These days, just about everyone has seen or heard the word “gluten”, but few understand what it is and how it affects the body. This week I want to go back to the basics and explain all their is to know about gluten to hopefully help you better understand how this little protein is causing health problems of epic proportions.
WHAT IS GLUTEN?
1. The mixture of proteins, including gliadins and glutelins, found in wheat grains, which are not soluble in water and which give wheat dough its elastic texture.
2. Any of the simple plant proteins found in cereal grains, especially the protein molecules in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats, that cause digestive disorders such as celiac disease.
WHAT FOODS CONTAIN GLUTEN?
Any food products containing:
- Oats (these do not contain gluten on their own, but are commonly cross contaminated when processed. You can purchase gluten-free oats)
It is very important to read labels as many foods contain by-products of these grains. Here is a list of common foods that contain gluten:
- Cookies, cakes, cupcakes, muffins, etc.
- Soy sauce
You will find hidden gluten in these types of foods:
- Broth or Bullion
- Sauces and dressings
- Candy, ice cream
- Cured or processed meats and cheeses
- Fast food
- California Roll sushi (The fake shrimp is made with gluten as well as the soy sauce)
- More than 3 million people in the US suffer from celiac disease, which is approximately 1 in 133 people. However, more recent numbers suggest the number may be closer to 1 in 100. Either way, the more disturbing statistic is that only 1 in 4,700 have received an official diagnosis.
- More than one of every ten individuals with celiac disease (more than 10%) may develop one or more of the following conditions:
- Ataxia (see Gluten Ataxia)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Lactose Intolerance
- Liver Disease
- Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (Cancer)
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Osteomalacia or Low Bone Density
- Thyroid and Pancreatic Disorders
- Type I Diabetes
Anemia, Dermatitis, Migraines, and Osteoporosis are also common conditions suffered by Celiacs, and people with untreated celiac disease are at far greater risk of developing some form of gastrointestinal cancer than the average person (some numbers suggest they are more than 50 times likely to develop a GI cancer).
- 5% and 10% of all people may suffer from a gluten sensitivity of some form. recent findings indicate that many people with a gluten intolerance but not celiac disease may have a different form of disease altogether. The BMC Journal in early 2011 suggests that there is a form of gluten sensitivity that is medically different from celiac disease. And none of this takes into consideration the confusion over gluten allergy symptoms.
- It takes an average of 11 years for patients to be diagnosed with celiac disease. The average cost of a misdiagnosis is $5,000 – $12,000 per person per year.
- More than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It’s estimated that 99% of the people who have either gluten intolerance or celiac disease are never diagnosed.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF GLUTEN INTOLERANCE?
Gluten is an inflammatory food that triggers your immune system, rips up the gut, and in turn effects hormones, so your symptoms could be a wide variety of issues. However, there are some more common health ailments that people experience due to eating gluten. These include but are not limited to:
- Digestive Distress: constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, bloating, gas, abdominal pain.
- Pain in the body such as arthritic pain, inflammation and swelling, back pain, neck pain and stiffness, nerve pain, feet pain, joint pain.
- Autoimmune Disease such as such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis.
- Hormonal imbalance including PCOS, Thyroid disorder, adrenal fatigue or burnout, heavy prolonged cycles, amenorrhea (no menstrual cycle), severe cramps, abnormal or no ovulation, infertility.
- Chronic migraines or headaches
- Anxiety and/or depression or other mood disorders such as ADD (this is a HUGE connection!!!)
- Anemia and malnourishment
- Hair loss
- Acne, breakouts, rashes, and skin problems
- Allergies related to food or other allergens such as seasonal allergies
- Fatigue, brain fog, and lack of that mental edge.
- Restless legs
- Poor circulation
- Inability to gain OR lose weight
“There’s hardly a single organ system that is not in some way affected by wheat products. The health impact of Triticum aestivum, common bread wheat and its genetic brethren, ranges far and wide, with curious effects from mouth to anus, brain to pancreas, Appalachian housewife to Wall Street arbitrageur. If it sounds crazy, bear with me. I make these claims with a clear, wheat-free conscience.”
– William Davis, M.D. from the book “Wheat Belly”
Pretty unbelievable the damage that can be done from one little protein molecule, right? Imagine all the people suffering with these conditions, who are taking loads of medication when all they really need to do is clean up their diet!
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GLUTEN INTOLERANCE, GLUTEN SENSITIVITY, GLUTEN ALLERGY, AND CELIAC DISEASE?
The terminology these days between all of these different labels can get confusing. Here is the breakdown…
- GLUTEN INTOLERANCE
- Basically this is exactly what it sounds like…your body is “intolerant” to gluten, meaning it does not tolerate it well when exposed. Your body can’t digest it well leading to digestive issues after eating glutenous foods, and most likely is beginning to destroy your intestinal lining, which leads to “leaky gut syndrome” and if continued will further health ailments.
- GLUTEN SENSITIVITY
- This is very similar to gluten intolerance, but in most cases is considered a mild form of symptoms such as fatigue after eating gluten or slight bloating. Your body is “sensitive” to glutenous foods, but you haven’t been diagnosed with a full blown allergy.
- GLUTEN ALLERGY
- This is a diagnosis that comes from a medical doctor or a health care professional who performs an allergy test on you and it returns positive that your body (immune system) responds negatively to gluten and you actually have an allergic reaction to glutenous foods when you eat them. This can vary from mild to life threatening.
- CELIAC DISEASE
- Celiac Disease is the most serious of all forms of gluten issues and is classified as an autoimmune disease, which means, the body is actually attacking itself. People with celiac disease usually have minimal to no microvilli on their intestinal lining. Villi are little finger link structures that line the small intestine and are responsible for absorbing all minerals and nutrients from the foods we eat. Without villi, it is very difficult to absorb any nutrients, which is where a huge problem comes in for those with Celiac.
- It is widely and commonly believed that Celiac Disease is something one must live with for the rest of their life with no hope of ever living without it. I however, do not hold the same beliefs and have seen people become completely healed. This isn’t something I would work with a person one-on-one about to find the root cause of their disease and give them the tools they need to get the job done and restore their health. Exciting, right?! 🙂
WHY THE INCREASE IN GLUTEN & WHEAT PROBLEMS? JESUS ATE IT!
You see, my friend…the all-American wheat grain that this country is oh so proud of is a billion times different than the wheat grain from the Bible days. This is why even 100 years ago, people ate wheat and bread all the time, but obesity, heart disease, diabetes, infertility, and digestive disease were significantly lower than what they are now, because wheat has considerably changed into a genetic mystery of complex proportions.
- WHEAT ORIGINALLY CONTAINED 14 CHROMOSOMES AND NOW HAS 42
Bread and other foods made from wheat have sustained humans for centuries, but the wheat of our ancestors is not the same as modern commercial wheat that reaches your breakfast, lunch and dinner table. From the original strains of wild grass harvested by early humans, wheat has exploded to more than 25,000 varieties, virtually all of them the result of human intervention.
The first wild, then cultivated, wheat was einkorn, the great-granddaddy of all subsequent wheat. Einkorn has the simplest genetic code of all wheat, containing only 14 chromosomes.
Shortly after the cultivation of the first einkorn plant, the emmer variety of wheat, the natural offspring of parents einkorn and an unrelated wild grass, Aegilops speltvoides or goatgrass, made its appearance in the Middle East. Goatgrass added its genetic code to that of einkorn, resulting in the more complex twenty-eight-chromosome emmer wheat.
Emmer wheat, Dr. Davis explains, was probably the wheat of biblical times. Later the emmer wheat mated naturally with another grass and produced Triticum aestivum, the forty-two-chromosome wheat that humans consumed for centuries – right up until the past 50 years or so. That’s when the story of wheat becomes a bit of a modern Frankenstein tale. Modern wheat also known as “dwarf wheat” was created by a geneticist, Dr. Normal Borlaug with the intention of feeding a starving world. Although his intentions seemed good, this form of spliced, diced, and reformulated wheat was never tested for human consumption.
- GENETIC MODIFICATION
- Unfortunately for years now, our modern everyday wheat has been the offspring of a lab, pesticides, herbicides, and scientists. In fact, today’s wheat literally can’t survive in a natural setting. Take away the modern pesticides and fertilizers and it will quickly die.
Perhaps overjoyed at the prospect of the feeding the world, the developers of modern wheat varieties weren’t interested in conducting tests to see if these genetically-modified strains were actually fit for human consumption. Dr. Davis believes they’re not. At the very least, we’re now consuming wheat that’s genetically different from what our ancestors consumed:
Analyses of proteins expressed by a wheat hybrid compared to its two parent strains have demonstrated that while approximately 95 percent of the proteins expressed in the offspring are the same, five percent are unique, found in neither parent. Wheat gluten proteins, in particular, undergo considerable structural change with hybridization. In one hybridization experiment, fourteen new gluten proteins were identified in the offspring that were not present in either parent plant. Moreover, when compared to century-old stains of wheat, modern strains of Triticum aestivum express a higher quantity of genes for gluten proteins that are associated with celiac disease.
Hybridization efforts of the past fifty years have generated numerous additional changes in the gluten-coding genes in Triticum aestivum, most of them purposeful modifications of the “D” genome that confer baking and aesthetic characteristics on flour. It is therefore the the “D” genome of modern Triticum aestivum that, having been the focus of all manner of shenanigans by plant geneticists, has accumulated substantial changes in genetically determined characteristics of gluten proteins.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A GLUTEN PROBLEM?
The absolute BEST and CHEAPEST way to find out how gluten is affecting you is to remove it. With the dangers of GMO foods and the unfortunate reality that wheat these days rips up the digestive tract, and ultimately leads to health problems, I wouldn’t recommend eating gluten for anyone. Even if you currently don’t have any of these symptoms, unfortunately with the way our food supply is going, eventually you probably will, and it’s not worth it to wait until the doctor bills begin to add up.
It’s CRITICAL to remember when “testing” your body’s response to gluten that you do so 100% and know exactly what you’re putting in your body. If you have 1 cracker during the testing period, it will throw off your results, because yes, just that much can have an impact.
You can also have a blood test done through a local healthcare provider such as a chiropractor or naturopath to see what food allergies you currently have. And lastly, those who believe they have Celiac disease can choose to have a biopsy done of the small intestine to confirm the results. ***HOWEVER*** These results are not definitive. Many people DO have Celiac, but the biopsy came back negative.
SO, as you can see, the easiest and cheapest way to avoid all of this is simply to remove gluten from your diet and stick to gluten free alternatives. To learn more on how to do that stay tuned for tomorrow’s post! In the mean time take a look around my site for gluten-free recipes!
In Health, Hope, & Happiness,