How Gluten Promotes Leaky Gut (Even if You are NOT Gluten Sensitive)
You’ve heard a lot about the benefits of a gluten-free diet. You may have even made the choice to eliminate grains and gluten from your diet.
And you’ve probably also seen the backlash against this way of eating from a few vocal bloggers, journalists, doctors and possibly even your own friends and family. Case in point: We recently came across an article in Time, titled, “Eat More Gluten, The Fad Must Die.” Separately, we received an email with the subject line, “99% of People Should Stop Eating Gluten Free.”
Some critics claim a gluten-free diet will cause you to miss out on critical nutrients. Others claim that grain-free diet is only necessary for the less than one percent of the population (two to three million Americans) who suffer from Celiac disease. For anyone else, they claim, a gluten-free diet has no particular benefit.
Sadly, these conclusions are reckless and unfounded. Even if you’re able to consume foods containing gluten with no apparent adverse effects, a grain-free diet is critical to your long-term health.
It’s easy to refute the claim that, “99 percent of people should stop eating gluten free.” This is based on the fact that less than 1 percent of the people in the U.S. are currently diagnosed as Celiac. It does not account for those who have the disease and have not been diagnosed. More importantly, it excludes the additional 18 million Americans known to suffer from gluten sensitivity – a heightened immune response to gluten that causes discomfort and a wide range of systemic effects.
And research continues to mount that gluten is not the only problematic compound in cereal grains. Furthermore, the immune response that gluten elicits in some people – most notably Celiacs – is NOT the only health issue to be concerned about.
New research, published by Dr. Alessio Fasano at Harvard, confirms that gluten-containing foods impact the health of ALL who consume them, by increasing the risk of a “leaky gut.”
Gluten: The Loaded Gun for Leaky Gut Syndrome
Dr. Fasano discovered that exposure to gliadin – a protein found in gluten – increases the permeability of the epithelial lining of the gut. And this happens in healthy subjects, as well as those with Celiac.
A healthy gut plays a critical role in the function of your immune system. It also helps extract nutrients from your food, allowing these compounds to enter the bloodstream where they can nourish your body. But the gut also serves as a critical barrier to block harmful substances and undigested food particles from entering the bloodstream.
However, when the small spaces between gut cells (called tight junctions) expand, a wide range of substances that could never permeate a healthy gut are able to pass right through into the bloodstream.
Consumption of gliadin was also found to increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, allowing proteins, viruses, bacteria and toxins in the blood to breach this normally safeguarded space.
As you can imagine, a “leaky” gut and brain have been linked to a host of seemingly unrelated symptoms and chronic diseases including (but not limited to):
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Food allergies
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Brain fog and fatigue
While these conditions may seem disconnected, they share a common root: Inflammation.
Dr. David Perlmutter, M.D., renowned neurologist and the author of Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life says that, “In millions of people today, the gut is largely disrupted by increased intestinal permeability which fuels a continuous state of low-grade inflammation.”
Gluten Promotes Inflammation: The Cornerstone of Chronic Disease
Among the substances that leak into the bloodstream from the gut, one of these is particularly nefarious: lipopolysaccharide (LPS).
LPS is a compound that makes up the outer membrane of certain types of bacteria in the gut. These bacteria normally live within the confines of your gut without issue. But when they pass into the bloodstream – where they don’t belong – they cause a sharp inflammatory response. In fact, LPS is so inflammatory that it is actually used experimentally in the lab to create inflammation.
A leaky gut will increase the amount of LPS that circulates in your blood. The inevitable results are systemic inflammation (including brain inflammation) and increased risk of disease.
(NOTE: You can test your levels of LPS, and therefore your degree of gut permeability, with a test called the Cyrex Array 2. The test costs around $200.)
Heal Your Gut and Reduce Inflammation with a Gluten Free Ancestral Diet
Research now shows that gluten can cause long-term health consequences… even in the absence of gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease.
Focus your diet on the nutrient-dense foods our ancestors enjoyed – including gut-healing foods like bone broth and saturated fats from animals raised on pasture – to help seal and heal your gut and reduce the systemic inflammation associated with chronic disease.
Do you have any experience with leaky gut syndome? If so, how did you heal it?