Is gluten bad for you? Does gluten cause inflammation in all humans? Should everyone follow a gluten-free diet? I’ll answer all your questions and more. This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosures.
Gluten disorders are real, serious and I hope you’re paying attention if you even have an inkling that gluten might be behind your fill-in-the-blank ailment.
I’m not trying to scare you with such a dramatic headline. But I do think you deserve to know the truth.
There is science-backed evidence to suggest that gluten may be damaging your body in more ways than you realize. And it’s not just happening in people with celiac disease; rather, it’s also happening to anyone – and everyone – who eats gluten.
Is Gluten Really “Bad”?
I’m careful not to tell people that a specific food group is “bad” for them, however, if the evidence is clear, I can’t help but speak up.
We know, without a doubt, that consuming tobacco is “bad” for us, as is sugar (particularly in excess). These are widely accepted truths.
But what about gluten?
A lot of people say gluten is okay to eat unless you have celiac disease, but I’m here to say that gluten might be damaging your body even if you don’t have celiac disease.
The truth is, gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, causes inflammation in ALL HUMANS WHO CONSUME IT.
Let that sink in for a minute… gluten causes inflammation in everyone, not just those with celiac disease.
And I didn’t make up this information either. There is legitimate research to back it up. Let’s discuss.
Gluten is Toxic to All Humans
A published study conducted by one of the leading celiac disease researchers in the world, Dr. Alessio Fasano, found that gluten causes inflammation in ALL humans who eat it.
Let’s break the study down a bit so we can really understand it.
Dr. Fasano’s team looked at how four strains of wheat, including two hybrid strains most commonly used in the U.S., as well as two ancient strains of wheat, impacted humans when consumed.
The team broke its participants into four subsets:
- Individuals recently diagnosed with celiac disease
- People with celiac disease on a gluten-free diet for at least one year (or longer)
- People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity
- People who had no known problem with gluten (without a known gluten disorder)
The researchers fed participants all strains of wheat and found that all four groups had the genes activated for intestinal permeability when exposed to wheat. Even the people who had no known problem with gluten.
In other words, after all of the study’s subjects ate wheat, all of their intestines showed signs of damage and inflammation. This damage came regardless if the person was on the gluten spectrum or not.
Mind blown, right?
Related Reading: The Autoimmune Fix [Book Review]
What Does This Mean?
This study suggests that just because you don’t feel sick after eating gluten doesn’t mean gluten isn’t silently and consistently damaging your body bite after bite, day after day.
It also means that just because you don’t have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity that gluten doesn’t impact you. It does!
It impacts you Every. Single. Time. You. Eat. It.
When you eat gluten, gluten slowly but surely damages the lining of your small intestine. The lining of your small intestine is like a delicate cheesecloth, however, after you tear it, it miraculously repairs itself just as your skin restores itself quickly after a papercut.
In fact, every three to seven days your old intestinal lining sheds and then you get a brand new lining. Fascinating, right?
Dr. O’Bryan says that every time anyone – not just someone with gluten sensitivity – eats gluten, it tears their intestinal lining. The lining will heal and restore itself as it should, especially in healthy people. However, at any sign of a weakened immune system and/or after being overworked day after day, meal after meal, your body just can’t handle it anymore and your small intestine lining fails to fully repair and restore. It begins to show signs of continuous abuse and that’s when disease rears its ugly head.
While we now know gluten is a factor leading to intestinal permeability, it is not the only one. Glyphosate residue, for example, is found in genetically modified foods sprayed with this toxic chemical. When the residue is consumed (by eating conventionally raised produce), it can damage your intestinal lining as well.
What Happens When Your Gut Leaks?
When your gut is leaky, it means that undigested or improperly digested food particles are breaking through the lining of your small intestine and entering into your bloodstream. When this happens, the food particles wreak havoc in your body at what Dr. O’Bryan calls the weakest link in your chain. He says it is a precursor to autoimmune disease.
For people with celiac disease, a continued assault of gluten breaks down the lining of the small intestine and triggers the immune system to eventually attack the healthy tissue lining the small intestine every time it sees gluten.
While we understand the trigger (gluten) for celiac disease, other autoimmune disease triggers aren’t as widely understood or known.
However, what we do know is that chronic inflammation leads to autoimmune and other diseases. And when gluten is running loose in the body, it’s triggering the immune system to attack at the site of inflammation.
Here’s how gluten specifically impacts autoimmunity:
Let’s say the weak link in your body’s chain is your skin. Then you might suffer from ailments such as eczema, Dermatitis Herpetiformis, keratosis pilaris, acne, or psoriasis as a result of gluten “leaking” into your bloodstream.
If the weak link in your chain is your nervous system, the result of gluten “leaking” into your bloodstream might be the onset of multiple sclerosis, which is an autoimmune disease where the immune system gets confused and attacks the myelin sheaths (fatty tissue) that surrounds and protects your nerve cells.
For those of you with thyroid issues, gluten might be what is breaking down the lining of your small intestine, allowing undigested foods particles to leak into your bloodstream, wreak havoc and cause dysfunction of your thyroid.
This is why so many people see their symptoms vastly improve when gluten is removed from their diets.
Getting Tested for Gluten Sensitivity
Anyone with a family history of gluten sensitivity, autoimmune diseases (any type of autoimmune disease) or anyone who feels tired, sluggish and chronically sick should get a blood test for gluten sensitivity.
One such test is called the Wheat Zoomer Test. The test is designed to distinguish between celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, non-gluten wheat sensitivity, and autoimmune processes triggered by gluten.
According to the Wheat Zoomer website, this test includes a comprehensive biomarker panel to identify intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome) as well as bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS), which contributes to intestinal permeability.
If you find out you have gluten sensitivity and intestinal permeability, for example, you might connect the dots that gluten might be what is causing your intestinal permeability in the first place, right?
Once you have gluten sensitivity, you always have gluten sensitivity. You cannot outgrow it. Research shows that your body creates memory b cells to wheat. Everytime you eat wheat, your body recalls it as a foreign invader and inflammation ensues.
Talk to your doctor about getting tested for gluten sensitivity and tell him or her about the Wheat Zoomer test to ensure you get the most comprehensive and latest gluten sensitivity test available. (Remember, doctors don’t know about testing options for gluten sensitivity – be adamant about this testing request to ensure you get it right the first time.)
Related Reading: 10 Facts Your Doctor Doesn’t Know about Celiac Disease
Getting tested is the only true way to know if you have gluten sensitivity. When people eliminate gluten from their diets, they might also be eliminating processed foods, added sugars, food dyes, etc. and that is why they’re feeling better. That’s why the only way to know for sure if you’re sensitive to gluten is to get tested.
There are also several at-home food sensitivity tests available. They are not in-depth gluten sensitivity tests, per se, but they might give you a few insights into what might be happening inside your body.
If you suspect you have a food sensitivity, getting a test can be a good starting point and should be followed by an elimination diet.
Research is a Coming
While we can’t definitively say that gluten is bad for all people, we can say it causes intestinal permeability in all whom eat it. Some of us can tolerate this continual assault to our guts just fine… but the rest of us cannot and this is when autoimmunity and chronic disease ensues.