First, it’s important to understand that we can be experiencing gut issues even though the ache/pain/dysregulation is not proximal to the gut (the pain is not in the gut area).
The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, said, “All disease begins in the gut.”
The precious gut is lined with tiny, tiny cells whose job it is to lock arms to form tight junctions. These cells are the very selective parts of the gut that determine what comes in and what stays out. Think of the “gatekeepers” in your life – the barrier that may keep you from getting to the person you need or that thing you want. These little microvilli in our gut lining keep out pathogens, antigens and toxins, and welcome in nutrients and water.
Sometimes the gatekeepers take a break or get fed up. If not treated properly, these microvilli on the brush boarder of the gut lining unlock arms and quit doing their job. When this happens, the microbes, toxins, proteins, and partially digested food particles (that we all have in our bodies) are allowed to get through and flow freely into your bloodstream. This is what’s happening in the gut in “Leaky Gut Syndrome.”
What’s ONE (of several) food substance that when removed from the diet typically shows tremendous reduction in inflammation and improvement in gut health? You guessed it. Gluten. Maybe not directly, but indirectly, for sure. When I removed gluten from my diet, it truly changed my life. No more bloating, distension, or feeling yuck after meals. Others experience constipation and/or diarrhea, too.
Gluten produces zonulin, a protein that directly impacts the microvilli on the brush border, and can contribute to leaky gut. We don’t hear about this protein, we only hear of gluten. Zonulin itself could be a culprit and can certainly be why eating gluten could cause or exacerbate leaky gut. I experienced in my own body the struggle my gut was having with breaking down proteins, including zonulin, when I realized from traditional and functional lab work – I was not absorbing protein even though I was consuming plenty.
According to a study on leaky gut syndrome, continually eating gluten will keep your junctions open and your gut leaky. So until we remove it, we simply do not recognize it as a possible culprit. Your body may even start to mistake your own tissues for gluten and remain in a chronic state of inflammation which could lead to a host of autoimmune conditions. The good news is that, at least as far as leaky gut plays a role in autoimmune conditions, it is reversible and could potentially alleviate some of these problematic immune responses.
Signs and symptoms that are often associated with leaky gut syndrome include:
- Food Sensitivities (these are not the same as food allergies)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Autoimmune Dysfunction
- Thyroid Challenges
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Inflammatory Skin Conditions (acne and psoriasis)
- Mood Issues and Autism (depression)
Removing gluten may not be the sole answer for the allowing the body to heal and repairing leaky gut syndrome. However, if you are still consuming gluten (plus zonulin) and are experiencing symptoms related to leaky gut syndrome, I encourage you to remove this one thing. Start with 7 days, then 14 and go for 30. Our bodies do not need and are not deficient in gluten! They also do not need the Gluten Free foods you see on the grocery store shelves.
Don’t know where to start? Drop your email in the comments below and I’ll share with you the same recommendations I share with my clients on “Going Gluten Free.”