How does gluten damage the intestines


Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and is present in a variety of products, including breads, pastas, cereals and baked goods. Some people are sensitive to gluten and may experience gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, such as abdominal pain and bloating, when they consume it. For others, though, gluten can cause problems in the small intestine, leading to serious health concerns.

In this article, we will discuss how gluten can damage the intestines and the potential health implications that can arise from a gluten-intolerance:

What is gluten

Gluten is a type of protein found in many grains, such as wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is responsible for the structure and elasticity of many bread and bakery products. While a wide variety of gluten-free foods are becoming more widely available and popular, many people are still unsure about what gluten actually is and why it may cause health issues for certain individuals who are sensitive or intolerant to it.

Gluten is made up of several proteins, but the two main proteins comprising gluten – gliadin and glutenin – interact with each other to form an elastic network that gives dough its distinctive texture. When this dough is mixed with liquid and kneaded through the process of baking bread, these proteins bind together to form long strands that trap air bubbles which give structure to traditional breads. In some individuals with sensitivities or intolerances to gluten, the body’s immune system mistakenly recognizes this protein as a foreign invader or allergen which can result in damage to the mucosal lining of the small intestine resulting in impaired nutrient absorption.

How does gluten damage the intestines

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye that can damage the intestines of those living with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the small intestine fails to absorb nutrients due to a reaction to gluten. In response, the body sends antibodies to attack the small intestine, damaging its lining and impairing its ability to properly absorb food and nutrients.

The most common symptom of celiac disease is extreme digestive discomfort (bloating, gas, diarrhea and nausea) after ingesting gluten. However, this is not exclusive to anyone experiencing symptoms as it affects millions of people even if they don’t appear externally symptomatic. Research shows that those with celiac are four times more likely than average individuals to develop lymphoma or other cancers due to inability for nutritional absorption from a damaged intestine.

Gluten also damages more than just the digestive system for those suffering from celiac disease by having adverse effects on mental health; leading people who have such disorders as depression or anxiety having more difficulty controlling their symptoms without being able to properly digest food from their diet intake. Further research needs be done in order to make any conclusive statement linking mental health issues with gluten deficiencies but there have already been types seen among those living with celiac indicating possibility of strong association between an insufficient nutrient intake due to digestion problems caused by gluten.

Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is an immune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It can cause damage to the small intestine, leading to unpleasant symptoms like stomach pain, bloating, and diarrhea. People with an intolerance to gluten may experience an autoimmune reaction if they consume foods with gluten.

In this article, we’ll explore

  • how gluten damages the intestines
  • what steps can be taken to limit its effects.

Symptoms of gluten sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is a medical condition defined by an adverse reaction to the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity can range from mild to severe and may develop shortly after consuming food that contains gluten or several days later. Although the diagnosis rate of gluten sensitivity has increased in recent years, it remains underestimated due to its diverse range of symptoms.

Common symptoms of gluten sensitivity include:

  • bloating
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • stomach pain or cramps after consuming wheat-based products.

In some cases people experience mild headaches and fatigue. Paradoxically constipation can be alternating with diarrhea – a sign that a person could be intolerant to such foods as barley or rye. Those suffering from chronic inflammation pay particular attention when dealing with such problem as arthritis and joint or muscle pain – both are possible signs of autoimmune response triggered by regular intake of grains containing gluten.

Furthermore there is evidence linking undiagnosed celiac disease which is caused by long-term exposure to gluten, to systemic conditions such as anemia caused by the malabsorption of nutrients; this could signal that a person has more than just an allergy (gluten intolerance), but also an auto-immune disorder associated with celiac disease (gluten sensitivity).

It is highly recommended if you experience any type of chronic inflammatory disorder that you consult with your doctor before eliminating products containing gluten from your diet in order to rule out any other potential underlying conditions associated with them.

Diagnosis of gluten sensitivity

If a person suspects they have a gluten sensitivity, they should speak to their doctor. During the appointment, the doctor may order blood tests and/or an endoscopy to diagnose the condition.

A blood test can detect antibodies to gluten, indicating that the body is having an immune reaction to it. An endoscopy involves using a flexible tube with a camera at one end, which is fed down the throat and into the intestines. During the procedure, biopsies will be taken from inside of your intestine and can detect whether there is any damage from gluten in your intestines.

Depending on various factors such as severity of symptoms or diagnosis made by other tests like antibodies or imaging studies, other tests such as

  • thyroid function tests
  • stool exam for bacterial overgrowth

may also be recommended by your doctor.

Depending on the results of these tests, medical advice about adhering to an ongoing diet free of gluten will be provided in order to achieve optimum health. This can include getting rid of food sources containing any traces of gluten and supplementing with additional vitamins and minerals if necessary.

Gluten Intolerance

Gluten intolerance is a condition which affects millions of people around the world. It is caused by the inability to digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains. When someone with gluten intolerance eats gluten, it causes damage to their intestines, leading to a variety of digestive problems.

In this article, we’ll look at:

  • How gluten damages the intestines.
  • What the symptoms are.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance

Gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is an autoimmune disorder in which ingestion of the protein gluten found in wheat, barley and rye causes irritation and damage to the small intestine.

People suffering from gluten intolerance may experience a range of symptoms when they eat products containing gluten. These symptoms can include:

  • Digestive issues such as nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
  • Other symptoms of gluten intolerance such as fatigue, headache, skin rashes or irritations, joint pain and depression.
  • Chronic malnutrition due to an inability to properly absorb nutrients because of damage done to the intestines by gluten.

It is important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions or illnesses besides celiac disease. To determine whether you may have an intolerance for gluten it is best to consult a medical professional for testing and diagnosis.

Diagnosis of gluten intolerance

To diagnose a gluten intolerance, your doctor will use a combination of tests and procedures. To get the most accurate results, it is important to follow any dietary guidelines your doctor provides before any testing begins.

Common tests used to diagnose gluten intolerance include:

  • Blood testing to look for antibodies that are associated with the condition as well as genetic testing to determine if you have any of the genes known to be associated with its development.
  • Stool tests can also be used to identify inflammation or damage caused by eating gluten-containing foods.

More invasive procedures such as intestinal biopsies may also be ordered by your doctor. During an endoscopy, a sample of tissue from the small intestine is removed and tested for damage caused by gluten ingestion. If tissue samples show damage or inflammation, it can be an indication of a possible gluten intolerance.

Finally, it is important to remember that even though some people may experience digestive upset from eating foods containing gluten, they do not necessarily have a wheat allergy or celiac disease/non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Both conditions should be ruled out before making assumptions about dietary restrictions or treatments that should be implemented.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered when gluten is consumed. Gluten is found in foods containing wheat, rye and barley. When individuals with celiac disease consume gluten, their immune system creates antibodies that attack and damage the small intestine, which can cause a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms.

Let’s look at the details of how gluten damages the intestines in those with celiac disease:

Symptoms of celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine. It is caused by an adverse reaction to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease experience a variety of symptoms when they consume gluten. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and may affect the digestive system or other parts of the body.

Some common symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Changes in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation)
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling and numbness in the arms/legs/hands/feet caused by nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
  • Itchy skin rashes (dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Infertility

Symptoms may even vary over time as well as from person to person. In some cases, people with celiac disease may experience no obvious symptoms at all despite having long-term damage to their intestines.

Diagnosis typically involves blood tests to check for antibodies associated with celiac disease or a biopsy of the small intestine taken during an endoscopy procedure to check for damage to the villi – small finger-like projections that line its walls which help with absorption of nutrients.

Diagnosis of celiac disease

Celiac disease is typically diagnosed through a combination of serological testing, tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTG-IgA) blood tests and small-intestinal biopsy.

The blood tTG-IgA tests are used to help diagnose the presence of autoantibodies that are formed as part of an immune system response to gluten intake. A positive result for a tTG-IgA test may indicate the presence of celiac disease, although further testing is usually required to make a final diagnosis.

An endoscopy with small-intestinal biopsy is often required in order to conclusively diagnose celiac disease and determine the extent of intestinal damage caused by gluten exposure. Typically, four pieces of tissue from different locations along the small intestine will be taken during the procedure for evaluation in a laboratory setting. This can provide insight into the degree and pattern of inflammation or villous atrophy in damaged mucosa which may aid in diagnosis.

If left undiagnosed or untreated, celiac disease can lead to a wide range of long-term health complications such as infertility, neurological problems and various autoimmune disorders specific to symptoms consistent with malabsorption (vitamin deficiencies).

It’s important for those presenting with symptoms consistent with celiac disease—or its related conditions such as Dermatitis herpetiformis—to contact their healthcare practitioner immediately in order to receive an accurate diagnosis and begin individualized treatment protocols such as following an exclusion diet free from gluten consumption; if necessary—medical intervention.


Treating gluten-related disorders can involve dietary changes, medications, or both. Dietary changes can involve the elimination of gluten-containing foods from the diet, including wheat, barley, and rye. Medications may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and help improve symptoms.

Let’s explore the various treatment options available for people with gluten-related disorders:

Dietary changes

When someone is diagnosed with celiac disease, the primary focus of treatment is a gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all foods, drinks, and anything containing wheat, barley or rye. Eating food contaminated with even small amounts of the protein can have serious health implications. It’s important to learn which foods may contain hidden sources of gluten – even if the food label states that it’s gluten-free., for example oats can be contaminated with trace amounts if processed in a facility that also produces wheat products.

Though there is no cure for celiac disease, most people can manage their symptoms and avoid further damage to the intestines by strictly following a 100% gluten-free diet. It’s essential to get confirmation of your celiac disease diagnosis from a specialist and share your dietary needs with any healthcare providers you work with to ensure accuracy in treatment and follow up care.

It’s also important to note that celiac disease affects everyone differently. While some may only need to avoid consumption of all gluten, others may need to further limit their consumption of certain starches and sugars to ensure adequate nutrients from their diet or else suffer digestive or dermatological symptoms due to lack of proper nutrient absorption caused by ongoing damage in their small intestine due to continued exposure. With ongoing care and close monitoring, specific dietary limitations like these will become clearer and easier as progress is made in managing celiac disease symptoms successfully.


Medication is a key component of treatment for many mental health conditions. When used effectively, medications can help reduce the symptoms of mental illnesses and allow individuals to take an active role in managing their disorder. It is important to note that while medications are an effective component of treatment, they are often most effective when combined with other forms of treatment, such as therapy or lifestyle changes.

The range and types of medication available depend on the condition being treated. Commonly used medications include:

  • Antidepressants – These drugs are commonly prescribed to treat depression and help regulate moods, minimize feelings of hopelessness, improve sleep and reduce fatigue.
  • Antipsychotics – Used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and other psychotic disorders.
  • Anxiety Medications – Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed type of anti-anxiety medication. They work by reducing abnormal excitement in the brain and calming nerves.
  • Stimulants – Stimulant drugs like Ritalin or Adderall may be prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They can also provide relief from excessive fatigue or sleepiness due to narcolepsy or other sleeping disorders.
  • Mood Stabilizers – These drugs are typically used to treat bipolar disorder and help stabilize a person’s mood swings between extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression). Lithium is one common example of a mood stabilizer drug.


Supplements are often used to provide support and improve symptoms associated with gluten damage to the intestine. Some of the more common supplements recommended for gluten sensitivity include:

  • Vitamin D, essential for a healthy immune system and a healthy intestinal tract. Studies have linked low levels of vitamin D to increased risk of an autoimmune disorder like celiac disease.
  • Zinc, which plays a vital role in protecting the intestinal tract from damage by pathogens like bacteria or viruses.
  • Selenium, which helps reduce oxidative damage caused by gluten proteins.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation in the intestine and improve nutrient absorption.
  • Probiotics, beneficial bacteria that can help promote a healthy digestive system by restoring gut balance and aiding digestion. They also help break down gluten proteins and prevent them from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Digestive enzymes, which break down large molecules so that they can be absorbed more easily through the intestine wall into the bloodstream. This is particularly important for those with malabsorption because their bodies have difficulty breaking down food particles properly without extra support from supplemental enzymes.


When we consume food containing gluten, the body identifies it as a foreign invader and triggers an immune response, resulting in inflammation and damage to the cells of the intestines. In those with celiac disease, gluten triggers an autoimmune response that causes destruction of the villi in the small intestine, which results in impaired absorption of vitamins and minerals. In non-celiac gluten sensitivity, however, this autoimmune reaction is absent and may instead have a direct toxic effect on cells.

Therefore it is important to note that even without celiac disease, if someone has difficulty digesting gluten they should avoid consuming it to protect their digestive health.

The bottom line is that no matter what your level of sensitivity or intolerance for gluten is, consuming it can cause damage to your digestive system. When possible, it’s best to avoid consumption so you can minimize any long-term damage or further complications from occurring.