For several decades, leaky gut syndrome was the subject of a lot of discussion but very little research. It was trapped in limbo between alternative healthcare providers who claimed clear evidence of leaky gut, while traditional medicine dismissed it as urban myth.
However, in the past ten years, our understanding of the science behind leaky gut has finally caught up with what integrative medicine practitioners and nutritionists suspected all along: leaky gut is a very real, predictable process that can lead to serious complications, including autoimmune disease.1
For those unfamiliar, “leaky gut” is exactly what it sounds like. The cells of your intestinal lining are supposed to be pressed up tightly against one another, sealed by what are known as “tight junctions.” These junctions keep partially digested food securely inside your intestines, where it belongs.
The security officers in charge of maintaining those tight junctions are proteins called “zonulin.”2 “Zonulin” may sound like an alien race right out of sci-fi, but it’s actually key in preventing leaky gut and autoimmune disease! With the right zonulin levels, your tight junctions remain closed and secure. However, years of poor gut health brought on by the Standard American Diet (SAD) and stress can raise zonulin levels.3
“Zonulin” may sound like an alien race, but it’s actually a key protein in preventing leaky gut and autoimmune disease.Click to tweet
Your body’s immune response triggers a cascade of inflammation, causing symptoms like rashes, joint pain, headaches, and fatigue. As the inflammation continues, it can create system-wide reactions, including allergies and autoimmune disease.4-5
Zonulin has been working hard to keep us safe for thousands of years, but scientists only discovered its existence in 2000. Recently, researchers have also developed the ability to test zonulin levels. The results further support the relationship between leaky gut, diet, and inflammation.6
Leaky gut has long been associated with inflammatory foods, including gluten. (That’s one major reason why I recommend going gluten-free.) Now scientists have proven that those with gluten sensitivities and celiac disease (the complete inability to digest gluten) have extremely elevated levels of zonulin in their bloodstream.7 That means there’s finally a diagnostic tool to help identify those at high risk for leaky gut.
But you don’t need a blood test to take your health into your own hands! If you suspect that your diet or stress levels put you at risk for leaky gut, it’s not too late to take action. If you already struggle with symptoms of inflammation or autoimmune disease, you can also take concrete steps to heal your gut and your immune system. For more information, check out this article now: “What Is Leaky Gut? How to Understand and Repair the Damage”
Thanks so much for reading this post! If you’re interested in finding out more about how to dial in your diet and health, please check out my online programs. They’re science-based and have already helped thousands of people feel better fast and lose the weight.
1 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22109896: Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases
2 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21248165: Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer
3 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18832585: Physiological, pathological, and therapeutic implications of zonulin-mediated intestinal barrier modulation: living life on the edge of the wall
4 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16265432: Mechanisms of disease: the role of intestinal barrier function in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal autoimmune diseases
5 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22731712: Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases
6 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22902773: Intestinal permeability and its regulation by zonulin: diagnostic and therapeutic implications
7 Barbaro MR, et al. The role of zonulin in non-celiac gluten sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome. Abstract presented at the 23rd United European Gastroenterology Week (UEG Week 2015), October 24–27 2015, Barcelona, Spain