Nowadays the word ‘gluten’ is associated with non-healthy lifestyle.
Why simple bread that for generations people used to eat and enjoy is getting such a bad reputation?
Why more and more people all over the world become gluten intolerant or sensitive?
Why more and more dietitians or nutritionists recommend excluding gluten from their patient’s diets?
For this reason, gluten-free diets (including, the paleo diet) are getting more and more popular among people who suffer from digestion problems.
On top of that almost every grocery store nowadays offers gluten-free products. The food companies picked up the trend and produce foods with the ‘gluten-free’ labels on the packages.
Are these foods truly better than bread?
To answer all these questions lets look closely at why gluten became an enemy of our bodies and how does the gluten affect our body?
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a type of protein consisted of gliadin and glutenin and is presented in grains such as wheat, spelt, rye, barley, semolina, and kamut (1).
Gluten is widely used in baking, as it gives the dough its sticky texture and provide pastry its fluffy look.
It is also widely used as a stabilizer in the food industry and can be found as an ingredient on almost every package of processed foods.
It also can be found in beauty products and even in some medication and supplement products.
What Is Wrong With The Gluten?
Generally, there is nothing wrong with the wheat itself, though with the one that was used to be cultivated many years ago.
In the modern food industry, the demand for wheat increased significantly. In order for the crops to grow faster and being bug resistant, the grains were hybridized. What it means is that the modification led to the new type of protein to be developed that was not presented in any of the original wheat crops.
These newly created components are the main cause of increased inflammation, higher rates of celiac disease to patients and other types of gluten intolerance.
Did you know that for the past 50 years the number of patients suffering from the gluten intolerance increased drastically?
In a 2009 study research showed that the celiac disease has increased 6 times over the past 50 years!
On top of that, we are surrounded by the fast food restaurants or pre-packaged meals that are widely advertised to us as a quick meal solution. And considering that wheat is added to almost every processed food, we consume it way more compared with our ancestors.
What Happens When We Eat Gluten?
Whenever gluten-laden food reaches the small intestine, an intestinal enzyme known as tissue transglutaminase is released. This enzyme degrades the gluten into its component parts – gliadin and glutenin.
As the meal passes through the digestive system, the gut-associated lymphoid tissue screens the meal to be sure that it is free of harmful substances.
In people who are not allergic to gluten, the process is concluded without any hitch and absorption of food takes place.
However, in those who are sensitive to gluten, the gut-associated lymphoid tissue detects gliadin as a harmful substance and sends antibodies in its direction.
In people with celiac disease, the antibodies attack not only gliadin but also the tTG enzyme. This enzyme has many roles in the body but the most important is protecting the integrity of the microvilli.
Absorption of nutrients occurs through the wall of the intestines, and the greater the surface area, the faster absorption takes place. It is similar to soaking up a bath towel and a paper towel. One would have more absorptive capacity than the other.
Once gliadin attempts an attack on the tTG, the microvilli could atrophy or erode thus decreasing its absorptive capacity and resulting in the leaky nature of the intestinal walls. The physical manifestation of this includes digestive disorders such as:
- Weight loss
- Malabsorption of fat
- Malnutrition etc.
How Does Gluten Cause Leaky Gut?
One of the main functions of the cells lined the intestinal walls is to regulate intestinal permeability.
If you are sensitive to gluten, it can cause the gut cells to release a protein called zonulin that may break apart the tight junctions that in its turn holds your intestines together. Once that connection is broken you are getting a leaky gut.
Why Do Gluten Intolerance and Autoimmune Disease Go Side By Side?
When you have a leaky gut, toxins, undigested food particles, microbes and antibodies escape from the intestines and travel in your body through the bloodstream.
The antibodies apart from attacking tTG enzyme would also attack other organs and systems in your body. That is the main reason why gluten intolerant people would also have autoimmune decease paired with it.
Gluten Sensitivity Comes With Its Attendant Problems
Apart from gluten sensitivity, inflammation, autoimmune disease etc gluten may also be the cause of the following health problems:
Wheat germ agglutinin
Wheat-germ agglutinin is a protein found in wheat. It is an inflammatory and immune disruptor.
However, it is quite different from gluten.
Wheat germ agglutinin can trigger an inflammatory response in the cells of the gut thus disrupting the guts’ immune system and increasing its permeability to toxins.
This is totally different from the gluten problem.
Ideally, wheat germ agglutinin and gluten come as a package as they are both found in wheat. However, one may have issues with wheat germ agglutinin even if he had no reaction to a gluten elimination challenge.
There is an increased vulnerability to diabetes
Wheat gluten is a major trigger of Type 1 diabetes. In a particular study, it was discovered that a gluten-free diet fed to mice caused a reduction in the rate of Type 1 diabetes in their offspring.
Evidence also abound that breastfeeding children reduce the rate of type 1 diabetes. This would make more impact if the problem were from gluten because breastfeeding delays the introduction of gluten to the baby.
Damage to the gut biome
The gut biome, also known as the microbiota is a collection of all beneficial bacteria present in the gut. They play a role in immune system regulation, control of intestinal permeability, digestion of food, production of vitamin K2 and other nutrients, and transmission of hunger and satiety signals to the brain.
However, the gut microbiome and gluten are not friends. People with celiac disorders have issues with their gut flora. These issues are resolved to a significant level when gluten is eliminated from the diet.
Are The Gluten-Free Products Better?
As gluten gets its bad reputation, the food producers picked up the trend and started to produce ‘gluten-free’ products.
Are there products better than gluten after all?
Considering that most of the grain crops are genetically modified (like corn or rice), it does not really matter whether you buy bread or gluten-free product.
Both will probably not be the true healthiest choice.
If you would like to feel healthier and help your digestive system healing, exclude gluten and grains for at least 30 days and see how your overall health improve.
You can find more information on how you could substitute grains and gluten over here.