Could Gluten Be The Villian

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I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I don’t think any of us can really tolerate gluten grains particularly well. I just believe and see it backed up with clinical experience that a wheat/gluten free diet tends to contribute to good health. Just because you can get away with gluten better than a celiac or someone with gluten sensitivity doesn’t mean you should very often.

Now, wheat itself is not the whole problem, because a portion of our recent ancestors ate wheat and lived relatively free of our modern ailments. No, it is the wheat gluten which is the main culprit in this story. Some of you may be wondering what gluten is. You might think: “I see ‘gluten-free’ all over the grocery store on a bunch of packages, but have no idea if it is really any healthier. Why or if it should be avoided” Well, gluten is not only in wheat, but also barley, rye, and (controversially) oats. Gluten is the protein in these grains. If you’ve checked the supermarket lately the gluten free range is growing at an excessive rate, much larger than the cases of diagnosed celiac disease, so someone’s buying it!

Unfortunately, many years ago we began to hybridize wheat and other grains to have more of this protein so that they would be “elastic” and make things like our bread fluffier  If these grains have more “elastic stuff”  this “elastic” is gluten, when we split that down further we get gliadin.

Wheat flour, with its drastically increased amount of gluten, is in reality much like a big mass of Paper Mache glue in our bellies (remember when you were a kid and made Paper Mache balloons, well that’s kinda what’s happening in your stomach when you eat loads of bread)

Depending on your level of sensitivity the immune system perceives this leftover gunk as a foreign invader and begins to attack not only the “paper mache”, but the lining of the digestive tract. The immune system starts to react and many people experience ailments due to the immune response at the intestinal lining.

Gluten itself can contribute to leaky gut disease and in turn to autoimmune conditions.

One of glutens components, is called gliadin, that when introduced to epithelial cells, in the gut, it induces zonulin (What’s zonulin? although it sounds like a villain from a 80’s video game it’s a natural substance that creates the tight gap junctions in our gut to open).  And this, again, happens to everybody. 

The difference between everybody and the people that develop a problem with gluten like celiac disease and Gluten sensitivity is that larger amounts of zonulin are excreted in response to gliadin allowing a flood of foods, both digested and partially digested,  and microbes pass through the gut barrier (remember this happens to everyone, just in larger amounts for some).

For some people this can be a driving force in autoimmune disease. In fact this is one of the reasons I take all of my patients that have autoimmune tendencies, especially thyroid disorders, off gluten immediately. I am yet to see someone who didn’t experience some improvement to their autoimmune condition with strict gluten removal.

So what do you eat?

Breads and other wheat/gluten products do not provide us with enough nutrients to balance these other cons. Caution should also be exercised when buying GF products as many of them are highly processed with little to no fibre and high GI load,  and as such should not make up the bulk of your daily diet.

 There are plenty of other foods which are so much more beneficial and delicious, such as fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds, and lean proteins.

I encourage people to eat what I call “Real Food” things that are not out of a packet that still look like they did when they grew! Seeds such as chia and quinoa are a great alternative to gluten grains; both are high in fibre and protein and are easy to digest.

For special treats nut-meals bake into delicious cakes. Coconut flour is very high in fibre and can also provide a wonderful alternative in baking. See the photo of my Flour-less orange and almond cake with seasonal edible flowers.

Why don’t you try going Gluten/Wheat free for a month and see how you feel.

FOODElla Doyle