Ever heard of zonulin? Although it sounds like a sinister space invader, zonulin is actually a protein made by the body. In a healthy person, the cells that line the inside of the intestines are packed very closely together. Fittingly, these places where the cells meet are called ‘tight junctions.’ It is important for proper digestion that the tight junctions don’t let anything slip between the cells, so that food particles are broken down and taken into the body properly.

Enter zonulin. When there is too much zonulin, it causes intestinal permeability. The tight junctions open up more than usual, and larger protein complexes which have not been properly digested, as well as other things like bacteria, are able to make their way into the body’s circulation. This leads to all sorts of problems, including increased inflammation throughout the body.

Scientists have discovered that too much zonulin can not only lead to intestinal permeability, but can also play a part in autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes and Crohn’s disease, as well as celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), irritable bowel syndrome, and others.

Zonulin also has an effect on the brain by compromising the so-called blood-brain barrier. Of course, proper brain chemistry is essential, but if your body is making too much zonulin, proteins and chemicals are getting into your brain that shouldn’t be, and that spells trouble.

A new serum zonulin test is now available to easily test for intestinal permeability, a key factor in a variety of autoimmune and gastrointestinal conditions, as well as brain or central nervous system challenges. If you suffer from an autoimmune condition, or a brain or central nervous system disorder, you may want to ask your doc about having your zonulin level tested. It’s a simple in-and-out blood draw. Voila!