glutenGluten has long been accepted as a cause of gastrointestinal inflammation in celiac disease. However, clinicians are increasingly documenting how gluten can induce body-wide inflammation in individuals without celiac disease and may have an effect on the blood-brain barrier.

Gliadin (a component of gluten) can free itself when gluten is digested and stimulate a receptor on enterocytes which then leads to the transcription of zonulin. After transcription, the zonulin becomes extracellular and binds to its receptor, which leads to the disassembly of the tight junction between enterocytes. This is an issue because the cells will separate lead to leaky gut syndrome. This mechanism occurs in 100 percent of humans and, while only 1.6-1.8 percent will go on to develop celiac disease, another 18-30 percent will become gluten sensitive. Even more compelling still is the fact that once that junction has become disruptive, proteins from the digestion of gluten and all other foods can gain access to the bloodstream and stimulate the immune system’s macrophages and T-cells, thereby up-regulating inflammation.

Dr. Alessio Fasano, who was honored with the Linus Pauling Award for his work in terms of gluten, has proven that this is the case is both celiac disease and type 1 diabetes, and he postulates that this may also be a powerful mechanism in multiple sclerosis, asthma, and possibly gliomas.

This same gluten-zonulin inflammation is also disrupting the blood-brain barrier. It is has been shown that it is possible to not only have a leaky gut, but also a leaky blood-brain barrier. In fact, gluten sensitivity alone can cause enough disruption across the blood-brain barrier to create visible changes in the white matter of the brain, according to a 2010 paper published by Dr. Marios Hadjivassiliou in the journal The Lancet Neurology.

Learn more about gluten and why its inflammatory effects may cause a disruption of healthy mitochondrial function that will drain energy from the brain and lead to a number of body-wide ailments. Stream the 2014 Integrative Healthcare Symposium recording, The Care and Feeding of Your Brain or download The Care and Feeding of Your Brain Whitepaper today.


based on a February 2014 recorded presentation with David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, ABIHM