Does Gluten Cause Leaky Gut in Everyone?

A study was just performed assessing the impact gluten has on people with celiac disease, people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and people with no reported reaction to gluten. The researchers found that all participants experienced leaky gut changes after exposure to gluten. I provide some of my thoughts on this study and some practical steps you can take in this week’s video.

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Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hi, this is Dr. Ruscio, and I wanted to discuss a recent study that was published that was trying to answer the question, “Does gluten cause leaky gut even in those that don’t have celiac disease or even in those that don’t have non-celiac gluten sensitivity?”

So a quick primer on the issue—there’s well-documented celiac disease, which is a full blown, clinical allergy to gluten. Those people clearly need to avoid gluten.

There is some debate in regards to whether people who are termed non-celiac gluten sensitive actually have a problem with gluten or not.

And then a third group would be those that we would consider normal, that don’t notice any kind of negative changes with gluten.

So this study administered gliadin, which is a component of gluten, to a number of intestinal biopsies. So they took intestinal samples from the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine, and then they exposed these cells to gliadin.

And what the researchers found was that everyone in all groups, from celiac to non-celiac gluten sensitive to normal controls, all experienced increases in inflammatory markers and in markers of leaky gut.

So while this study was performed in a cell line, it wasn’t performed actually in humans, it was the cells of human removed and isolated and then tested. So there’s a bit of a weakness there. We need to be careful with how strongly we extrapolate.

We’re seeing some evidence here that I think reflects what some people in their own day-to-day lives have noticed, which is they feel better by not being on gluten. It might be less joint pain, less brain fog, what have you.

So what is a practical take-home from this? Well, if you’re suffering with any kind of health ailment, whether it be depression, fatigue, insomnia, joint pain, skin issues, bloating, gas, you might want to try taking gluten out of your diet for a while, at least 30 days, and then go through what’s called a reintroduction. Bring gluten back in and see if you notice some of those negative symptoms, that hopefully improved during the first 30 days, return.

If they do, then go back on the gluten-free diet for a little while, at least a few weeks, and try bringing gluten back in again. If after a few times you notice a consistent negative regression, then it’s very likely that you have some kind of problem with gluten.

So hopefully that helps people out there who are trying to sort out if they should try gluten free or not. Research in this area is very exciting. I like to bring it back to a very practical position, which is give gluten-free a try, see if you feel better.

Go through a gluten reintroduction, see if you have a regression. If you do and you notice that relationship consistently a few times, then you probably have the gluten problem.

If you go gluten-free and you notice no improvement, it’s possible that there could be something in addition to gluten, like a bacterial infection, a fungal infection, a bacterial overgrowth, or some other kind of gut disorder, that may be at the seat of your problems and why your gut is not able to improve its health after withdrawing gluten, which can be an inflammatory gut food for a lot of people.

And if that’s the case, you’ll probably want to get yourself to a skilled clinician in functional medicine that can help try to diagnose and treat whatever it is underlying that may prevent you from really responding to the gluten-free diet.

So anyway, hope this is helpful. This is Dr. Ruscio. Thanks!


If you need help with leaky gut, click here.

What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this.

Dr. Ruscio is your leading functional and integrative doctor specializing in gut related disorders such as SIBO, leaky gut, Celiac, IBS and in thyroid disorders such as hypothyroid and hyperthyroid. For more information on how to become a patient, please contact our office. Serving the San Francisco bay area and distance patients via phone and Skype.

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