By Caitlyn Kambouroglos, Registered Dietitian
Patients always want to know why they should give up gluten, especially when they don’t have celiac disease or experience symptoms when they eat gluten. The answer can be summarized in two words: “leaky gut.” The lining of your gut should have tight enough cell junctions to keep food and other waste from getting into the bloodstream. Gluten can cause a protein known as zonulin to be released which causes openings in the tight junctions of the gut leading to a a leaky gut and in turn an immune response and inflammation.1 A study published in the journal Nutrients, found that people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and those who reported having no negative symptoms after ingesting gluten, all experienced leaky gut after being exposed to gluten. Of note, this particular study was not actually performed in humans, but it did use isolated human cells. 2
Another study conducted by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers further supports the notion of why people who do not have celiac disease may consider avoiding gluten. The researchers were able to find that those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity showed markers for intestinal damage and an acute immune system activation after consuming gluten. When participants followed a gluten-free diet for 6 months they had improvements in symptoms and were able to normalize the markers for intestinal damage and immune system activation.3
So what’s the bottom line? If you are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms, anxiety, depression, skin issues, fatigue, headaches, joint pain or issues with sleep you may consider trialing a gluten-free diet for 4 weeks. If you notice that your symptoms improve while on a gluten-free diet and worsen after reintroducing gluten, it’s likely you are sensitive to gluten.