Gluten is a divisive topic. Many believe, unless you have celiac disease, it's nothing to worry about, and avoiding it is a fad. However, recent research has shown that it would be better for most of us to avoid gluten and its wheat protein cousin gliadin.
If you look only at the numbers, there is no big difference between pasta and rice. Both have about 130 calories, 25 grams of carbs, one gram of fat and very little vitamins. Wheat pasta, however, contains gluten and gliadin. More and more studies are showing how both contribute to the release of something called zonulin, a protein that modulates the permeability of tight junctions between cells of the wall of the digestive tract. (1
Researchers note that zonulin opens the spaces between the cells of the intestinal lining, a problem associated with autoimmune diseases and cancer (1, 3, 4, 5, 6). Although these spaces should naturally open, Zonulin essentially causes them to open too much.
When you consider our intestinal mucosa as a pipeline, Zonulin inserts large holes and does not adhere to substances in body parts, causing problems such as allergic reactions.
It does not matter if you are celiac or not. This is how our body reacts to the wheat that we eat today. Our body considers certain components of wheat as harmful substances, such as bad bacteria, and zonulin is released to open the tight connections in our intestines (1).
If we are able to maintain a strong and intact intestine then we can keep the feed where it needs to be, optimize digestion and limit unwanted food reactions. This is probably a big reason why so many people who are not celiacs are gluten-free because they feel better and perform better without wheat and other gluten-containing foods (7).
Permeable intestine – food, pain and digestion
The truth about gluten
- Fasano, A. (2012). Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions and autoimmune diseases. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1258 (1), 25-33.
- Simpson, M., Mojibian, M., Barriga, K., Scott, FW, Fasano, A., Rewers, M., and Norris, JM (2009). An investigation of Glb1 homolog antibody levels in children at increased risk for type 1 diabetes mellitus. Pediatric Diabetes, 10 (8), 563.
- Di Pierro, M., Lu, R., Uzzau, S., Wang, W., Margarets, K., Pazzani, C., … & Fasano, A. (2001). Zonula occludens toxin structure function analysis: Identification of the tight junctions biologically active fragment and the zonulin receptor binding domain. Journal of Biological Chemistry
- Fasano, A., Fiorentini, C., Donelli, G., Uzzau, S., Kaper, J.B., Margaretten, K., & Goldblum, S.E. (1995). Zonula occludens toxin modulates tight junctions by protein kinase C-dependent actin reorganization in vitro. Journal of Clinical Invest, 96 (2), 710-720
- Fasano, A. (2011). Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological gateway to inflammation, autoimmunity and cancer. Physiological Reviews, 91 (1), 151-175.
- Wang, W., Uzzau, S., Goldblum, S.E. & Fasano, A. (2000). Human zonulin, a potential modulator of intestinal tight junctions. Journal of Cell Science, 113 (24), 4435-4440.
- Bronski, P., & Jory, M.M. (2012). The Gluten Free Edge: A guide to nutrition and training for athletic excellence and an active, gluten-free life. The experiment.