October 5, 2011

Dr. Fasano on Leaky Gut Syndrome and Gluten Sensitivity

 

Multiple research studies have linked gluten to the condition known as intestinal permeability – AKA – Leaky Gut Syndrome.  I recently had the privilege of speaking with one of the leading gluten sensitivity researchers in the world, Dr. Alessio Fasano.  He is the head of research at the University of Maryland Celiac Research Center, and he is responsible for discovering the gluten/leaky gut connection.  In this video, we discuss how this condition can affect the gut, the brain, and multiple other tissues in the body…

Making the Connection – The Gluten Free Warrior’s Stance:

Most people assume that celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are the same thing. Fortunately, this archaic thought is rapidly changing. Although it is well established that gluten often impacts the villi of the small intestine, it has also been shown to affect the body in multiple  ways. These differences account for the massive failure of doctors to diagnose gluten sensitivity. Below is a diagram of environmental triggers to intestinal permeability (leaky gut). You will find that gluten sensitivity can directly and indirectly contribute to this problem. To the intelligent observer, this picture illustrates why simple antibody testing fails to accurately diagnosis gluten sensitivity.  Antibody production is only one lab component of a multi-faceted problem.

Click on image to enlarge…

How Does Gluten Play a Role in All of These Factors?

  1. Gluten – Gluten directly impacts the intestinal lining through zonulin production. Zonulin is a protein that directly causes leaky gut.
  2. Antibodies – Gluten contributes to the formation antibodies. Antibodies can cause the secretion of inflammatory chemicals leading to tissue damage. Additionally, through a process called molecular mimicry, antibodies can cross react with the tissues of the body causing autoimmune disease. Lab tests measuring these antibodies are typically not associated with gluten because most doctors are not trained adequately to identify the connection.
  3. Medications – Many medications commonly contain gluten leading to a direct effect. However, many chronic health conditions caused by gluten sensitivity are misdiagnosed leading to medicine prescriptions that are not only unnecessary, but can be detrimental to the gastrointestinal tract. Anti-acid medications are a common example. These medications predispose to infection and lead to abnormal bacteria presence in the gut. Over utilization of antibiotics to treat viral infection is another example.
  4. Stress – Although not a physical stressor, gluten is a chemical stressor on the body. Chemical stress comes in many forms. One of them is vitamin and mineral deficiency. Loss of key nutrients causes a fundamental breakdown in the body’s ability to modulate the healing and repair process.
  5. Bacteria – Gluten ingestion causes detrimental changes in intestinal flora (AKA gut dysbiosis) predisposing to infection. This is one of the reasons why so many yogurt companies are adding beneficial bacteria to their products. Gut dysbiosis is an epidemic in the U.S.  If you need a gluten free probiotic go here <<<
  6. Cytokines – Gluten induces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (chemicals that damage cells).
  7. Neurotransmitters – Gluten causes neurochemical changes in the production of neurotransmitters (chemicals that allow the nervous system to communicate). Examples include: serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, epinephrine, and histamine. Gluten is also a neurotoxin that has been shown to damage nerve tissue. This is the reason so many with neurological disease (autism, ADD, bipolar, schizophrenia, neuropathy, epilepsy, etc.) do well on a gluten free diet.
  8. Digestive chemicals – Gluten can damage the intestine, the pancreas, the liver, and the gall bladder. All of these organs play a pivotal role in the body’s ability to produce digestive chemicals and enzymes. When this mechanism is compromised, digestive processes start to break down and become ineffective.

Restoring Leaky Gut

Restoration of intestinal permeability is not difficult.   In my experience there are some critical components that need to be addressed.

  1. Remove gluten from the diet
  2. Investigate for food allergies beyond gluten
  3. Identify and correct nutritional deficiencies
  4. Restore healthy bacteria in the gut (take a high potency probiotic)
  5. Provide immune factors that and natural anti-inflammatories to aid in the healing process
  6. Consider the use of a good digestive enzyme

Sum it all up -

Leaky gut contributes to autoimmune disease. The only known cause for any autoimmune disease is gluten sensitivity. We are blind fools to ignore this connection because it does not fit the status quo of the allopathic medical paradigm. If you have autoimmune disease and have not investigated gluten sensitivity as a contributing factor, you should. Learn more about genetic testing for gluten sensitivity now!

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10 Responses to “Dr. Fasano on Leaky Gut Syndrome and Gluten Sensitivity”

  • Maura Hoagland says:

    I have a ten year old daughter who has leaky gut syndrome. She is now on a gluten free diet, pharmaceutical grade pro-biotics, a homeopathic yeast cleanse (she tested positive for Candida as well), and digestive enzymes.

    My question is, is Leaky Gut Syndrome a life-long problem, or can she be healed from this?

  • Maura,
    Leaky gut can be healed. Make sure you are under the care of a well qualified functional medicine doctor.
    All the best,
    Dr. O

  • Sue says:

    Hi,
    My 8 year old daughter has had vitiligo for the past two years. We did some basic blood test which did not point to anything definitive. Right from when I stopped nursing her when she was about 18 months old, she has had digestive problems like severe constipation, tummy aches and general malaise. And then suddenly 2 years ago she started depigmenting. I started her on a gluten free diet (very challenging!) and her general health has improved, but there is no improvement in her skin condition. I wish gluten was the answer to her problem.

    Sue

  • Hi Sue,
    Have the doctor check your daughter’s B-vitamin levels. I have seen re-pigmentation occur after addressing this issue.
    All the best,
    Dr. O

  • Amanda says:

    Hi Sue, I had vitiligo all my life, I’m 51 on a gluten free diet, added coconut oil and I’m repigmenting! I only take 1 teaspoon daily, the reason I started taking virgin coconut oil was to loose weight. It does not hurt trying…

  • Olik says:

    Dear Dr,
    I write from Poland. I had suddenly problem with health after I finished my studies. (But even when I felt so sick- devastated- and went to hospital I had good blood test.) In clinic I have biopsy -flattened intestinal villi IIIc Marshal… since that time ( 10 months) I;m on diet. However I sometimes feel tired, and I have muscle pain( all arm), and I can’t eat – after B vitamin injection I feel excellent and don’t have diarrhea and stomach pain. What’s more I have Hashimoto( take euthyrox). How can I know that I have leaky gut syndrome or celiac?

  • Olik says:

    I’m 25/ weight 43 kg/ 176 height

  • Olik,
    To determine whether or not you have gluten sensitivity, I would recommend you have genetic testing performed. Here is a link:
    http://www.glutenfreesociety.org/genetic-testing-for-gluten-sensitivity/
    All the best,
    Dr. O

  • Alan says:

    Great article. Here is the latest publication from Fasano that takes the argument one step further.

    Alan
    http://crohnsdad.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/leaky-gut-and-autoimmune-diseases/

  • [...] -There are 3 things that must be present in the body for the development of an auto-immune disorder. 1-Genetic vulnerability (a weak link in the chain); 2-Environmental triggers (a loss of tolerance to certain foods or toxins- the worst offender is gluten); 3-Intestinal permeability (a leaky gut – discovered by Dr. Alessio Fasano). [...]

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