If you’re suffering from the symptoms of leaky gut, you’ve probably heard about a possible connection between this syndrome and gluten. Here’s everything we know so far about the relationship between the two.
What is leaky gut syndrome?
Leaky gut is something of a catch-all syndrome (a “syndrome” in fact, is not a disorder but rather a collection of related symptoms). It involves intestinal permeability, or a leakage in the intestines that allows some of the contents of the gut to pass through the intestinal wall and into the abdominal cavity.
Sufferers of Crohn’s disease often experience intestinal permeability, as well as those with celiac disease (another gluten related condition).
What is gluten?
Gluten is a set of proteins found in many grains. It’s is found mainly in modern wheat, but also exists in rye, and barley, as well as a number of grain hybrids. Oats may also contain traces of wheat gluten, though pure oats are naturally gluten-free.
Gluten is a naturally-occurring part of wheat, and is used in the plant’s reproductive stages. It also serves to give breads and other grain products a fluffy, chewy texture. Because so many foods today contain modern wheat or wheat hybrids, finding gluten-free items in your grocery store can be difficult.
Scientists know that in a healthy individual, gluten is broken down in the intestines and passes through the body normally. However, in someone with gluten sensitivity, the body sees gluten as a threat and attacks it, leading to allergy-like symptoms in some. One of the ways the body attacks is by releasing proteins that can cause the structure of the intestinal wall to break down, leading to leaky gut symptoms.
Will going gluten-free cure leaky gut?
Going gluten-free means avoiding foods that contain gluten. This will certainly help you avoid painful symptoms and further damage, but at the moment there’s no definitive evidence that switching to a gluten-free lifestyle will repair the damage that has already been done. However, the human body has an amazing capacity to heal itself, and without continued agitation of the intestinal tract by gluten, a full recovery is possible. Despite a lack of clinical research, many people say that their symptoms do disappear completely.
I’ve heard a lot about leaky gut and GMOs. Are they to blame?
Levels of gluten intolerance have risen noticeably over the last several decades. The correlative rise between this sensitivity and the introduction of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) has caused some to speculate that GMOs may be responsible. Though a large amount of evidence points in that direction, we don’t have enough scientific data and research to say so conclusively yet. However, as most grain is now genetically modified, those with leaky gut syndrome will want to stay away from GMO grains anyway.
The bottom line.
- Leaky gut syndrome is a collection of symptoms, not a diagnose-able disease.
- These symptoms appear to be caused by the consumption of gluten in gluten-sensitive people.
- Switching to a gluten-free lifestyle can prevent future symptoms and may repair damage already done.
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