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Gluten Can Trigger Leaky Gut and Other Conditions

Nov 27, 2020 ● By Meena Malhotra

A common disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, which occurs when cells in the lining of the GI tract, which are tightly sealed together in a healthy gut, become loose in genetically susceptible individuals due to chronic exposure to nutrient-depleted and synthetic foods. Over time, these leaky junctions lead to a trajectory of allergy spectrum disorders like asthma, hives, eczema, rhinitis and headaches, as well as autoimmunity like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (

Leaky gut syndrome, long associated with celiac disease, is widely known in complementary/alternative medicine circles as an increase in the permeability of the intestinal mucosa, which could allow bacteria, toxic digestive metabolites, bacterial toxins and small molecules to leak into the bloodstream. Nervous system involvement with celiac disease is known to occur even at subclinical levels.

Gluten and gluten sensitivity are considered to trigger this syndrome in individuals genetically predisposed to celiac disease. However, the incidence of celiac disease in the general population is quite low. Nevertheless, increased public interest in gluten sensitivity has contributed to expanded food labels stating “gluten-free” and the proliferation of gluten-free products, which further drives gluten-free lifestyle changes by individuals without celiac disease. Moreover, systemic inflammation is associated with celiac disease, depression and psychiatric comorbidities. The question is whether a gluten-free diet is important for anyone or only those with celiac disease.


Meena Malhotra, M.D., ABIM, ABOM, is the medical director of Heal n Cure, located at 2420 Tavine Way, Ste 400, in Glenview. For more information, call 847-686-4444 or visit