We have all been hearing that gluten may be harmful to your health, but why? Haven’t we been consuming bread for thousands of years? The problem may not with gluten itself, but due to the fact that we have changed the grains our ancestors consumed in such a way that they may have become “foreign” to our bodies.
Why is gluten not the same gluten our grandparents ate?
It is mainly due to hybridization to increase crop yield. One study found that in hybridized wheat, fourteen new gluten proteins were identified in offspring that were not present in either parent.
Coupled with the findings showing these new strains resulting in up to a 500 fold increase in the gluten component of wheat and fact that most of these new strains have never been through any type of safety testing, this can’t be good!
Other reasons for gluten sensitivity may include:
- Introduction of GMO foods
- Gluten deamidation which makes gluten water soluble for processed foods
- Storage in bins for long periods of time leading to enterotoxin contamination
- Hygiene hypothesis
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Chronic stress
- Poor nutrition and overexposure
- Dysbiosis or unbalanced intestinal flora
- Enzyme insufficiency
- Timing of gluten exposure in infants
What is gluten?
Gluten is latin for “glue”. If you washed away the fiber and starch from a gluten containing grain, you would be left with gluten. It is used to provide “fluff”, elasticity, texture, shape and binding power to baked products.
Where is gluten found?
Grains that are part of the Aveneae family contain gluten.
In addition to gluten (which is made up of subgroups of gliadins and glutenin proteins), transglutaminase enzymes, deaminated gliadin, and lectins–which can be reactionary proteins.
What foods contain gluten?
In addition to wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, barley, triticale, and bulgur, there may be many hidden food sources such as..
- Soy and teriyaki sauce
- Food starches
- Food emulsifiers
- Food stabilizers
- Artificial food coloring
- Malt extract, flavor, syrup
- Candy coatings
- Glue on envelopes and stamps
- Salad dressing and condiments
- Nuts processed in a grain factory
- Some hair care products
- Think any processed food!!
- And more….
Contrary to popular belief, corn also contains a form of gluten.
Which grains are gluten free?
Quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and rice.
Some foods “cross react” with gluten
Although these foods do not contain gluten per se, they are similar enough to cause the immune system to react.
- Dairy: 50% of people who are sensitive to gluten are also dairy sensitive
- Oats: Must be specific from a gluten free facility. Oats are the closest related cereal species to wheat (Triticum spp). A recent study verified that from 109 sources of oats, 85 had unacceptable levels of gluten.
- It is always important to check for all grains especially those in which you never eat. Rice might be the least allergenic grain.
- And more. See Cyrex Las Array 4.
How does gluten affect my health?
Undigested proteins initiate an immune system response that causes the small intestine to become inflamed allowing metabolic and microbial toxins to flood into the blood stream. This can overwhelm the liver, the lymph system, immune and endocrine systems, and might even lead to autoimmunity.
Gluten has been linked in the literature to 55 diseases so far, and not just against the gut……
- Nervous System and Brain
- Circulatory system
- Mitochondria to name a few….
Given this, reactions to gluten may not be just the expected gastrointestinal ones. For those with gluten sensitivity, only 1 in 30 have issues with digestion. The most prevalent issue is neurological affecting the brain and peripheral nervous system which can leads to symptoms such as headache, vertigo, depression, anxiety, memory issues, etc.
Additionally, gluten produces gluteomorphines which attaches to the same receptor as opiate drugs, making it highly addictive.
Is there genes that make me more sensitive to gluten?
There are a few genes such as HLA and KIAA1109 that might one more sensitive to gluten. There is also an associated genetic link to Celiac and other autoimmuny.
The HLA genes are part of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). The MHC is a group of genes that code for proteins found on the surfaces of cells that help the immune system recognize foreign substances. In humans the complex is also called the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system.
Each of us has two copies of HLA DQ, one from each parent. There are 9 types of DQ. The subtype called HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8is are often associated with Celiac disease. Approximately 97% of individuals with celiac disease have either the HLA-D2Q or HLA-DQ8, compared to 40% of the general population (NIH, 2006).
You can have gluten sensitivity without the gene for celiac disease, but it is very rare for people with celiac disease not to carry these genes.
What is the difference between Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and gluten intolerance?
Celiac disease affects 3 million American and involves an immediate immune system reaction (IgE).
Gluten sensitivity affects 30 million Americans and involves a delayed immune reaction. It is interesting to note that 99% of those with gluten sensitivity and intolerance are unaware they have it.
A gluten intolerance does not involve the immune system and is categorized as anything that affects the assimilation and absorption of gluten.
What is the best way to test for gluten issues?
The most effective method is a 1-2 month elimination diet. Keep in mind that due to withdrawal symptoms, removing gluten may cause many folks to feel worse initially.
Other methods include Cocoa pulse testing and advanced food sensitivity testing through Cyrex Labs Array 3—which test for 32 components and enzymes associated with gluten.
Cyrex labs Array 4 also tests for potential cross reactive foods. Other forms of sensitivity testing may not prove as reliable and have been found to have about a 30% accuracy rate.