How Gluten Affects The Gut

Before we move on to how gluten affects the gut let’s look a little deeper as to what exactly gluten is! Gluten is a popular topic and has been for the last several years and that’s partly because there are so many people with gluten sensitivities, intolerance's, and allergies. Gluten is found in some pretty delicious foods such as various breads, pasta, baked goods, and basically anything that contains rye, barley, oats, tritacle and especially wheat. This includes spelt, bulgar, semolina, farro, durum, and kamut which are the various wheat varieties.

The word gluten comes from the Latin word that means glue and it is very much like the glue in flour. It’s actually what gives dough its elastic consistency! Gluten is a mixture of two proteins and it causes illness in people with celiac disease. The protein is different depending on what grain the gluten comes from.

  • Gliadin - Wheat
  • Secalin - Rye
  • Avenin - Oats
  • Hordein - Barley

Gluten & The Gut

So who’s gut is negatively affected by gluten? Honestly gluten isn’t really good for anyone's gut but it is especially bad for people who have autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are triggered by the gluten found in the above grains. For many with an autoimmune disease, eating a piece of bread can cause negative symptoms and flare ups. BUT, gluten can actually have a negative impact on a healthy gut just the same it only takes longer before there affects, and here are a few reasons why.

  • Gluten Triggers Inflammation: Chronic health issues lead to long-term inflammation and any long-term inflammation can trigger autoimmune diseases because of the damage it does to your cells. Even old injury’s that cause inflammation on a long-term basis can lead to trouble.
  • Gluten Changes The Gut’s Microbiome: The beneficial bacteria in our gut are meant to be there. Gluten negatively influences the gut’s microbiome and can directly influence the progression, as well as, the development of autoimmune disease.
  • Molecular Mimicry: The key mechanism triggering autoimmunity is molecular mimicry. Here’s how it works: something that is foreign to our body such as a virus, bacteria, and/or food particle shares a similar molecular structure  to a part of our body. The body creates antibodies to destroy the bad foreign particles but when there is a confusion our body attacks our very own cells causing damage. 
  • Gluten Triggers A Leaky Gut:  Gluten directly triggers the release of zonulin which is a molecule that breaks down the tight junctions that hold our intestinal lining together. The more damage that is done the more likely holes and tears will develop allowing toxins and bacteria to flow into the bloodstream. Leaky gut triggers autoimmune diseases.

  • So basically it’s like this, if you don’t have an autoimmune disease it’s safe to eat gluten but be mindful how much you eat because over time it can begin affecting you too!