Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains. The two main gluten proteins are glutenin and gliadin. Wheat is the most common grain that contains gluten.
Many people can tolerate gluten without any problems. People with coeliac disease, gluten sensitivities, wheat allergies and other conditions can really struggle to digest it though and is can wreak havoc across the body.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the villi in the intestines. It effects around 1% of people. Not everyone gets digestive upset symptoms with coeliac disease. Some people may feel tired and have anaemia instead. It can be hard to diagnose because of this. You can read more specific information about coeliac disease here.
Non - Coeliac gluten sensitivity
Many people react badly to gluten but don`t test positive for coeliac disease. Symptoms of sensitivity can include:
Auto immune diseases
Nervous system imbalances
Why is gluten a problem?
Gluten is the sticky substance that makes dough stretchy. That sticky substance adheres to our gut wall and causes problems with our microbiome. It also causes inflammation in the gut and can cause bloating, gas, tummy ache and constipation.
Gluten weakens the protective mucosal gut lining. Large, unbroken gluten proteins and toxins can leak through gaps in the gut wall into the bloodstream. The body sees these unbroken proteins as foreign invaders, which can trigger an antibody immune response and inflammation. This can contribute to a condition called intestinal permeability - also known as Leaky Gut.
Unbroken gluten proteins in the bloodstream can trigger an immune attack on many differing parts of the body, in particular the thyroid. Not only this but when we are trying to balance our blood sugar, wheat can raise insulin more than sugar.
Gluten sensitivity is often silent in early stages, with few identifiable symptoms until adulthood. It triggers biological responses in everybody, but not everyone has reactions to it. Gluten is a chemoattractant for neutrophils (immune cells), so there is always a level of inflammation in the body with diets containing gluten. Gluten contains opioids and opiates when broken down. These have shown to interfere with the action of natural killer cells who`s role it is to patrol the body on the look out for cells that may have become damaged and are reproducing damaged cells. These cells can become cancerous. Natural killer cells will destroy these cells when they find them.
Gluten is also known to hinder the profusion of blood into the brain, leaving individuals feeling groggy, fuzzy headed and suffering with brain -fog and forgetfulness. For the same reason, it can also aggravate ADHD and any condition of the central nervous system.
Identifying Gluten in Foods
Gluten is found in many foods, so if you have been told you need to avoid it, you will need to get into the practice of reading labels carefully. Gluten is found in the following grains:
You also need to avoid the following products which contain gluten:
• Shampoos • Lip balms, • Stamps and envelopes (that you lick), • Cosmetics • Play-doh, • Some vitamins and supplements • Lipsticks, • Medications HECK labels for medications and supplements Alternatives to gluten: You can safely eat the following and any products made from these foods:
Alternatives to gluten based breads (available from good health food shops and some supermarkets):
Dietary Specials (sells many gluten free products – the Brown Multigrain Sliced Loaf is good). Available from large Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons and from www.goodnessdirect.co.uk
Artisan Bread Organic (www.artisanbread-abo.co.uk). Sells some delicious gluten free breads such as quinoa, buckwheat or rice bread. Available from good health food shops and can also be bought online.