How to Digest Gluten: New Research Gives Hope to Celiac Sufferers

In a recent study, researchers at the University of León discovered that bacteria living in the gut of healthy volunteers are able to break down the grain protein gluten. (1)

Gluten-free foods are a booming business. But is gluten-free really the answer?

This means that even though our intestinal cells are not equipped to break down gluten, our gut bacteria are.

The caveat: Gluten-digesting bacteria need to be there in the first place.

A normal, healthy gut is filled with a diverse population of gluten-digesting bacteria. But many people do not have a healthy gastrointestinal tract due to issues like antibiotic-use and stress. While many strains of gut bacteria can break down gluten, not all of us have a healthy inner ecosystem.

Gluten Free

While the gut isn’t equipped to break down gluten, gluten-digesting bacteria can get the job done. You may be missing these essential bacteria strains if you have an autoimmune disease, Candida overgrowth, or gluten sensitivity.

In fact, chances are you’re missing these crucial strains of bacteria if:

  • You are sensitive to gluten
  • You have an autoimmune disease
  • You show signs of Candida overgrowth

Why Digesting Gluten Can Be Difficult

Normally, digestive enzymes from the pancreas do their best to break down gluten into amino acids. But this isn’t easy.

Much of the protein in gluten is resistant to enzymes, meaning that the gluten protein remains intact as it moves through the digestive system. This is especially true in those sensitive to gluten or those diagnosed with Celiac disease. (2)

The protein in gluten also stimulates the release of zonulin— a chemical that controls the bond between cells and regulates intestinal permeability, or leakiness. The more zonulin is released, the leakier the intestinal wall is. This is true for everyone, whether or not they have an autoimmune disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. (3)

Is Going Gluten-Free Enough?

Gluten-free foods are a booming business. But is gluten-free really the answer?

In order to get to the root of gluten sensitivity, it is essential to heal the inner ecosystem of the gut.

The Body Ecology Diet is a gluten-free diet because we understand the stress that gluten puts on the immune system when the inner ecosystem is out of balance. Remember, if our enzymes and our gut bacteria cannot break down the proteins in gluten, the gut becomes leaky.

While researchers still do not know all of the bacteria strains that help us digest gluten or how gluten-loving strains of bacteria work together, they do know that common probiotic families—like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium—contain gluten-loving strains of bacteria.

This is one reason the Body Ecology Diet is a probiotic-rich diet. The chief aim of the Body Ecology Diet is to heal the inner ecosystem with fermented foods and conscious eating. Fermented foods like cultured vegetables and kefir contain robust communities of beneficial bacteria and yeast.

One day soon, scientists may develop a probiotic that protects against gluten sensitivity and signs of Celiac disease. Until then, we can continue to support the health of the inner ecosystem by following the principles of the Body Ecology Diet and including probiotic-rich fermented foods in every meal.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Researchers recently discovered that healthy gut bacteria can break down the gluten grain protein. Even though the gut isn’t equipped to break down gluten, gluten-digesting gut bacteria can. The sad truth is that most of us are missing diverse gluten-digesting gut bacteria because of a wounded inner ecosystem, often caused by stress or antibiotic use.

In many cases, digesting gluten is difficult because the gluten protein is resistant to digestive enzymes. Gluten may remain intact as it moves through the digestive system, especially in those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

The most effective way to treat gluten sensitivity is to heal the gut through the gluten-free, probiotic-rich Body Ecology Diet. Until scientists discover a probiotic that protects against gluten sensitivity and Celiac symptoms, support your inner ecosystem with beneficial bacteria found in cultured vegetables and kefir.

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  1. Caminero, A., Herrán, A. R., Nistal, E., Pérez‐Andrés, J., Vaquero, L., Vivas, S., … & Casqueiro, J. (2014). Diversity of the cultivable human gut microbiome involved in gluten metabolism: isolation of microorganisms with potential interest for coeliac disease. FEMS microbiology ecology, 88(2), 309-319.
  2. Mamone, G., Ferranti, P., Rossi, M., Roepstorff, P., Fierro, O., Malorni, A., & Addeo, F. (2007). Identification of a peptide from α-gliadin resistant to digestive enzymes: Implications for celiac disease. Journal of Chromatography B, 855(2), 236-241.
  3. Fasano, A. (2011). Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer. Physiological reviews, 91(1), 151-175.
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