I’ve been writing about non-celiac gluten intolerance for many years. One question that often comes up in these discussions is, “Why is gluten intolerance so much more common now than it was before?”
In fact, this observation is also used by naysayers as proof that gluten intolerance must be in people’s heads—because how else could it have increased so quickly?
I’ve long suspected that the prevalence of gluten intolerance has increased because of a change in our gut health, but there wasn’t much evidence to support that theory.
But a new paper just published in the journal Nutrients may change that.
The authors propose a mechanism for what causes non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Here’s how it works:
- Levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut (especially Bifidobacteria and Firmicutes) drop. This could be caused by poor diet, antibiotics, other medications, etc.
- The production of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that is anti-inflammatory and helps to regulate the immune system, decreases.
- The gut barrier becomes leaky, which then causes a chain reaction of events that ultimately culminates in sensitivity to gluten.
We still need more evidence to support this theory, but on the surface it makes a lot of sense to me and fits with my own hypothesis.
And, if it’s true, it leads us to an interesting possibility: that by restoring the beneficial bacteria in the gut, promoting healthy levels of butyrate, and sealing the gut barrier, we may be able to restore oral tolerance to gluten.
In other words, gluten intolerance might be curable.
Anecdotally, I have had a few patients who’ve been able to resume eating gluten after we addressed their GI issues, and maybe this is how it happened.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that gluten intolerance will be curable for everyone, or even a majority of people. And many of my patients find that, once they remove gluten from their diet, they don’t really miss it much anyway.
I’ll keep you posted with any new developments around this in the future.
Chris Kresser LLC 1810 E Sahara Ave Suite 402 Las Vegas, NV 89104