Gluten Free Guerrillas
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The battle our body has with gluten is weakened by zonulin

The battle our body has with gluten is weakened by zonulin

Every time we eat gluten our body enters into another battle in the war it faces and our guts begin to leak and yet another part of our being is attacked. It is a never ending war and our bodies are a landscape that is being bombed, demolished and obliterated with every tiny morcel of gluten that passes through our mouths.

For those who would like to know more about what happens when a coeliac ingests any gluten then the following explains this in an easy lay-man's way that is both comprehensive and interesting.

A little note first - wheat is the worst of all gluten offenders as wheat gluten contains a gliadin which is so harmful and toxic that it damages the intestine walls even in healthy people - so what chance do coeliacs stand if they should eat some?

Exerpt to explain how we are attacked:

"Gliadin sneaks past the intestinal barrier

If it’s not enough that gliadin causes gut inflammation, gliadin also finds a way to get past our defenses and slip behind enemy lines. Remember that the gut is lined with cells designed to let the good guys in and keep the bad guys out. In Celiac Disease, a major breakdown happens in this defense system when gliadin starts tricking its way through the wall.

Think of your gut lining like a mesh wall, with special doors to walk through if you have the secret code. The good nutrients and other smaller particles can slip right through the mesh in the wall without a problem. But larger undigested proteins like gliadin (and other bad guys) can’t get through the wall at all.

The doors along the mesh wall are called Tight Junctions, and they’re the gateway between the gut cells (enterocytes). Tight Junctions are controlled by an intricate process of signals keeping the protective balance intact and anything passing through these doors is said to be passing between the cells (paracellular). Researchers have identified a protein called zonulin in humans. Zonulin is one of those delicate signals that control the opening and closing of the tight junctions and it’s largely responsible for preventing paracellular absorption of antigens[4].

How do gliadin and zonulin interact?

As it turns out, gliadin is programmed with a secret code that causes zonulin levels to increase in people with the genetic pre-disposition to Celiac Disease[5]. As zonulin levels go up, the Tight Junctions protecting the integrity of the small intestinal barrier begin to function abnormally, opening up wider… loosening the protective barrier of the gut wall. Now the gut lining starts to allow large particles into the body that aren’t supposed to be there.

And gliadin can sneak its way right through…

When someone with Celiac Disease eats gluten, gliadin not only triggers gut inflammation, but it has a secret code that stimulates zonulin to open up the gut wall, allowing it to sneak through the doors and start infiltrating the body. At this point, gliadin can start to accumulate underneath the gut wall, assembling its forces behind enemy lines.

Gliadin causes leaky gut

Remember that the immune system has already been battling gliadin outside the gut wall with an initial inflammatory process. Now gliadin is accumulating underneath the gut wall, causing the enterocytes to release IL-15, triggering worsening inflammation inside the gut wall.

I like to think of the release of IL-15 like calling in the immune system Special Forces… sending Intraepithelial Lymphocytes (IEL’s) to the scene. These powerful IEL’s begin to damage the enterocyte cells through a more severe degree of inflammation and the war continues to get bloodier[6].

But that’s not all…

The IEL’s can’t match the accumulation of gliadin behind enemy lines and the inflammatory process continues to get worse. The immune system sends elite soldiers with even bigger guns called “inflammatory mediators” such as TNF and IFN that contribute to more enterocyte damage[7].

The more severely those cells are damaged, the worse the intestinal permeability gets… and soon you’re left with full-blown leaky gut syndrome[8].

Now gliadin (and everything else), can freely pass through the gut wall and do as it pleases…

Leaky gut causes autoimmunity ..."

For those who find this information interesting but they would like to know more then please see the attached link from which the above piece of information has been found:

5 Replies

Thank you ...


This is a really helpful and clear explanation of what happens. Thank you.


Thanks Lynxcat.

Very interesting and informative.


As a nutritional practitioner who sees many people in clinic with intestinal permeability it is worth pointing out that there is a new blood test that can be performed to assess barrier function. Traditionally this would be done with a Lactulose / Mannitol test which is an assessment of nutrient absorption. It looks for the passive absorption of micromolecules (Mannitol) and relative permeability to lactulose. For the test to be effective, intestinal dysregulation  must  be  present.  However there are new tests that assess  gut  barrier  damage   by measuring antibodies to barrier proteins. It can therefore detect barrier damage long before there is dysregulation  in  absorptive  function.  This makes it useful for early detection and preventative care.

This test measures an immune  response  indicating  damage  to   the intestinal mucosal microstructures, including the epithelial cell network and the intercellular tight junctions. Measuring the continuity of the intestinal barrier is accomplished by identifying antibodies against the tight junction proteins (occludin and zonulin) and antibodies to the actomyosin network (a protein complex that regulates intestinal barrier function by maintaining the plasticity of tight junctions) It is valuable to assess damage, early detection and also for assessing whether a gut healing protocol is working. Ask your practitioner about it


You probably know this - but it is worth puting out there for others... Zonulin has been proven to open tight junctions for non celiacs also. . Although tight junctions may open more readily in celiac indidivuals - It is the immune response on the blood stream side that determines celiac - not the internal gut wall side.

The antigen gliadin is presented to the immune system and modified - this modification causes the immune system to recognise the gut lining same as 'modified invader' - in other diseases the same is purported with the antigen being presented being bacterial or dietary - also modified and other organs affected. Gliadin is the 'Open Sesame' for these other proteins to get in. RA, AS, MS - Huntingtons, ALS, some Autism are in part linked to this.


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