“Gluten is not bad for you, bad gluten is bad for you…”, says Dr. Tom O’Bryan, the boss of everything gluten. I listened to his interview a couple of months ago and was blown away by what he said about gluten and I think you will be too.
There is gluten in a number of other foods besides wheat. You’ll find it in rice, corn and even quinoa. The difference is, for the most part, humans can digest these gluten proteins. Some people are sensitive to corn but that’s mostly because of GMO’s.
Gluten in wheat, rye and barley are a separate family of glutens. It’s this family of gluten proteins that no human can fully digest. Dr. O’Bryan says that humans cannot properly digest gluten from wheat, which means that gluten isn’t just a problem for celiacs or people with gluten sensitivity – it’s a problem for everyone.
Moreover, the pioneering researcher and pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. Alessio Fasano who started publishing ground-breaking papers in 2003 on gluten intolerance, states that there is a triad of things that happens in the development of most autoimmune diseases. Three things have to occur:
- A person has a genetic vulnerability to that particular condition.
- There is an environmental trigger that sets it off, kind of like the straw that broke the camel’s back.
- Intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut).
Gluten causes this intestinal permeability in humans. Every time we eat gluten, it creates microscopic tears in our gut lining. Then our intestines heal and then we eat it again and around we go. Eventually these tears stop healing and this leads to pathogenic intestinal permeability. This is a gateway that makes people vulnerable to developing an auto-immune condition which can eventually become an auto-immune disease.
Let’s Break Down Those Steps
I want you to think of your gut lining as a dam. Over time the dam is exposed to the elements and must be monitored and repaired to prevent holes and leaks. Just one hole can allow massive amounts of water to escape which could ruin the whole purpose of the dam. Your gut is the same, just one tiny hole can cause big problems.
If you are exposed to unhealthy food, allergenic foods (gluten), environmental toxins, genetically modified foods and stress over a long period of time, this very thin lining actually starts to deteriorate. And when this lining breaks down, it will leak food and toxins into your blood stream.
When incompletely digested food and waste “leak” through the gut lining into the bloodstream, your immune system begins to attack these foreign substances. This then triggers an autoimmune reaction, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, excessive gas and cramps, fatigue, acid reflux, even more food sensitivities and a general inflammatory response. This autoimmune reaction and inflammatory response can lead to joint pain, skin rashes or other skin conditions, chronic adult acne, pelvic pain, hormonal imbalances and autoimmune diseases.
3 Auto-Immune Conditions Caused By Gluten-Sensitivity
- Celiac Disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (49% of Hashimoto’s patients have elevated antibodies to gluten. It’s not everyone but it’s half!)
The reason gluten causes intestinal permeability is two-fold. It contains a sneaky little molecule called zonulin which has been shown in studies to increase gut permeability. Additionally, gluten-containing grains contain a protein called gliadin, which has been shown to increase zonulin production and thus directly contribute to leaky gut.
Further, according to Chris Kresser, several studies show a strong link between autoimmune thyroid disease (both Hashimoto’s and Graves’) and gluten intolerance. The link is so well established that researchers suggest all people with autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) be screened for gluten intolerance, and vice versa.
The Connection Between Leaky Gut and Thyroid Function
It’s a case of mistaken identity. The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue because it looks the same as gliadin. This means if you have AITD and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.