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. This 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 soluable in processsed 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?
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 are also reactionary proteins that may lead to health issues.
Which grains are gluten free?
Quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and rice.
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….
Some common cross reactant foods
Although these foods do not contain gluten per se, they are similar enough to cause the immune system to react.
- Corn: Some studies site up to 70%. Consider corn starch and syrup as well!
- Dairy: 50% of people who are sensitive to gluten are also dairy sensitive
- Coffee: Yikes!
- 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.
How does gluten affect our health?
Undigested proteins cause an immune system response that causes the small intestine to become inflamed and irritated allowing metabolic and microbial toxins to flood into the blood stream. This overloads the liver, the lymph system, immune and endocrine systems, and may 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 but may present as symptoms throughout the body. And since gluten produces gluteomorphines which likes to attach to the same receptor as opiate drugs, it has been found to be highly addictive.
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. A gluten intolerance does not involve the immune system and is categorized as anything that affects the assimilation and absorption of gluten. It is interesting to note that 99% of those with gluten sensitivity and intolerance are unaware they have it.
Which area of the body gets most affected by grains such as wheat?
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, memory issues, depression, OCD, bipolar, etc.
What is the best way to test for gluten intolerance?
The most effective method is a 6 week elimination diet. Keep in mind that due to withdrawal symptoms, removing gluten may cause many folks to feel worse for awhile. Other methods include AK testing, Cocoa pulse testing, and advanced food allergy testing through Cyrex Labs. Other forms of blood testing may not prove reliable (about a 30% accuracy rate) given the fact they only test for one subset of one protein type (there are actually lots more). Detection via biopsy has its own host of issues.