Connection Between Leaky Gut and Gluten

 by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.
Reviewed by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.

SuperHumans are the toughest, fittest, healthiest and happiest human beings on this planet. My mission is to help you realize your superhuman potential and learn how to live a long, happy and healthy life.

  Fact Checked
 by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT
Reviewed by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT

I’m a content organizer, fact-checker and super mom who ensures content is medically-reviewed, highly accurate, and engaging. My passion is organizing information and ensuring the facts are presented in a manner that is interesting and easy to understand.

leaky gut and gluten

Around 20 million Americans or 6% to 7% of its population suffer from gluten sensitivity.  

Research has proven that leaky gut and gluten are connected. Gluten is responsible for increasing intestinal permeability or leakage of the gut. There are several instances where people have reported feeling better by avoiding gluten. 

Gluten is found in the most apparent foods, such as pasta, beer, and bread. To better understand its impact on your gut health, you must understand the connection between a leaky gut and gluten. Read along till the end, and we have tried to explain it briefly. 

What Exactly Is Gluten?

Gluten is more like a protein often found in some grains and wheat plants. It naturally occurs, but one can also extract, concentrate and add to various products to infuse protein. 

Apart from just protein, gluten also adds flavor and texture to food items. It’s preferable as a binding agent that’s essential for holding processed foods together and will give them shape. 

Sometimes you’ll find gluten in oats as well, which is possible only when the oat is processed with some ingredients that include gluten. Oats don’t naturally have gluten by themselves. 

The digestive enzymes in the human body function in a way that breaks the food one consumes. Protease is an enzyme in our body that processes the protein we eat. But, it’s incapable of breaking down gluten completely. 

When gluten goes undigested, it travels to the small intestine. Most people experience no adverse symptoms due to this action in their body, while some might experience unpleasant symptoms. 

Intestinal Permeability: What Is It?

Our intestines have a mucus lining that functions to allow nutrients and water from food to digest and pass to our bloodstream. Intestinal permeability results in our guts passing, not just water and nutrients, but also some harmful substances such as antigens or stomach acids to the bloodstream and other organs of the body.

intestinal lining

The studies state that people with gastrointestinal diseases are more likely to have leaky guts or high intestinal permeability. In this condition, the larger molecules are granted the pass, which is mostly toxic. 

If these toxins leak into the bloodstream, then widespread inflammation takes place. Some other common diseases triggering intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome are type 1 diabetes, autoimmune conditions, Crohn’s disease, and inflammatory skin disorders.

The job of your intestinal lining is to behave as a blockage barrier for the harmful bacteria and infectious agents within the gut to flow out. When this is compromised, your immune system will fail to repel the repercussions of a leaky gut. 

Gluten and Leaky Gut

Here are a few regulators associated with its consumption to help you understand the connection between gluten and leaky gut. These instances will help you understand how gluten is responsible for degrading the potential of your intestinal lining to act as a barrier to prevent this leakage:

Gluten Activates Zonulin

Zonulin is a common protein for human bodies to regulate tight junctions. Tight junctions are the tiny gaps found between the connected cells of your small intestine. 

When the zonulin protein is released in your small intestines, these tight junctions will open up slightly and permit even the larger particles to pass through your intestinal wall. 

After excessive gluten consumption, zonulin gets activated more frequently, increasing intestinal permeability. 

The cells in people with celiac disease will have high zonulin levels. And they’re at higher risk of experiencing the leaky gut syndrome. 

Effects of Gluten on Gut Permeability and Zonulin

Gluten stimulates the production and release of zonulin. When more zonulin is present in your body, the tight junctions will keep opening up bit by bit until they loosen enough to allow the toxins to flow through them. 

foos with gluten

Gluten is definitely a trigger for zonulin and also causes intestinal permeability. But it’s not so common for everyone. It has been studied that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and celiac disease are affected by this gluten response. 

Healthy individuals might not experience the same reactions. Gluten’s effect on your body depends a lot on your overall health. Gluten might be one of the many other reasons that cause the leaky gut syndrome. Therefore, medical studies persist in confirming its sole dependency on causing intestinal permeability.

How Does This Affect Gluten-Sensitive People?

People with gluten sensitivity will also experience leaky gut, but the symptoms might not be as long as those with celiac disease or IBS. There are mixed results for gluten-sensitive people associated with the leaky gut syndrome. 

Irrespective of whether you have celiac disease or IBS, gluten sensitivity will increase the inflammation markers and trigger a leaky gut. The symptoms won’t persist for long if you have excellent overall health. 

So, if you ask us whether is gluten hard on the gut, then we’ll say, yes, it evidently is! The only way to minimize the repercussions is by omitting the habit of consuming gluten-rich foods. 

Does Everyone React the Same Way to Gluten?

2019 study states that around 5% of all people in the Western culture prefer to stick with a gluten-free diet by choice. Along with that, 13% of people have reported some form of gluten sensitivity, for which they avoid consuming foods with this protein in them. 

As stated earlier, it’s not mandatory health adversity for every individual who consumes gluten. People with gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, celiac disease, IBS, and other diseases are more prone to experience leaky syndrome and other health complexities due to overconsumption of gluten. 

If you’re healthy from your guts and immune system, then non-absorbed gluten won’t cause any troubling symptoms in your body. 

How Humans Develop Leaky Gut?

Bacterial imbalance is one of the significant reasons why humans experience leaky gut syndrome. The imbalance occurs between the harmful and helpful bacteria species within the gastrointestinal tract. 

stomach pain

Poor diet and gluten-rich foods trigger such imbalance in your gut. Apart from that, here are some other causes that are responsible for humans to develop leaky gut:

  1. Exposure to Stress: Too much stress will weaken your body’s ability to fight off harmful bacteria. Stress directly impacts the immune system and fails to repel the viruses and bacteria from causing leaky gut and inflammation conditions. 
  1. Overload on Toxins: Humans usually interact with over 80,000 chemicals daily. A healthy immune system can repel most of it, but the toxins such as pesticides, aspirin, antibiotics, and contaminated water, when absorbed by the body excessively, can cause leaky gut syndrome. 

Diseases Related to a Leaky Gut

Most people with good overall health can suppress the outcomes of undigested gluten. But people with certain diseases might find it difficult to repel the leaky gut symptoms. So, these are the diseases that are associated with a leaky gut. They must be treated immediately to avoid intestinal permeability or leaky gut. The diseases are:

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is also known as the drastic trigger for gluten intolerance. One in every 133 Americans has celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder. In such cases, your body will reject gluten, which is attacked by your gut lining and immune system. 

As a result, gluten intolerance damages the gut wall and promotes nutrition deficiencies, digestive disorders, and many other diseases. Common symptoms of celiac disease are bloating, diarrhea, headache, tiredness, depression, and skin rashes. 

If you experience any such symptoms, get treated as soon as you realize them before it affects your digestive system. 

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease isn’t responsible for initiating leaky gut syndrome but is the opposite. A leaky gut is an early sign that your body is leaning toward Crohn’s disease. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease where the immune system of your body attacks your digestive tract mistakenly. 

As a result, such functional mistakes in your digestive system give rise to abdominal pain and diarrhea symptoms. When you’re suffering from a leaky gut and are experiencing such symptoms, it’s better to get diagnosed with Crohn’s disease as well. 

Immediate response to the disease will prevent it from worsening and causing serious problems in the future. A study proved that 1420 healthy first-degree patients of Crohn’s disease were going through intestinal permeability simultaneously. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is digestive adversity that leads you to experience abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and gas. Experts, it’s stated that IBS is also responsible for worsening leaky gut syndrome. 

gut health

Most people can manage this condition with the right diet, stress management approaches, and changes in lifestyle habits. Gluten rich diet can worsen the IBS condition and will increase the chances of you experiencing intestinal permeability. 

Therefore, people with IBS and leaky gut problems are advised to consume gluten-free products strictly. 

Wheat Allergy

Wheat allergy is a common reaction for people overdosing on gluten. It mostly occurs in babies due to the eating habits developed by their parents. But, most individuals resolve their allergy to wheat by the time they’re adults. Some might not need any form of treatment as well. 

Gluten-rich foods will only worsen the condition, and a leaky gut can be a symptom of allergic reactions. Therefore, it’s better to avoid those foods for babies and even for an adult with wheat allergies. There are treatments and medications to overcome this allergic condition. 

Is Celiac Disease the Same as Leaky Gut?

Some experts prefer to use celiac disease and leaky gut interchangeably. It’s because they both involve dysfunctional absorption within the intestine. Both conditions force the intestinal membrane to widen the pores and start the leakage. Hence, the immune response is initiated, and negative health adversities occur. 

Ways to Improve your Gut Health

There’s too much information on how your gut health deteriorated for various reasons. So, to break the ice, here are a few of the practical ways for you to heal your gut health:

Consume Probiotics and Fiber Rich Foods

Fiber is a plant-derived nutrient that suppresses the possibility of metabolic diseases. It promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in your gut. Some food items you can consume to fulfill your fiber needs are spinach, carrots, beets, fennel, and sweet potatoes. 


Similarly, probiotics in yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi have been proven to boost gut health. Probiotics will help you calm adverse gastrointestinal conditions.

Regarding beverages, you can prefer aloe vera juice for gut health, as it has several healthy compounds to improve your digestive and intestinal abilities. 

Adapt Healthy Dental Habits

There’s a broad connection between dental and gut health. Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly will ensure that the bad bacteria stuck in your mouth don’t escape to get into your gut and cause health problems. 

Consume More Dark Chocolates

Dark chocolates are proven to help you improve your gut health. They’re rich in fiber and polyphenols (plant-based molecules). They have anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce cholesterol levels and decrease blood pressure. Moreover, it eases cellular stress as well, keeping your gut happy and healthy. 

Don’t Shy Away from Spices

Adding spices such as ginger, turmeric, and garlic to your favorite dishes can kill the harmful bacteria in your gut. Hence, more room for new friendly bacteria to grow and keep your gut healthy. 

Apart from these four great ways to improve your gut health, if intestinal permeability is the problematic symptom in your condition, try increasing the consumption of colostrum for leaky gut symptoms. It’s a miraculous ingredient that has healing properties for the adversity of this condition. 

You can also check how long does it take to heal your gut.

What Should I Do If I Have Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity?

There’s no definite cure for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. There are only lifestyle and food habit changes that can help you overcome the symptoms of this condition. Yes, you can rely on supplements, but without a strict gluten-free diet, it will be difficult to manage or heal your intestine. 

bowl of strawberries and berries

Consult your doctor and take note of all the other advice he recommends. In addition to that, take the prescribed medications to ease the symptoms. 

Does Gluten Cause Inflammation in the Gut?

Yes, gluten causes inflammation in your gut. Gluten is a protein that’s difficult to digest in the human body. As a result, the intestinal lining experiences stress and becomes porous, which triggers inflammation and causes intestinal permeability. 

Does Gluten Damage the Gut?

Yes, gluten damages the gut, but not for all individuals. People with celiac disease, IBS, wheat allergy, or gluten sensitivity are more prone to experience problems with their gut health due to overconsumption of gluten. People with good health can sustain the adversity of gluten as their immune systems keep them safe. 

Is Leaky Gut the Root Cause of All Autoimmune Diseases?

A leaky gut might not be the sole cause of all autoimmune diseases. Still, it’s one of the highest risk factors to trigger autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, or lupus. Experts are examining the causes and are yet to release more verdicts on how bad a leaky gut is for our immune system. 

woman in pain

What Happens to Your Gut When You Stop Eating Gluten?

If you have celiac disease, then stopping gluten completely will let you see improvement in your digestive health. Even though you’re experiencing no adverse symptoms due to gluten, giving up on it will lead you to eliminate occasional bloating symptoms. In addition to that, you’ll have clear skin, more energy, and lowered inflammation. 


This is all about the connection between a leaky gut and gluten. We have possibly made it clear what does gluten do to your gut and overall health. So, even if you’re not going through any of the associated diseases that can worsen the leaky gut syndrome, it’s still advised to give up on gluten for good. 

If you have gluten sensitivity or leaky gut problems, then ditching gluten in your diet can’t give you all the help you need to heal the symptoms. You can try using Optima Healthy Gut Solution, a healthy supplement that improves your digestive health heals intestinal permeability, treats inflammation, and helps your body absorb nutrients better. 

You can also check our post about Saccharomyces boulardii for leaky gut.

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