The Universal Problem With Gluten


An estimated 99 percent of people who have a problem with eating gluten don’t even know it. They ascribe their ill health or symptoms to something else–not gluten sensitivity, which is 100 percent curable.

Mark Hyman, MD

The Autoimmune Connection

Gluten is a storage protein found in all grains, not just the known culprits: barley, rye, oats, spelt, kamut, wheat, and triticale. It can be as difficult to digest as human hair, which makes it highly irritating and inflammatory for anyone to eat. American super-wheat, bred for its superior glueyness, is the most indigestible type.

Beyond being difficult, if not impossible to digest, it causes gut inflammation, creates a leaky gut, disrupts the immune system, causes brain inflammation, and is the number one food trigger for all autoimmune conditions. Back in 2002, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) listed 55 diseases associated with eating it, including rheumatoid arthritis, autism, lupus, multiple sclerosis and dementia!1Farrell RJ, Kelly CP. Celiac sprue. N Engl J Med. 2002 Jan 17;346(3):180-8. Review. Autoimmune expert, Dr. Tom O’Bryan recently referenced 19,000 articles in the medical literature on gluten sensitivity and its impact on the body.2 Bulletproof interview:[/mfn]Today, health research database, GreenMedInfo lists 164 diseases associated with gluten.2

Gluten is a well known trigger for people with celiac disease — an estimated 1-2% of the population and for those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) — an estimated 30% of the population. Here’s the clincher:

A recent study reveals that gluten creates a leaky gut in anyone who eats it.

We know that a leaky gut is the pathway to autoimmune conditions. So if you have a genetic predisposition for any of the 150+ autoimmune conditions (the growing list includes chronic Lyme disease, Crohn’s disease, intestinal bowel disease (IBD), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and even autism, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s have autoimmune elements) and you are still eating (or drinking) gluten, you may be on your way to autoimmune disease expression and not even realize it.

Or, if you already have one of these conditions and continue to eat it, you may be unknowingly perpetuating the problem! I fell into this latter group and continued to eat cereal and sandwiches nearly every single day, not knowing that it was perpetuating my MS expression for 26 years! Part of the problem is that it doesn’t always cause digestive distress. It often causes symptoms far from the gut, like brain fog, migraines or joint pain, which makes it frustratingly difficult to tell cause and effect.

What can you do?

If you’re concerned about or dealing with autoimmune issues, to safeguard your health, you must go 100% gluten free 100% of the time. Even a morsel — say a crouton or a cookie crumb — can create (or perpetuate) a leaky gut. If you slip up and eat even a teeny amount, it can take anywhere from 2 – 12 weeks to heal your gut lining, depending upon the severity of the leakiness and other confounding factors.3How Long Does it Take the Gut to Repair after Gluten Exposure? The Paleo Mom, Sarah Ballantyne, PhD, 

Surprising Sources

There is a long list of foods — and unexpected items that contain gluten, including envelopes you have to lick (don’t do it!) and Play-Doh (don’t eat it!). Other surprising sources include soup mixes, soy sauce, salad dressings, some shampoos, chewing gums, instant coffees, alcohol (beer and grain alcohol for sure), vitamins, medications and lipsticks. Check ingredients and beware fillers and binders that may contain gluten. Check out’s list for sources to avoid:

Still not convinced?

Educate yourself by checking out the resources below. And, see for yourself. Try a 30-day elimination diet, removing all sources of gluten 100% for one full month and then reintroduce it and see how you feel. If you experience brain fog, nerve pain (neuropathy), headaches, depression, digestive distress, joint pain, increased fatigue or insomnia, or any other mysterious symptoms, those are clues you may be experiencing downstream issues with gluten. When you can directly feel cause and effect you’re far more likely to give it up for good.

This is why I advocate a Paleo template diet for anyone with an autoimmune predisposition. A Paleo template removes all grains, dairy and sugar but permits liberal amounts of healthy fats, clean (100% grass fed or pastured) proteins and lots of vegetables. We know 1 in 5 or 20% of the population currently has an autoimmune condition, and the numbers are rising dramatically. American super wheat and what’s often sprayed on it (glyphosate) may be part of the steep increase in the autoimmune epidemic.

So I’ll ask you, do you or does/did anyone in your family have a known autoimmune condition? What about joint pain, thyroid issues, dementia, skin rashes, migraines, heart disease or other mysterious ailments? What do you have to lose by just giving it up for 30 days? Hopefully unwanted symptoms!

Take good care!

To learn more about food triggers, check out Top Autoimmune Triggers: Start with Food.


Study Title:

Effect of Gliadin on Permeability of Intestinal Biopsy Explants from Celiac Disease Patients and Patients with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Study publication

. 7(3): 1565–1576.


Justin HollonElaine Leonard PuppaBruce GreenwaldEric GoldbergAnthony Guerrerio, and Alessio Fasano


March 2015


Background: Intestinal exposure to gliadin leads to zonulin upregulation and consequent disassembly of intercellular tight junctions and increased intestinal permeability. We aimed to study response to gliadin exposure, in terms of barrier function and cytokine secretion, using intestinal biopsies obtained from four groups: celiac patients with active disease (ACD), celiac patients in remission (RCD), non-celiac patients with gluten sensitivity (GS) and non-celiac controls (NC).


This study demonstrates that gliadin exposure induces an increase in intestinal permeability in all individuals, regardless of whether or not they have celiac disease.

Full Study

We’d love to hear from you. Please share your experience in the comments below. Have you tried an elimination diet? What did you find?