22 August, 2015
The Truth About Gluten- Why Is it A Problem For Some People?
I have been thinking of writing this post for a long time, since some readers ask me why I post recipes labeled “gluten free” in this blog.
Is gluten-free diet just a trend or fad? Is there more to it? Read on…
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the protein (a long chain of amino acids) contained in grains: wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, etc.
There are 3 terms that one needs to know in connection to gluten:
1. Celiac disease:
This is an autoimmune disorder meaning one’s own immune system attacks healthy tissue, mistakenly. In celiacs, the immune system gets triggered by gluten to attack the lining of the intestine. This results in severe digestive pain and the damaged intestinal wall will not be able to absorb crucial nutrients. Although blood tests and symptoms can provide clues, this can be diagnosed only by endoscopy and biopsy of the upper intestinal tissue. There is only one effective treatment for it: complete avoidance of gluten.
2. Wheat allergy:
This is quite rare. It involves the production of antibodies immunoglubulin E (IgE) and mast cells in response to any of the 27 allergenic components in wheat.This can trigger symptoms including hives, wheezing, swelling of face, vomiting or in severe cases, decrease in blood pressure or anaphylactic shock.
3. Gluten Intolerance/ Sensitivity:
This is a relatively new term about which a lot research is being done. There are people who experience bloating and other digestive issues after consuming wheat containing products. The symptoms may happen even 24-48 hours after eating it (yes, it is true!). Not a life-threatening issue. This is a difficult condition to diagnose, because there is still no fool-proof medical test to point to it (they can give false negative results).
The only certain way to determining an intolerance to gluten, is by following an elimination diet: completely going gluten-free for 3 months and then reintroducing it to see if the symptoms re-occur. Sometimes even dairy products have to be avoided completely, as there is a cross reaction.
Some nutrition experts believe that one in 3 people is intolerant to gluten!
Auto Immune Disorders and Gluten Sensitivity
Here’s what is more interesting:
Anybody with an autoimmune condition, including:
- Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism (or even pre-clinical hypothyroidism, where TSH levels are normal but there are low-thyroid symptoms
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
is supposed to be intolerant to gluten. In addition to mild digestive issues, those with gluten sensitivity may also experience brain fog, extreme tiredness after consuming a meal with gluten.
Would you eat something that would make you feel sick? I would not!
I am not saying that everybody just needs to take gluten out of their diet and see if it may solve their health problems. This is a good idea when one suspects:
- an immune system dysfunction,
- a leaky gut (80% of the immune system resides in the gut!),
- has an auto-immune disorder or is predisposed to one
There are experts who believe that gluten is inflammatory for everyone, and can make ALL chronic illnesses worse. That is probably true. After strictly following a diet of elimination, if one feels better, there is not much doubt that it is a contributing factor. It may be better to stay that way.
That being said, I do not say that a diet devoid of wheat is good enough. There has to be a good mix of whole grains, vegetables and other whole foods. Many gluten-free products out there are NOT very healthy. They are laden with starch, sugar and other additives that are not good for anybody with or without a leaky gut. In order for someone on a gluten-free diet to eat healthy, they still need to select minimally processed food with no artificial colors and flavors.
Here is a good link to find out if you could have gluten intolerance:
More than 2 years ago, I realized I have an intolerance for gluten, and keep it out of my diet, as much as possible.