Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Autoimmune Disease Relates to Gluten Induced Leaky Gut

We have spoken about increased intestinal permeability also known as a “leaky gut” before. We have also discussed autoimmune disease and its link to gluten. But considering that all autoimmune diseases when taken as a whole comprise the third leading cause of death, I would like to take this opportunity to delve into this further.

Celiac is an autoimmune disease. It’s the only one thus far that can be definitively “turned off” with an environmental change – namely eliminating gluten from the diet.

The root cause beneath gluten’s autoimmune trigger begins with a predisposed individual who eats gluten with the resulting damage being a leaky gut. The leaky gut then allows partially digested gliadin access to the blood stream where the immune system reacts and “self” is damaged, hence the correct label of autoimmune disease.

New research out of the University of Maryland states that the increased intestinal permeability doesn’t only result in celiac disease, but that type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease all have leaky guts as a factor in common.

This is very exciting and certainly corroborates the clinical findings we see here at our clinic. We observe other autoimmune diseases improving once a patient gets on a gluten-free diet and starts to heal up their intestine.

Is gluten the underlying cause of all these autoimmune diseases and upon its removal healing occurs and the immune system stops being activated? Or is the leaky gut the underlying common factor and the causative agent of that loss of integrity is gluten for some but something else for others?

I don’t have an answer for you but researchers are working diligently on this issue. Speaking of research, while I love to stay up to date on the latest results, I must confess that an impatient streak would make me a terrible researcher. A study I just read about zonulin, the protein responsible for increased permeability in not only the intestine but other organs as well, revealed that it took 5 years between hypothesizing the presence of zonulin and its confirmed discovery! If you're interested these studies can be found in "The Journal Of Immunology" 2006, 176 and "Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2005 Vol 2 No 9. Let’s all give a moment of thanks to these wonderfully patient men and women who dedicate their lives to the endeavor of scientific research.

Back to being a clinician, what this data does support is something we strive to do with our patients and that is to repair the integrity of the small intestine via whatever means possible.
Typically this involves:
1. removing allergens/sensitive foods
2. diagnosing and eradicating pathogenic organisms
3. recolonizing the good bacteria in the gut
4. healing the lining through the use of nutrients.

So whether it’s gluten, dairy, a pathogenic organism and/or an imbalance of good flora, the key to reversing an autoimmune tendency seems to lie in fully restoring function to that 23 feet of pipe we call a small intestine.

I’ll keep you posted as this story continues to unfold, but what you can do right now is investigate the four points I’ve delineated above and eat “real” food. Trust me, your small intestine doesn’t like chemicals and overprocessed junk food.

Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Visit us at If you have questions or need any help, I’m here for you! Call 408-733-0400.

I look forward to hearing from you.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, CFMP

IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”


Anonymous said...

Hello! I am finding your blog very interesting! I have RA (recently diagnosed this year) and had symptoms of fibro for two years before the joint problems. I have been researching gluten as I have digestive issues. I have been gluten free for over a week and have lost 7 pounds and I feel extremely better. I no longer have the fatigue or sleepy feeling. I haven't felt this good in years! The diarrhea and heartburn have stopped also. I haven't officially seen a physician with this...this was just something I was trying...I mean what does it hurt to eat lean meats and veggies anyway? I hope that by changing my diet it will continue to relieve my symptoms. Thanks for the info!

win said...

Dr. Peterson

I have been recently been treated for leaky gut since coming to your clinic and you confirmed celiac disease 8 months ago. It has been one week on glutamine, zinc, and Vit A and some herbs and I feel so much better.

I have been totally out of it for decades (mentally and physically, including type 1 diabetes, cancer, arthritis and severe mental confusion)and after researching about leaky gut and implementing the recommend leaky gut treatments I now know this is why I have been constantly ill even after eliminating gluten and other foods that I am alergic to.

Please impliment the leaky gut syndrome into your practice we need your guidence and expertise.

Please let Dr. Rick know that I am feeling much better and am looking forward to healing and finally living a healthy quality life.

Keep up the great work,

Kevin Harp

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