Effect of Wheat on Gut Permeability
No doubt you will have heard of the debate about going gluten free or continuing to eat grains as is standard practice in the western world, but what is the scientific effect of wheat on gut permeability and what does this mean for you and your health?
There is a fabulous free resource known colloquially as “PubMed” – just type www.pubmed.com into your browser and you can then search millions of scientific studies. Alessio Fasano is recognised as one of the leading experts in the world on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. If you type in his name on PubMed it will bring up loads of studies that he has written or been involved in.
He designed a study that was published in 2015 that examined the effect of wheat on gut permeability. The results of this study are truly ground breaking, but has anyone heard about it? Probably not, which is a great shame because if western populations would understand the implications of this study and live by them, then we would see a massive improvement in health and reduction of disease.
This study was actually concerning the effect of gliadin, which is a class of protein found in the gluten in wheat, rye, barley and other cereals. So knowing how gliadin effects different people will tell us the effect of wheat on gut permeability.
In this 2015 study, 4 groups of participants were recruited to the study:-
- Active celiac disease (ACD) sufferers on a regular diet (ie not gluten free);
- Previous celiacs now in remission (RCD) due to a gluten free diet;
- Non celiacs with gluten sensitivity (GS) on a regular diet;
- Non celiac control group (NC) on a regular diet.
Biopsies were taken from them all from the wall of their small intestine and these were then exposed in a test tube to both gliadin and also an inert media. Using a system of electrical measurement, the change in permeability of the samples was measured.
As you might expect there was little difference between the 4 groups samples subjected to the inert media. But when exposed to the gliadin the ACD group showed the greatest change in permeability, followed by the GS group and then, very interestingly, the NC group (this group is what the vast majority of western populations would consider themselves to be in ie certainly not celiac and apparently not suffering from gluten sensitivity).
Very significantly, the fourth group of RCD, ie the previous celiacs now in remission due to a gluten free diet, were the least affected by exposure to the gliadin and it took longer for there to be any effect. But there was still an effect of wheat on gut permeability. In the words of the study authors:-
This study demonstrates that gliadin exposure induces an increase in intestinal permeability in all individuals, regardless of whether or not they have celiac disease.
It is worth repeating that it was only the RCD group that were on a gluten free diet before the biopsies were taken, and they were the ones least affected by the gliadin exposure, but their gut permeability was still affected.
Now you know that going gluten free is not a fad. There is real scientific evidence to support the negative effect that gliadin in gluten has on the permeability of the intestinal wall. Repeated consumption of gluten containing cereals and products will, over time, lead to permeability of the intestinal wall thus allowing food molecules to pass into the blood stream that would never normally be allowed to in a healthy gut. This in turn will lead to an immune response from the body to these foreign invaders resulting in food allergies, at best, to full blown autoimmune diseases, at worst, including all forms of arthritis, Alzheimer’s, lupus, MS, Parkinson’s etc.
In our view even if you think you are not being affected by gluten, you probably will be in the long term. The effect of wheat on gut permeability is simply too great for most people to be able to cope with and for us the risks of eating gluten on a regular basis far outweigh any perceived benefits of eating conventional gluten containing products made from wheat, rye, barley and other grains.
Eating gluten free and loving it, Edith and Tim at CoolWellbeing Foundation.
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