What's Gluten?

 July 21, 2014

   Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, barley, rye and related grains and used in cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations.  It's a combination of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. Gluten's binding quality enables it to stretch to form long elastic strands and gives dough an elastic quality with it's ability to rebound shape and keep it under pressure. 

They are Not the Same Grains Our Ancestors Ate

   Our basic diet evolved over the course of two million years. That original diet consisted primarily of wild plants, fruits, animal protein, and fats. The grains we consumed were wild grasses and their seeds. But humans ate them minimally due to the processing needed to make the seeds edible and because of a limited caloric return. That was in the beginning. But over time these wild grasses were developed though cultivation and farming. This transitioned hunter gatherers to an agricultural lifestyle, and led to ever increasing technology, rapid population growth, and the evolution of modern societies as we know them today.

   Grains offer some wonderful benefits as a food. Their caloric value is inexpensive, they provide the ability to feed a large number of people, and they can be stored for long periods of time. Grains play a significant role in the diet of most of the world's population and in most instances they are eaten without noticeable health effects. 

   We have been around for almost two million years but we have only been eating grains for a few thousand. As such, our bodies have not had the time to fully adapt to this relatively new food in our diet. Also, modern farming, harvesting, and processing methods strip grains of their nutritional integrity, decreasing their digestibility, often making them highly toxic and inflammatory for our bodies. Today’s grains are proving to be one of the major underlying contributors to the development of  the degenerative diseases of today.

What is Gluten Intolerance?

   Gluten intolerance occurs when the body cannot process the protein composite and the body's response can damage a person's intestines, preventing them from absorbing vital nutrients. If someone has a gluten intolerance, doctors typically recommend a gluten-free diet. Patients must avoid eating any foods and ingredients that contains gluten, including bread, beer, french fries, pasta, salad dressing, soy sauce and even some soups (unless otherwise marked as "gluten-free"). Recently, many people who don't suffer from gluten intolerance have taken up gluten-free diets.

   Those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity can't tolerate gluten and they experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease. These individuals, however, don't have the same antibodies and intestinal damage as those with celiac disease. Diarrehea, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, fogginess are a few of the reactions. 
Is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity the Same as Wheat Allergy? 

   No. Wheat allergy is a rare type of gluten intolerance — a classic food allergy marked by skin, respiratory or gastrointestinal reactions to wheat. Diagnosis is done with skin prick tests, wheat-specific IgE blood testing and a food challenge. Individuals who have gluten related symptoms but test negative for a wheat allergy might have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Celiac disease 

   Also known as coeliac disease, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It affects 1 in every 141 people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health and about 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed, at risk for long-term health complications. Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems such as Type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, short stature, and intestinal cancers.

Can I Lose Weight if I Go Gluten Free?

   Yes and no. People who go off gluten to lose weight sometimes end up gaining weight instead. When you consume gluten-free packaged products they are usually high in saturated fat, sugar and sodium just like other processed foods. These products often contain high-glycemic ingredients like white rice flour or fillers like potato starch that can affect your blood sugar and trigger cravings. Going gluten free unnecessarily will affect how your body takes in nutrients. Nutritional deficiency is another form of malnutrition effecting the body's ability to function properly.

   As in all situations talk with your physician before making any changes to eliminate gluten from your diet.