This week, Columbia University announced a “breakthrough” in our understanding of how gluten relates to health issues. Their findings, published in the journal Gut, revealed that the complaints gluten-sensitive people (those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity) experience are a consequence of a disruption of the gut lining – what has come to be called “leaky gut.”
As the authors concluded:
These findings reveal a state of systemic immune activation in conjunction with a compromised intestinal epithelium affecting a subset of individuals who experience sensitivity to wheat in the absence of celiac disease.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Umberto Volta, professor of internal medicine at the University of Bologna, summarized as follows
These results shift the paradigm in our recognition and understanding of non-celiac wheat sensitivity and will likely have important implications for diagnosis and treatment… Considering the large number of people affected by the condition and its significant negative health impact on patients, this is an important area of research that deserves much more attention and funding.
I am pleased to see reports like this making their way into the conversation. But to be fair, the idea that a breakdown of the intestinal lining plays a pivotal role in the various complaints of those suffering from non-celiac gluten sensitivity isn’t a new discovery. In fact, this exact mechanism is the central theme of Grain Brain!
What is newsworthy is the recent finding that the breakdown in the gut lining as a response to gluten exposure is, according to Harvard researchers, an event that occurs in all humans. That means that there is immune activation occurring in all of us when we consume gluten, whether we think we are having issues, or not.
When we understand the powerful relationship between this mechanism of immune activation and diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, coronary artery disease, and even obesity, it makes opting for a gluten-free diet the clear choice if you want to do everything you can to protect your health.