What is the Leaky Gut Theory?


The intestines are our body’s first line of defense against foreign substances and harmful organism. In a healthy child, the intestine is very selective to the nutrients that are being absorbed or allow to cross the barrier.

The Leaky Gut Theory or Opioid Excess Theory, however, suggests that children with ADHD or special needs have “porous” intestines that allow non-specified nutrients and chemicals to cross the gut barrier into blood circulation. The partially digested protein, specifically those from gluten and casein, may cross the blood-brain-barrier and affect the brain in a way similar to opioids. Thus, we frequently see children with ADHD with addiction towards wheat and dairy products.


Food allergy and yeast or candida overgrowth may cause inflammation of the intestines. This may result in compromise of the intestinal wall barrier, allowing unwanted substances and harmful bacteria to enter the blood circulation.

This is how semi-digested gluten and casein protein gain entry into the blood stream. The semi-digested gluten and casein triggers the same brain receptors as opioids condoning the same addictive behaviors.


Many children with ADHD also have speech and language delay. Therefore, they don’t seem to ever complain of any abdominal discomfort other than just being very picky. Children with ADHD or special needs also tend to have very high pain tolerance. Thus, they seldom are aware of the pain or discomfort. Researches and studies so far are inconsistent with findings regarding whether or not children with special needs has more GI problems than normal-development children.

Generally, signs and symptoms frequently observed are green or yellow stool, undigested food particles in stool, diarrhea and/or constipation, excessively foul-smelling stool, and bulky stool, hard stool, or bottom rash.

These are signs that you child maybe having problem digesting and absorbing the food ingested. Sometimes, signs and symptoms maybe manifested as undesirable behavior in children who are non-verbal.


KEEP A FOOD JOURNAL. Keeping a food log will help identify any trouble foods. Most observant parents usually are able to pick out the suspected food. Like my daughter, she loves milk, especially chocolate milk, and cheese. She used to have stomachache all the time and she would tell me that her poop is green color. Whenever she has too much milk to drink (3 cups), then she would complain of burning and redness in her anus. She takes 8 billion CFUs probiotics daily, which helps with her stomach pain a bit not completely resolved. But recently, I persuaded her to stop drinking milk and eating cheese completely. She told me the other day that she realize she does not have stomachache anymore.

Once you identify the suspected food allergy, eliminate that item for a week and observe.You may want to consult a registered dietitian if your child has multiple food allergies just to be sure that your child’s diet remains adequate.

If your child has the above symptoms, but without food allergy, you may start with 4 billion CFUs of probiotics and slowly increase to about 8-10 billions CFUs a day.

Many common diets for ADHD and autism are based on the leaky gut theory. The Body Ecology diet and Specific Carbohydrate diet are specifically target to eliminate the overgrowth of yeast population in the gut that cause leaky gut. The gluten-free and casein-free diet aim at minimizing the amount of gliadorphine (from gluten) and casomorphine (from casein) available in the diet, and the subsequent accumulation.



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