Gluten and Its Affect on the Gut: How You Can Benefit From a Gluten Free Diet

by | Aug 30, 2017 | Gut Health, Lupus Blog | 0 comments

Hi everyone I’m Dr. Connie.

If you’ve known me as a patient or follow my blog, I believe the root cause of many illnesses, like Lupus, is leaky gut.

Lately, gluten free diets have been all the rage, therefore, I wanted to dig deeper and talk to you about a revolutionary discovery in our ability to understand gut permeability and how this impacts various health conditions, from inflammation to food sensitivities, leading to cancer and autoimmune diseases.


Zonulin is a protein that controls the permeability of “tight junctions”, or the spaces between cells, that make up the walls of the digestive tract.

It was discovered in 2000 by Alessio Fasano, a pediatric gastroenterologist, and his team at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine.

Zonulin opens up the spaces between the cells of the gut lining regularly for nutrients to be absorbed into our bodies.

However, with leaky gut, the spaces between the cells of the gut lining open up too much, allowing larger protein molecules to enter the bloodstream, triggering our innate immune response.

This is an important occurrence, as it primes our immune system to react every time anything passes through our gut.  This “leakage” of toxins into our body sparks the inflammatory response.

How Does Gluten Affect Zonulin Levels?

Based on the work by Dr. Fasano, zonulin is triggered by gluten and gut bacteria.

Gliadin is a protein that makes up part of gluten, which found in wheat. It causes zonulin levels to spike in both celiac patients and those without celiac disease.

As zonulin levels rise, the seal between the intestinal cells becomes compromised, leading to leaky gut.

This is the entry point for toxins to enter our bodies through our gut, day after day, causing an innate immune response.

Ultimately, this leads to an acquired immune response, ultimately resulting in many autoimmune conditions.

Two primary causes of leaky gut:

  1. Overgrowth of harmful organisms, like bacteria or yeast, in our intestine
    1. SIBO (small intestinal bowel overgrowth)
    2. Fungal dysbiosis (imbalance of bacteria) or candida overgrowth
    3. Parasitic infections
  2. Gliadin in the gut through the consumption of gluten containing foods

As I mentioned, gliadin is a protein in wheat that can potentially trigger an immune response.

It also affects zonulin levels for those without a gene for celiac disease, according to the study published in 2006 by the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology.

What Does This Mean For You?

Gluten can affect gut permeability in everyone.

What’s more important is that 100% of us Lupus and Autoimmune patients can benefit from a gluten free diet.

Other conditions associated with increased zonulin levels include:

  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Type I Diabetes
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Asthma
  • IBS (irritable bowel disease)

Overall, genetic predisposition, dysfunctional immune response, environmental toxic exposure, and leaky gut resulting from increased zonulin collectively contribute to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer.

The good news is that a gluten free diet can reverse leaky gut.

According to Dr. Fasano, zonulin is the trigger that causes leaky gut, ultimately leading to autoimmune conditions and cancer.

By controlling its activity with a gluten free diet, we can reverse such diseases by helping to heal the gut.

I hope this made some sense and sheds some light on your understanding of leaky gut and its interplay with gluten through the zonulin molecule.

Please share, like, subscribe, and as always, I would love to hear from you.

See you next time.

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