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“Leaky Gut Syndrome”, Food Sensitivities, and Celiac Disease

Written by Angela Moore, M.S.,R.D., LD/N, CLT

Living with Celiac Disease (CD) or gluten intolerance can be very challenging. Not only do you have to scrutinize every food label for hidden sources of gluten you also need to be careful when dining out due to the high risk of cross contamination. Unfortunately, with CD one may experience other health related side effects as well. Often these can be attributed to an intestinal condition known as “Leaky Gut Syndrome”.

“Leaky Gut Syndrome” is used to describe a condition of increased intestinal permeability and occurs when there is damage to the gut lining and a disruption of the tight junctions that line the intestinal tract. When these tight junctions are disrupted, toxic particles can leak out into the blood stream and cause an immune response. When this occurs repeatedly it becomes a vicious cycle and causes inflammation of the intestinal lining. The toxic substances that leak out include toxins, large particles of food, and also bacteria and yeast.

Dr. Alessio Fasano, head of the Center of Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston has made further discoveries related to these tight junctions and “Leaky Gut Syndrome” a very important one being Zonulin. Zonulin is a protein that controls the tight junctions between the intestinal wall cells in the GI tract. According to Fasano, “Zonulin is the only physiologic modulator of intercellular tight junctions described so far that is involved in trafficking of macromolecules and, therefore, in tolerance/immune response balance.” When there is a dysregulation in the Zonulin pathway in genetically predisposed individuals, autoimmune disorders can occur like CD.

So what is the relationship between Zonulin and CD? Zonulin seems to be overexpressed in those with autoimmune disease and gluten or gliadin also seems to trigger the secretion of Zonulin. In fact it may be beneficial for anyone with autoimmune disease to avoid gliadin for this reason. There are other factors that can affect intestinal permeability. They include history of antibiotics and steroids, alcohol, stress that can affect intestinal flora, diet like excessive sugar intake, and food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances.

Many individuals with CD and Leaky Gut Syndrome complain of food sensitivities and intolerances. The symptoms they can experience include headaches, joint and muscle pain, diarrhea, heartburn, fatigue, skin issues, and even anxiety and depression. Food sensitivities seem to be a common problem with individuals with CD because of damage to the gut lining caused by the disease and/or the leaky gut. Unfortunately, Celiacs seem to be predisposed to food sensitivities.

Food sensitivities are different than food allergies in that they are a delayed hypersensitivity reaction. They can also be dose-dependent. However, like an allergy, a sensitivity is an immune response in which cell mediators like histamine and prostaglandins are released. It’s these immune reactions that contribute to the unwanted symptoms.

It is important to identify the foods and chemicals someone with CD is sensitive to. This can help eliminate the immune responses, heal the gastrointestinal tract, and improve health and wellbeing. Mediator Release Testing or MRT is a blood test for food sensitivities. MRT reliably accounts for Type 3 and Type 4 immune mediated hypersensitivity reactions which tests not only reactions to foods but food-chemicals as well.

MRT tests for 120 foods and 30 chemicals and once reactive items have been identified and eliminated along with consuming the least reactive foods and chemicals individuals quickly find relief. In particular, IBS and headache symptoms often resolve in one to two weeks. The dietary management program that goes along with the testing is known as Lifestyle Eating and Performance (LEAP).

If you have CD and feel you have other unresolved sensitivities to foods and/or chemicals, MRT may be something to consider. For more information about MRT and LEAP contact Angela Moore MS, RD and certified LEAP therapist (CLT) through her website.

Angela Moore, MS, RD, CLT is a registered dietitian with a private practice in Denver, CO and focuses on food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances. She also works with CD and gluten intolerance. Many of her clients with CD have found MRT to be a great adjunct to the diagnosis and treatment of CD and getting their overall health back. You can learn more about Angela and email her by visiting her website, http://www.fitlifeofcolorado.com/.