What Causes Leaky Gut?
Dr. Alessio Fasano of the Harvard Medical School and author of Gluten Freedom, believes that the gluten (gliadin) protein found in wheat may cause leaky gut syndrome and be the root cause of a wide range of autoimmune and other diseases, including:
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohns’s disease)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Type 1 diabetes
He also believes that this wheat-triggered leaky gut is a root factor for diseases of the nervous system including:
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
- Multiple sclerosis
And cancers including:
- Brain cancers (gliomas)
- Breast cancer
- Lung adenocarcinoma
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
Who Is Dr Alessio Fasano?
Dr. Fasano has excellent credentials. He is Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center (MIBRC) at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, and holds the W. Allan Walker Chair of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital.
His research focuses on bacterial pathogenesis, gut microbiome composition and function in health and disease, the regulation of gut permeability, and intestinal mucosal biology and immunology, and the role of impaired intestinal barrier function in the pathogenesis of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, including celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. His research group was responsible for the discovery of zonulin in 2000, a protein involved in the regulation of tight junctions, which is released in conditions of gut dysbiosis. He is currently studying the gut microbiome and intestinal mucosal biology, as well as being involved in interventional clinical trials in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
How Does Eating Gluten Cause Intestinal Permeability?
The mechanism Dr. Fasano proposes is that gliadin from wheat causes the production of zonulin in the gut, which produces the leaky gut syndrome. This was explained in his 2011 publication “Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function.” He believes this is a causative factor in all autoimmune disease.
Are Dietary Guidelines Contributing To Leaky Gut And Autoimmune Disease?
“The gliadin protein of wheat gluten, present in all forms of wheat from spongy Wonder Bread to the coarsest organic multigrain loaf has the uninque ability to make your intestine permeable… Recent research has fingered wheat gliadin as a trigger of intestinal release of zonulin, a regulator of intestinal permeability.”
– Dr William Davis, MD (Wheat Belly, 2011)
Most dietary guidelines promote 5 to 11 servings of cereal/grains per day, but are these guidelines leading to an increase in autoimmune and other diseases? Most individuals with autoimmune disease experience relief from symptoms when they stop all consumption of grain, which would indicate that Dr. Fasano’s theories on leaky gut might be quite accurate. Making the choice to go gluten-free has helped many of our patients with symptoms of autoimmune disease.
We Can Test You For Celiac, But That’s Not Enough
Going gluten-free doesn’t mean you have Celiac disease – less than one percent of adults do. However, just because you don’t have the HLA-DQ gene associated with a genetic susceptibility to celiac disease doesn’t mean your health is not impacted by gluten, as Dr. Fasano’s research shows. Sure, we can test you for Celiac here at our Hong Kong clinic (95% of celiacs go undiagnosed!), but you may be sensitive to gluten even if you don’t have Celiac. If you’re ready to give going gluten-free a trial to see if it relieves your symptoms, we can assist you with nutritional advice. Giving up gluten looks like a logical first step to healing leaky gut.