Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye that has become a topic of controversy in recent years. While some people can consume gluten without issue, others may experience digestive issues or other health problems after eating it. In functional medicine, a holistic approach to healthcare, gluten is recognized as a potential source of inflammation and gut dysbiosis.
Dr. Alessio Fasano, a leading researcher on gluten and the gut microbiome, has shed light on the complex relationship between gluten and health.
Gluten can cause gut inflammation
For people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, gluten triggers an immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine. However, even people without celiac disease can experience gut inflammation from gluten, which can lead to a range of digestive issues.
Gluten can disrupt the gut microbiome
Emerging research suggests that gluten can alter the composition of the gut microbiome, potentially leading to dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut bacteria) and other health problems.
Gluten can trigger autoimmune diseases
According to Dr. Fasano, gluten can trigger autoimmune diseases in people with a genetic predisposition to them, by increasing intestinal permeability (also known as "leaky gut") and allowing harmful substances to enter the bloodstream.
Gluten sensitivity is a real condition
While celiac disease is a well-established medical condition, there is ongoing debate about the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, functional medicine recognizes gluten sensitivity as a real condition, and Dr. Fasano's research suggests that it may be a result of a different immune response to gluten than in celiac disease.
Eliminating gluten can improve health outcomes
For people with celiac disease, eliminating gluten from the diet is essential. However, even people without celiac disease may benefit from avoiding gluten, particularly if they have digestive issues or autoimmune conditions. In functional medicine, eliminating gluten is often part of a broader approach to healing the gut and addressing chronic health issues.
In summary, gluten can have a range of negative effects on the body and gut microbiome. Eliminating gluten from the diet may be beneficial for some people, particularly those with celiac disease or other digestive or autoimmune issues. However, as with any dietary changes, it's important to work with a healthcare professional to ensure a balanced and nutritionally adequate diet.
At the end of the day, the relationship between gluten and health is complex and varies from person to person. Functional medicine and Dr. Fasano's research provide valuable insights into the potential risks of gluten and the benefits of eliminating it from the diet. By understanding the impacts of gluten on the body, we can make informed decisions about our dietary choices and take steps towards improving our health.
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