Zonulin the Leaky Gut Modulator Triggers Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes

What’s the link between a leaky gut, our genes and autoimmunity?


These amazing bodies of ours engage in a marvelous interplay between our genes, environment and our choices. The science of epigenetics brings good news that we control the expression of our genes by the daily choices we make in what we eat and the habits we choose to engage in. Every day we choose life or degeneration and death. Let’s choose life.


In order to choose life we need knowledge and wisdom to make healthy choices. Sometimes we first need to understand what’s gone wrong to lead us to enlightenment about choosing what’s right for us.


Researchers at the Maryland School of Medicine share their discoveries about disruption in proper intestinal tract function that leads to a leaky gut, its effect on triggering autoimmunity and genetic expression.


Does an autoimmune disease condemn you to a lifelong attack of self-destruction of your tissues?

Does your genetic inheritance determine your fate?


No! Thankfully there’s help and hope for these difficult to treat diseases. Science reveals the link between the leaky gut, genes and the environment that trigger diseases like celiac disease and Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).


And you can prevent these diseases and other autoimmune or degenerative disease by paying attention to what causes them in the first place.


So first let’s look at how a messed up gut enters into this picture.


Traditionally we’ve been taught that the intestinal tract digests and absorbs nutrients and balances electrolyte and water regulation. But more recently scientists have uncovered another vital function.

The gut acts as a barrier to large molecules (macromolecules) passing into the blood stream.


With optimal digestion of the food we eat the intestinal tract breaks the protein completely into the component amino acids, small molecules that are meant to pass through the tight junctions of the intestinal cell walls for access to the blood stream where they are whisked away to the tissues that need them. Optimally the same complete breakdown process occurs with carbohydrates turning into glucose, and fats becoming small fatty acids that properly gain access to the blood stream.


Unfortunately our modern lives and diets stress the digestive abilities of our gut and consequently larger particles of food (macromolecules) gain access to the blood stream and then our tissues via a leaky gut. Our immune systems engage these macromolecules as something foreign and sound the alarm to initiate the inflammatory response to get rid of these foreign invaders. As this process becomes chronic our bodies “light up” with this ongoing attack on our own tissues from the fall out of the inflammatory process.


We might tolerate some incomplete digestion of food if the tight junctions between the intestinal cells remained tight. Those macromolecules would simply float on down the digestive tract and out with the next bowel movement.

Leaky Gut Diagram

Diagram from http://therealfoodguide.com/do-you-have-a-leaky-gut/


Diagram from  http://therealfoodguide.com/do-you-have-a-leaky-gut/


Zonulin, a protein, modulates the intestinal tight-junction barrier. Zonulin opens the junctions between the cells lining the gut just enough to allow nutrients access to the blood but not so much that macromolecules gain access to the internal environment of the body. It’s like the policeman at the gate letting the good guys in and keeping the bad guys out.


In a genetically susceptible individual deregulation of the precise zonulin gatekeeper function allows macromolecules through the gate. Then the fireworks start creating inflammation with the consequent spin off of the attack on the body’s own tissues, i.e. autoimmunity. This attack occurs on the intestines as well as the other body tissues and can even lead to cancer.


The answer to overcoming this autoimmunity disorder lies in reestablishing the intestinal tight junction barrier that depends on proper regulation via zonulin, an area of ongoing research.[1]


The discoveries of zonulin’s role in the development of celiac disease and Type 1 Diabetes (Juvenile Diabetes) helps us understand the role of zonulin in triggering the leaky gut in these two disease processes.


Continued in part 2, Leaky Gut Triggers Celiac Disease and Diabetes Type 1



Dr. Jo



1. http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/55/5/1443.long

2. Ann N Y Acad Sci. May 2009; 1165: 195–205.

doi:  10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04037.x


3. Physiol Rev. 2011 Jan;91(1):151-75. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00003.2008.


About Dr. Jo

Dr. JoDr. Jo delights in sharing the message of health. She believes disease is optional if you know how to take care of yourself. And she’s a great coach to help you reverse or prevent disease.

So she writes this blog to keep you up to date with information that may undermine your health if you are not aware of it. She also provides tips on healthy living, how to reverse degenerative diseases, delicious recipes, and ways to enjoyably change your habits to healthy ones.

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