2. Gut Inflammation
Inflammation is the natural response of your immune system to injury. You can see it in action whenever you get a cut or splinter and the surrounding area gets all red and tender. The proteins in wheat are gut irritants: they’re like that papercut or splinter digging into the lining of your gut, causing an inflammatory response.
The most famous case is the inflammation caused by gluten in people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. But inflammation from wheat is also a problem even for people who aren’t sensitive to gluten specifically. Amylase trypsin inhibitors (ATIs for short) that can provoke an inflammatory immune response in the GI tract by stimulating immune cells. This occurs in people regardless of whether they have celiac disease or not – it’s a completely different problem from gluten and it can cause trouble for you regardless of whether or not you’re sensitive to gluten in particular.
That inflammation is dangerous because…
3. Increased Intestinal Permeability
Inflammation in the gut contributes to a problem called intestinal permeability. The gut has a very complex system of “border control” that lets digested food into your bloodstream (this is how you get nutrients from it) while keeping everything else out. Every day, you swallow millions of random viruses, bacteria, indigestible molecules like dust, and other stuff that needs to go out the other end, not into your bloodstream.
Inflammation in the gut messes up that system of border control. It loosens the junctions between cells in the gut wall so too much stuff can pass through. This is often described as making the gut “leaky” (hence the popular name of “leaky gut”).
On top of inflammation leading to increased permeability, gluten accelerates this process by stimulating the release of a protein called zonulin. Zonulin independently contributes to loosening the junctions between cells in the gut. Add together the inflammation and the zonulin, and wheat has a powerful effect on gut permeability, which is really a problem.
Intestinal permeability is a big problem – most notably because it’s an essential factor in the development of autoimmune diseases.