The Root of Your Leaky Gut: Exploring IBS, Allergies, and More
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These days, gluten-free products are everywhere. And it can be tough to figure out if gluten-free is just a fad—or if it’s a legitimate step toward better health.
Until you learn about the research.
You see, over the last 15 years scientists have discovered a lot about the gut, the immune system, and the diseases that arise when these systems fall out of balance.
These are common diseases—like autoimmunity, cancer, and inflammatory disorders that include asthma and irritable bowel syndrome.
But here’s the real discovery: Several years ago, scientists found a protein called zonulin. Zonulin regulates the bond between cells that make up the lining of the gut. This bond—otherwise known as a tight junction—needs to be strong. Without a strong bond between cells, the gut becomes leaky. In other words, if you want to get rid of leaky gut, you need to regulate the release of zonulin.
A healthy gut is sealed and will support the absorption of basic nutrients. When the gut becomes leaky, it can leave you vulnerable to infection and more serious disease.
A protein in gluten called alpha-gliadin triggers the release of zonulin.
When zonulin is balanced, it is responsible for moving (or not moving) large molecules from the intestines into the bloodstream. This means that zonulin plays a key role in immune system balance and immune system disease. (1) It serves to protect you against serious infections. (2)
For example, an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut can trigger the release of zonulin, which causes the intestines to flush out any and all debris. Watery stool—or diarrhea—is a sign that your gut is leaky and that something has triggered the release of zonulin.
If you have a case of food poisoning—you know bad bacteria are behind the surge of zonulin and multiple trips to the restroom. However, if it’s not food poisoning, gluten is the most likely culprit. (3)
The Problem with Leaky Gut
A healthy gut is sealed. In other words, only small molecules and basic nutrients are able to pass through the intestinal lining.
What keeps the gut sealed are:
- Healthy intestinal cells
- The bond—or tight junction—between healthy intestinal cells
In the past, scientists believed that tight junctions were static, like cement between two bricks. However, they are now finding that the bond between intestinal cells is anything but static—in fact, just the opposite is true.
The tight junction bond between intestinal cells is dynamic. More like a drive-thru window between two bricks, the tight junctions adapt and respond to a variety of cues from the body and from the environment.
Tight junctions keep the gut from growing leaky. They do things like:
- Assist with the absorption of nutrients
- Survey your inner ecosystem
- Defend against infectious bugs
- Move protective white blood cells from the bloodstream into the gut
When things fall apart and the gut becomes leaky, the immune system in the gut loses balance. Research has shown that leaky gut often occurs before disease. And that the disorders associated with leaky gut are often systemic. (4)
- Type 1 diabetes
- Celiac disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Obesity with insulin resistance
Putting It All Together: Gluten and Leaky Gut
For many, gluten-containing grains are a staple food. This means they are consumed every day, multiple times a day. To add insult to injury, wheat is designed to contain more gluten. This is because more gluten means more stretch, more bounce, and a better mouth-feel for consumers.
You now have more opportunity than ever to throw digestion out of balance and develop leaky gut.
Getting gluten out of your diet is a big win. But if you really want to heal an inflamed and leaky gut, you may want to consider a gluten-free, casein-free, sugar-free diet—like the Body Ecology Diet, which focuses on removing inflammatory triggers and building up the good bacteria in your gut.
Good bacteria beat inflammation.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
When the gut and the immune system are out of balance, a number of diseases and inflammatory disorders can arise. Scientists have discovered that tight junctions between cells in the gut lining must be strong, or else the gut can become leaky.
Leaky gut may also be a precursor to countless diseases and disorders, like celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, cancer, allergies, and more.
A healthy gut is completely sealed and will only allow nutrients and small molecules to pass through. Strong tight junctions will keep a gut from leaking, aid in nutrient absorption, fight off infection, and balance the inner ecosystem. Unfortunately, gluten-rich foods contain a protein that can affect the tight junctions that seal the lining of the gut.
Following the principles of the Body Ecology Diet is one way to give up gluten and beat leaky gut. The Body Ecology Diet will build up good bacteria in the gut to fight off inflammation. Fermented foods and probiotic drinks like InnergyBiotic can help to restore your inner ecosystem, strengthen your gut lining, and reduce full-body inflammation.
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- 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.
- El Asmar R, Panigrahi P, Bamford P, Berti I, Not T, Coppa GV, Catassi C, Fasano A. Host-dependent activation of the zonulin system is involved in the impairment of the gut barrier function following bacterial colonization. Gastroenterology 123: 1607–1615, 2002.
- Clemente MG, De Virgiliis S, Kang JS, Macatagney R, Musu MP, Di Pierro MR, Drago S, Congia M, Fasano A. Early effects of gliadin on enterocyte intracellular signaling involved in intestinal barrier function. Gut 52: 218–223, 2003.
- Fasano A. Physiological, pathological, and therapeutic implications of zonulin-mediated intestinal barrier modulation: living life on the edge of the wall. Am J Pathol 173: 1243–1252, 2008.