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Gluten and The Gut – How does it relate to immune function?

Gluten, just about the most well known word in the health and wellness industry right now. It’s feared, but often people have no idea why, or the repercussions it can have not only on your digestive health, but also the overall functioning of your body.

Well, I am here to break it down for you!

My name is Erin Jolley, I am a qualified Naturopath and Nutritionist, and part of the team at The Natural Nutritionist.

Gluten, is the main storage protein in the grain wheat. Some proteins found in gluten are called gliadin and glutenin. Gluten is also found in barley and rye; however the protein in oats, called ‘Avenin’ does not contain gluten or gliadin – due to cross contamination in manufacturing, oats can become ‘contaminated’ with gluten and its proteins; therefore correct manufacturing processes must be performed to eliminate any cross contamination. You are able to purchase gluten free oats, just be sure that it is clearly displayed on the label.

Gluten is a highly digestion-resistant grain, therefore it can travel to the small intestine in whole particles, causing inflammation, pain, bloating, poor memory and concentration, and in some cases diarrhoea or constipation. 

In Coeliac disease, gluten consumption triggers the immune system to attack it’s own tissues – the microvilli of the small intestine. This causes severe nutrient depletion, due to the destruction and loss of surface area, resulting in impaired nutrient assimilation and absorption.

Unfortunately, whether you’re Coeliac, gluten intolerant or not, due to gluten’s ability to resist the power of our digestive enzymes to break it down, resulting in inflammation in our gut, it can also result in a term known as ‘Leaky Gut’.

In our gut, we have something known as tight gap junctions; these junctions serve as a barrier that enables the integrity of our gut to be strong, preventing food particles, bacteria and toxins from travelling into our bloodstream wreaking havoc.

However, when gluten is consumed, it causes these tight gap junctions to become permeable, reducing the integrity of our gut, allowing said bacteria, pathogens, toxins and food particles to flow into our circulation, evening reaching up into the blood supply to our brain. 

Ever experienced brain fog after eating? There’s a good chance you may have some underlying permeability in your small intestine.

Now why is this important in regards to the functioning of our immune system? Well, if you think about it, our gut is the one part of our internal body that comes into contact with the outside world; so it makes sense that our immune system needs to be present there to help fight off invading pathogens. 

However, when there’s intestinal permeability (aka Leaky Gut), this can result in our immune system to be less concentrated in our guts, and causes our white blood cells to travel elsewhere in the body where these floating bacteria, toxins and food particles may be. 

As a result, this can not only cause our immune system to be depleted and unable to fight off pathogens that do find their way into our body via our gut, but also can cause create Dysbiosis in the body. Dysbiosis is simply an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria in our gut. This basically allows the bad bacteria to flourish, increases inflammation and systemic stress in the body, and allows the kill off of our healthy, disease fighting bacteria. 

If this is the case, it allows pathogenic bacteria to adhere to the lining of our gastrointestinal cells, resulting in infection and illness. Furthermore, this inflammation and immune dysfunction can also give rise to conditions such as auto-immune disease; where (like in Coeliac Disease) the body attacks it’s own tissues, unable to decipher self from non-self.

To prevent this from happening, we need to ensure we’re supporting the integrity of our gastrointestinal cells, reducing inflammation, providing antioxidant support, have a wide array of healthy bacteria in our gut, and ensure we’re providing prebiotic rich foods as a food source for our beneficial bacteria to feed on and flourish.

​This is where Immunity Fuel comes in!

Immunity Fuel is a probiotic superfood, containing numerous strains of beneficial bacteria, as well as high fibre foods such as chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds and mung beans, which serve as food to feed your beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Immunity Fuel also contains Ginger, which is used in Naturopathic medicine as a highly powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties; the Ginger content may help reduce the inflammation of the gut lining caused by gluten consumption. 

Immunity Fuel also contains spirulina, which is also used Naturopathically as a powerful antiviral. Spirulina also contains high amounts of beta-carotene, vitamin B12 and iron, and helps feed the beneficial probiotic species lactobacillus in the gut, therefore allowing that particular species to grow and flourish. 

Spirulina is also great in immune function, as it inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells (higher levels of which are seen in clients with hay fever), and enhances secretory IgA production, which acts as a mucosal barrier in out gut to prevent pathogenic bacteria adhering onto our cells.

Immunity Fuel is a great addition to any diet, as it will help support the health and functioning of your immune system, especially in Winter when illness’s such as virus’s are on the rise.

If you’re concerned about your gastrointestinal health, are wondering about food intolerances or allergies, or are interested in using herbal and nutritional medicine to help your immune system, gut health or anything else in your body, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me. I offer complimentary 15 minute consultations face to face or over the phone if you’re interested in an initial chat. If you’re ready to jump straight into consultation, bookings can be made with me online via our website www.thenaturalnutritionist.com.au, on the MindBody app, or by calling us on 0407 736 463.

Vis Medicatrix Naturae – The Healing Power of Mother Nature

Vis Medicatrix Naturae – The Healing Power of Mother Nature.


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