the offending compounds. Chronic inflammation, triggered by leaky gut or otherwise, is the leading cause of most disease. Although the intent of this immune response is to eliminate undesirable compounds, in some cases it may attack healthy cells or tissue. Such a response increases the risk of developing other conditions.

The most frequent symptoms observed in those with leaky gut are as follows:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Bloating
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Digestive issues
  • Dysfunctional immune response
  • Food sensitivities
  • Inflammatory skin conditions
  • Joint pain
  • Mood and neurological disorders such as depression
  • Nutrient malabsorption
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Thyroid dysfunction

Are My Medications Making My Condition Worse?

Over the counter and prescription drugs are used to treat many conditions associated with leaky gut syndrome including autoimmune disease, thyroid issues, mental conditions and more. Generally, the medications used focus on resolving the most prominent symptom rather than the underlying cause. Unfortunately, this can result in a worsening of gut health, which aggravates leaky gut thereby contributing further to the original condition.

The following medications are commonly used and may damage gut health resulting in intestinal permeability.


Antibiotics are used to fight many different types of infection and disease. Unfortunately, these medications do so by indiscriminately removing microorganisms in the gut. Many doctors do not recommend taking antibiotics frivolously because they destroy helpful bacteria. This reckless destruction can result in increased symptoms such as allergic reactions and may actually increase your risk of future infections.

Although antibiotics may remove the harmful bacteria they also eliminate the helpful substances that help combat bacteria overgrowth and protect stomach lining. This can be resolved by supplementing with a high-quality probiotic.


Corticosteroids are often used to help relieve inflammation. This is accomplished by suppressing immune function. However, corticosteroids also increase cortisol levels, commonly known as the stress hormone, which can break down gut lining when present at high concentrations.

Using steroids may seem like an effective treatment in theory but in practice it can increase gut permeability and sustain autoimmune dysfunction.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Advil and Motrin are two of the most widely recognized forms of NSAIDs. Although they are a common treatment for many ailments, they may significantly impede gut biodiversity resulting in dysbiosis or bacterial imbalance.

Even at low doses, NSAIDs have been associated with intestinal bleeding and can hinder leaky gut recovery.

Long-term usage of NSAIDs has been shown to increase intestinal permeability. Studies have shown that greater intestinal permeation can occur in as little as 24 hours after NSAID ingestion.

Birth Control

Although oral contraception is a popular method for regulating child birth, the impact of this medication on the gut may cause people to change their contraceptive methods.

Estrogen is a major component in oral birth control and may induce estrogen dominance, which can significantly contribute to candida overgrowth in the gut (a leading cause of leaky gut syndrome).

Learn more about the negative effects of birth control here.

Acid Reducers

According to a Mayo Clinic study on gastric acid suppressants, it was found that patients taking such medications had greater recurrence of clostridium difficile infections. This strain of bacteria can potentially cause swelling of the colon, life-threatening bleeding and leaky gut. Those who have taken numerous antibiotics are at greater risk of a clostridium difficile infection because their gut lacks the healthy bacteria needed to combat it.

Additionally, low stomach acid levels mean that food remains undigested in the stomach for a longer time increasing the risk of harmful particulates moving through the intestinal barrier and into the bloodstream.

Chemotherapy Drugs

Medications used in combating cancer often cease cell division to stop the proliferation of cancer cells. Unfortunately, this also blocks the intestines ability to regenerate as it is composed of rapidly dividing cells. Chemotherapy treatments damage these cells thereby causing intestinal erosion resulting in leaky gut. These effects are well-documented and are usually considered when chemotherapy is prescribed.

Safeguarding the Gut

Leaky gut syndrome has a broad impact on bodily function and is frequently overlooked or disregarded when treatment for other conditions is prescribed.

Many drugs and common use medications can further contribute to leaky gut. A number of the medications mentioned in this article are essential for treatment of certain conditions. This doesn’t mean you need to completely ignore the health of your gut to treat another condition – in many cases that can be counterproductive. Instead, support your gut health with HoltraCeuticals’ Gut Feeling. The supplement is doctor-formulated to support healing of the intestinal lining and proper digestion, and reduce inflammation.

Regarding non-essential medications such as NSAIDs, oral contraceptives and acid reducers, alternative gut-supporting treatments are available and should be considered.

Combat leaky gut by avoiding or replacing medications that harm the gut.

To learn even more about keeping the gut healthy watch Holtorf Medical Group’s Facebook LIVE event, A Gut-Supporting Diet.


1. 7 Signs and Symptoms You Have Leaky Gut. Dr. Axe.

2. 5 Medications That Can Lead to Leaky Gut. Amy Myers MD.

3. Medications that cause leaky gut. HealthWise Clinical Nutrition.

4. Five Common Medications Linked with Leaky Gut. Wellness Vision.

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