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How Gluten Promotes Chronic Disease (Even if You are NOT Gluten Sensitive)

Gluten and Grain free foods can lead to complications within the body.

By Kelley Herring

If you are a student of health and nutrition, then you’ve certainly heard a lot about the benefits of a gluten-free diet over the last several years. In fact, there is a good chance that you have made the choice to eliminate grains and gluten from your own diet.

But you’re probably also familiar with the backlash against this way of eating from a few vocal bloggers, journalists, doctors and possibly even your own friends and family. I recently came across an article in Time, with the title, “Eat More Gluten, The Fad Must Die.” The same day, I received an email with the subject line, “99% of People Should Stop Eating Gluten Free.”

Many of these critics claim that a gluten-free diet will cause you to miss out on critical nutrients. Others claim that a grain-free diet is only necessary for the less than one percent of the population (two to three million Americans) who suffer from Celiac disease. For anyone else, they claim, a gluten-free diet is but a waste of time and money, with no particular benefit.

Today, I’ll show you why these conclusions are reckless and unfounded. I will also show you why a grain-free diet is critical to your long-term health – even if you’re able to consume foods containing gluten with no apparent adverse effects.

So, let’s begin with the facts…

It is quite easy to refute the claim that, “99 percent of people should stop eating gluten free.” This is based on the logical fallacy fact that less than 1 percent of the people in the U.S. are currently diagnosed as Celiac. Of course, it does not account for those who have the disease and have not been diagnosed. More importantly, it excludes the additional 18 million Americans (at least) known to suffer from gluten sensitivity – a heightened immune response to gluten that causes discomfort and a wide range of systemic effects.

But research continues to mount that gluten is NOT the only problematic compound in cereal grains. Furthermore, we are discovering that the immune response that gluten elicits in some people – most notably Celiacs – is not the only health issue to be concerned about.

New research, published by Dr. Alessio Fasano at Harvard, confirms that gluten-containing foods impact the health of ALL who consume them, by increasing the risk of a “leaky gut.”

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Gluten:  The Loaded Gun for a Leaky Gut (and Brain)

Dr. Fasano discovered that exposure to gliadin – a protein found in gluten — increases the permeability of the epithelial lining of the gut. And this happens in healthy subjects, as well as those with Celiac.

A healthy gut plays a critical role in the function of your immune system. Of course, it also helps to extract nutrients from your food, allowing these compounds to enter the bloodstream where they can nourish your body. But the gut also serves as a critical barrier. It is supposed to block harmful substances and undigested food particles from entering the bloodstream.

However, when the small spaces between gut cells (called tight junctions) expand, a wide range of substances that would never pass through a healthy gut into the bloodstream are allowed to pass right through.

What’s more, consumption of gliadin was ALSO found to increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, allowing proteins, viruses, bacteria and toxins in the blood to breach this normally safeguarded space.

As you can imagine, a “leaky” gut and brain have been linked to a host of seemingly unrelated symptoms and chronic diseases including (but certainly not limited to):
●    Rheumatoid arthritis
●    Food allergies
●    Asthma
●    Eczema
●    Inflammatory bowel disease
●    Lou Gehrig’s disease
●    HIV
●    Cystic Fibrosis
●    Diabetes
●    Autism
●    ADHD
●    Alzheimer’s disease
●    Parkinson’s
●    Brain fog and fatigue

While these conditions may seem disconnected, they share a common root:  Inflammation.

In fact, Dr. David Perlmutter, M.D., renowned neurologist and the author of Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life says:

“In millions of people today, the gut is largely disrupted by increased intestinal permeability  which fuels a continuous state of low-grade inflammation.”

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Gluten Promotes Inflammation: The Cornerstone of Chronic Disease

Among the substances that leak into the bloodstream from the gut, one of these is particularly nefarious: lipopolysaccharide (LPS).

LPS is a compound that makes up the outer membrane of certain types of bacteria in the gut. These bacteria normally live within the confines of your gut without issue. But when they pass through the gut into the bloodstream – where they don’t belong – they cause a sharp inflammatory response.

In fact, LPS is so inflammatory that it is actually used experimentally in the lab to create inflammation.

A leaky gut will increase the amount of LPS that circulates in your blood. Systemic inflammation (including brain inflammation) and an increased risk of disease is the inevitable result.

(NOTE: You can test your levels of LPS, and therefore your degree of gut permeability, with a test called the Cyrex Array 2. The test costs around $200.)

Heal Your Gut and Reduce Inflammation with a Gluten Free Ancestral Diet

Research now shows that gluten can cause long-term health consequences… even in the absence of gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease.

Focus your diet on the nutrient-dense foods our ancestors enjoyed – including gut-healing foods like bone broth and saturated fats from animals raised on pasture – to help seal and heal your gut and reduce the systemic inflammation associated with chronic disease.

Do you have any experience with leaky gut? If so, how did you heal it?

kelley herring

Kelley Herring

Love comfort foods, but not the carbs? Check out Kelley’s FREE new book – Carb Lover’s Keto – with 100 recipes for all of your favorite comfort foods. From Chicken Parmigiana and Coconut Shrimp to Buffalo Wings and Pizza. Discover how you can indulge – 100% guilt free!


1.    Jargon, Julie. “The Gluten Free Craze: Is It Healthy?” Wall Street Journal. June 22, 2014
2.    Kluger, Jeffrey. “Eat More Gluten; The Fad Diet Must Die”. Time Magazine. June 23, 2014
3.    Perlmutter, David. Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life. Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (April 28, 2015)
4.    Fasano A.Intestinal permeability and its regulation by zonulin: diagnostic and therapeutic implications.Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Oct;10(10):1096-100. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2012.08.012. Epub 2012 Aug 16.
5.    Fasano A .Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer.Physiol Rev. 2011 Jan;91(1):151-75. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00003.2008.
6.    Groschwitz KR1, Hogan SP.Intestinal barrier function: molecular regulation and disease pathogenesis.J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Jul;124(1):3-20; quiz 21-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2009.05.038.
7.    Turner JR.Intestinal mucosal barrier function in health and disease.Nat Rev Immunol. 2009 Nov;9(11):799-809. doi: 10.1038/nri2653.
8.    Drago S, El Asmar R, Di Pierro M, Grazia Clemente M, Tripathi A, Sapone A, Thakar M, Iacono G, Carroccio A, D’Agate C, Not T, Zampini L, Catassi C, Fasano A. Gliadin, zonulin and gut permeability: Effects on celiac and non-celiac intestinal mucosa and intestinal cell lines. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2006 Apr;41(4):408-19.
9.    Lammers KM1, Lu R, Brownley J, Lu B, Gerard C, Thomas K, Rallabhandi P, Shea-Donohue T, Tamiz A, Alkan S, Netzel-Arnett S, Antalis T, Vogel SN, Fasano A. Gliadin induces an increase in intestinal permeability and zonulin release by binding to the chemokine receptor CXCR3. Gastroenterology. 2008 Jul;135(1):194-204.e3. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2008.03.023. Epub 2008 Mar