Is Gluten Causing Leaky Gut Syndrome? Understanding Its Effects
7 minute read
Leaky gut syndrome, or intestinal permeability, is your gut barrier begins to deteriorate. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including due to the presence of gluten.
When leaky gut occurs, particles are able to leave the gut and travel throughout the body. These wayward particles trigger inflammation and possible autoimmune attacks, which in turn can lead to numerous health problems, some severe.
As a result, identifying and healing a leaky gut is important to your overall health. And understanding the role gluten can play can help you too.
Understanding Gluten and Your Gut
Research has found links between gluten and leaky gut, but the relationship is complicated. Gluten is not one protein but a collection of proteins that are found naturally in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is responsible for giving dough its elastic, chewy texture as well as helping bread to rise.
To understand the possible link between gluten and leaky gut, you also need to learn about intestinal permeability. Your digestive system breaks down the foods you eat and absorbs all essential nutrients from those foods. The walls of your intestines are where much of this absorption occurs, and the cells in this wall are responsible for what passes through the gut and what does not.
Intestinal permeability is the term given to the condition where substances pass through the gut wall that are not normally supposed to. In the gut wall there are tiny gaps, known as tight junctions, that allow nutrients to pass through to your blood, but they also block undigested particles from leaving.
When the tight junctions become loose, they allow larger particles to pass through, causing leakage.
Undigested food particles or other toxins can travel anywhere in your body once they reach the bloodstream. As they reach certain organs, your immune system registers the foreign parts and releases an inflammatory attack to target the area. A little inflammation is perfectly natural, but a leaky gut can persist over time, causing chronic inflammation, which is much more serious.
As a result of chronic inflammation, healthy tissues and organs are attacked and damaged. For this reason, leaky gut is often associated or implicated in autoimmune diseases.
When it comes to the role gluten plays, this is only true for certain individuals. Most people can process gluten just fine, but a small portion of the population has intolerance to this protein and cannot fully digest it.
In its most severe form, this gluten intolerance is known as celiac disease, and this can cause serious damage to the gut walls when gluten is consumed. Gluten can cause a number of unfortunate symptoms for those with intolerance, including:
♦ Stomach pain
♦ Excessive gas
♦ Skin rashes
♦ Impaired ability to absorb nutrients
People with celiac disease will almost always have these reactions, but there are also those without celiac disease who still react negatively to the presence of gluten. The symptoms are similar to those with celiac disease, but there is no autoimmune response.
There is no real way to test for this non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but you can identify it when symptoms are relieved after following a gluten-free diet.
The Leaky Gut-Gluten Connection
There is an ongoing debate in the medical world as to whether gluten is dangerous or not. Most doctors believe that it is harmless unless you have been diagnosed with celiac disease.
Others firmly believe that gluten contributes to intestinal permeability and is a root cause to many serious digestive troubles and conditions. The controversy may continue among the professionals, but you can decide for yourself if gluten impacts you or not.
Whether it is dangerous in general or just to those with celiac disease, research has shown that gluten contributes to intestinal permeability. This leaky gut triggers an immune response that releases inflammation throughout your body.
Inflammation does help to kill harmful pathogens, but it is the root cause of several serious health conditions once inflammation becomes chronic.
The protein zonulin is responsible for regulating the tight junctions in your gut. As zonulin is released, your tight junctions loosen to allow nutrients through.
Studies have found that gluten stimulates the release of zonulin, and the more that is present the looser the junctions will be. It therefore makes perfect sense that zonulin levels are much higher in individuals with celiac disease.
Even though gluten has been shown to impact zonulin and therefore intestinal permeability, this does not happen with everyone. Those with celiac disease and even irritable bowel syndrome are affected in this way, but healthy individuals do not show the same reactions. Your overall health is considered to be a factor in whether or not gluten will impact you, which is why the debate continues and why doctors continue to disagree.
Gluten may or may not be a cause of leaky gut syndrome, so it is important to understand the other potential causes to a leaky gut. Other contributing factors to be aware of include:
Excessive sugar intake: A diet full of sugars (especially fructose) can be harmful to your intestinal wall and disrupt function.
Stress: Chronic stress causes chronic inflammation. This can cause several digestive disorders as well as raise the risk for developing leaky gut syndrome.
Yeast overgrowth: Yeast lives in your body too like bacteria, but if allowed to grow and spread it can damage the intestinal wall and contribute to other health problems. Probiotics are the best way to promote gut health and allow bacteria to thrive and keep yeast in check.
The Bottom Line
Leaky gut can cause serious health problems if left unchecked. Because of the role gluten can play, it is important to identify if it is the cause of your leaky gut. If not, other potential culprits need to be identified.
The good news is that with the right gut-health supplements you can promote intestinal health, reduce leaky gut, and heal any damage. Because gut health impacts the health of other systems in your body, healing leaky gut is essential to your overall well-being.