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.

If you need help with leaky gut, click here.

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.

Discussion

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32 thoughts on “Does Gluten Cause Leaky Gut in Everyone?

  1. Very interesting study! Thank you for presenting it for us. Just the other day I decided I “needed” some pizza. Ended up with lots of generalized inflammation . . .

  2. Very interesting study! Thank you for presenting it for us. Just the other day I decided I “needed” some pizza. Ended up with lots of generalized inflammation . . .

  3. Glutenin and gliadin are both components of gluten, and both are actually large families of chemically similar proteins. The types of glutenin and gliadin in modern dwarf wheat (which has only been in existence for less than 100 years but which is pretty much the only type grown in America today) are very different from the types in ancient wheats like einkorn; and there is no empirical evidence that I can find to suggest that all the different types of glutenins and gliadins have identical effects on our digestive tracts.

    Although it was not specified, the odds are very good that the gliadin(s) used in this experiment came from modern dwarf wheat (a.k.a. “Frankenwheat”). And of course an in vitro experiment like this one does not take into account any moderating effects of the microbiome in a healthy human gut.

    So the bottom line is that a study like this one tells us absolutely nothing about how a living human being with a healthy gut microbiome would be affected by eating the glutens in the wheat that our ancestors ate prior to a century ago. However, I have heard a lot of (scientifically unverified) anecdotal reports of people who went gluten free because they seemed to have a significant problem with wheat, but who later found they could eat breads and pastas make from ancient strains of wheat like einkorn or emmer even though eating anything made from modern dwarf wheat still reliably caused health issues.

  4. Glutenin and gliadin are both components of gluten, and both are actually large families of chemically similar proteins. The types of glutenin and gliadin in modern dwarf wheat (which has only been in existence for less than 100 years but which is pretty much the only type grown in America today) are very different from the types in ancient wheats like einkorn; and there is no empirical evidence that I can find to suggest that all the different types of glutenins and gliadins have identical effects on our digestive tracts.

    Although it was not specified, the odds are very good that the gliadin(s) used in this experiment came from modern dwarf wheat (a.k.a. “Frankenwheat”). And of course an in vitro experiment like this one does not take into account any moderating effects of the microbiome in a healthy human gut.

    So the bottom line is that a study like this one tells us absolutely nothing about how a living human being with a healthy gut microbiome would be affected by eating the glutens in the wheat that our ancestors ate prior to a century ago. However, I have heard a lot of (scientifically unverified) anecdotal reports of people who went gluten free because they seemed to have a significant problem with wheat, but who later found they could eat breads and pastas make from ancient strains of wheat like einkorn or emmer even though eating anything made from modern dwarf wheat still reliably caused health issues.

  5. Wow! Great information and I’m not at all surprised by these findings. I have an extreme allergy to gluten that wasn’t diagnosed until my late 40’s. I had been suffering from skin issues, horrible cystic (I mean, horrible!) acne, sinus headaches almost constantly and anxiety. I’d been to so many different doctors who either dismissed the symptoms or treated each separately. To no avail. My ND finally figured it out (functional medicine, of course!). Because I didn’t have the typical, Celiac GI issues, it was never even considered that I might have a gluten allergy. I’m happy to report that I’m 100% GF and every one of my symptoms is gone and my skin has returned to it’s normal, non-blemished self. I never had any issues or symptoms as a child but, growing up in the late 60’s/70’s, and being raised by hippies, my diet was mostly whole and organic foods and not a lot of gluten. I happen to think that I acquired this allergy (perhaps celiac) because, as a vegetarian, it’s really easy to dive into a high-gluten diet.

    I appreciate your providing this information and I think it’s so important for people to realize that just because they don’t have an issue right now, it doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. There is certainly good gluten out there but there is also so much junk filler that our bodies are inundated. Celiac or no Celiac, it’s so important for people to be aware of what they eat. Thanks Dr. Ruscio. You do great work!

  6. Can you tell me if there is a defined, medically diagnosable validated “leaky gut?” How does anyone know for a fact, other than symptoms, that a person has a leaky gut? Have surgeons opened up people and found it leaking? Do drugs create it through burning flesh? Who came up with term that is respected and well-researched?

    .I’ve been “curing” real leaky gut for years, by closing and restoring dysfunctional Ileocecal Valves, Which, when open, leak back contents of the colon into the small intestine, as shown on capsule videography,

    But I want to know how all of a sudden, everyone is talking about this when I’ve never seen a shred of anything verifiable that says the small intestine can leak.

    I’d like to, if it exists. Is this in Guyton’s, Merck’s, where are we referencing this “leaky gut?”

    To me it’s just people talking who don’t know anything other than the two words. Maybe I’m missing the paper that everyone read.

    1. The technical term for “leaky gut” is “intestinal permeability.” I just did a Google search for
      ‘intestinal permeability site:drruscio.com’ (without the quotes) and got 23 hits. Odds are you will find accurate and understandable answers to all of your questions about “leaky gut” right here on this web site.

    2. You may be interested in

      Intestinal permeability and its regulation by zonulin: diagnostic and therapeutic implications
      Dr. Fasano is a “World-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist, research scientist” focused on Celiac Disease.

    3. Hi John,
      Your ileocecal valve comments are interesting and I am not sure how clinically meaningful IC closing techniques are, but this is more than I can get into here. For your leaky gut question, intestinal permeability, or endotoxemia, or LPS translocation/migration… may help.
      Hope this helps!

  7. Wow! Great information and I’m not at all surprised by these findings. I have an extreme allergy to gluten that wasn’t diagnosed until my late 40’s. I had been suffering from skin issues, horrible cystic (I mean, horrible!) acne, sinus headaches almost constantly and anxiety. I’d been to so many different doctors who either dismissed the symptoms or treated each separately. To no avail. My ND finally figured it out (functional medicine, of course!). Because I didn’t have the typical, Celiac GI issues, it was never even considered that I might have a gluten allergy. I’m happy to report that I’m 100% GF and every one of my symptoms is gone and my skin has returned to it’s normal, non-blemished self. I never had any issues or symptoms as a child but, growing up in the late 60’s/70’s, and being raised by hippies, my diet was mostly whole and organic foods and not a lot of gluten. I happen to think that I acquired this allergy (perhaps celiac) because, as a vegetarian, it’s really easy to dive into a high-gluten diet.

    I appreciate your providing this information and I think it’s so important for people to realize that just because they don’t have an issue right now, it doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. There is certainly good gluten out there but there is also so much junk filler that our bodies are inundated. Celiac or no Celiac, it’s so important for people to be aware of what they eat. Thanks Dr. Ruscio. You do great work!

  8. Can you tell me if there is a defined, medically diagnosable validated “leaky gut?” How does anyone know for a fact, other than symptoms, that a person has a leaky gut? Have surgeons opened up people and found it leaking? Do drugs create it through burning flesh? Who came up with term that is respected and well-researched?

    .I’ve been “curing” real leaky gut for years, by closing and restoring dysfunctional Ileocecal Valves, Which, when open, leak back contents of the colon into the small intestine, as shown on capsule videography,

    But I want to know how all of a sudden, everyone is talking about this when I’ve never seen a shred of anything verifiable that says the small intestine can leak.

    I’d like to, if it exists. Is this in Guyton’s, Merck’s, where are we referencing this “leaky gut?”

    To me it’s just people talking who don’t know anything other than the two words. Maybe I’m missing the paper that everyone read.

    1. The technical term for “leaky gut” is “intestinal permeability.” I just did a Google search for
      ‘intestinal permeability site:drruscio.com’ (without the quotes) and got 23 hits. Odds are you will find accurate and understandable answers to all of your questions about “leaky gut” right here on this web site.

    2. You may be interested in

      Intestinal permeability and its regulation by zonulin: diagnostic and therapeutic implications
      Dr. Fasano is a “World-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist, research scientist” focused on Celiac Disease.

    3. Hi John,
      Your ileocecal valve comments are interesting and I am not sure how clinically meaningful IC closing techniques are, but this is more than I can get into here. For your leaky gut question, intestinal permeability, or endotoxemia, or LPS translocation/migration… may help.
      Hope this helps!

      1. I agree. The study researchers pointed out that in the a control cell group the permeability showed increased IL-10, which in these cells acts as a modulator of the innate immune response — thus suggesting a compensatory protective mechanism. The celiac and gluten sensitive groups did not show increases in IL-10 , suggesting the opposite. Bottom line here is gut permeability can have a variable impact on disease, and in most people the gliadin permeability effect could simply be a benign finding in the absence of other biomarkers, symptoms, and physical findings.

      1. I agree. The study researchers pointed out that in the a control cell group the permeability showed increased IL-10, which in these cells acts as a modulator of the innate immune response — thus suggesting a compensatory protective mechanism. The celiac and gluten sensitive groups did not show increases in IL-10 , suggesting the opposite. Bottom line here is gut permeability can have a variable impact on disease, and in most people the gliadin permeability effect could simply be a benign finding in the absence of other biomarkers, symptoms, and physical findings.

  9. Is leaky gut different from reflux ?
    I have gastric issues and reflux is part of it , I feel my throat hot ,sometimes inflamed, painful and I feel like something is in my thoat.
    What is it called and I have treated it with rabeprazole and still it there.
    What do I do ?I need help .

    1. Reflux can be a symptom of leaky gut. See my answer above and check out that podcast, hopefully it helps!

  10. Is leaky gut different from reflux ?
    I have gastric issues and reflux is part of it , I feel my throat hot ,sometimes inflamed, painful and I feel like something is in my thoat.
    What is it called and I have treated it with rabeprazole and still it there.
    What do I do ?I need help .

    1. Reflux can be a symptom of leaky gut. See my answer above and check out that podcast, hopefully it helps!

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