Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is what gives dough it’s stretch and ability to rise (when interacting with yeast). It is also used as a filler and thickener agent in certain products such as marinades, gravies, sauces, condiments, processed meats, and canned soups. Did you know that restaurant scrambled eggs even have gluten in them?! A lot of times they add pancake batter to their pancakes to bulk them up and make them fluffy. But that is no good for your gut.
So, what is the trouble with gluten?
Being gluten-free is considered by many to be a “fad” diet, but extensive research has been done to prove the detrimental effects of gluten on every human body. According to Dr. Tom O’Bryan, a leading authority on gluten sensitivity, and who wrote the book The Autoimmune Fix, “The problem with gluten is that no human can digest it.”
Dr. Alessio Fasano has also done comprehensive research on the subject of gluten, and specifically on how gluten effects the body. He found that, “…if you take the hydrochloric acid in the human stomach and you put it in a little vial, then you put your finger in the vial, it eats your finger to the bone in one minute. One minute! You put some gluten in that vial, it (stomach acid) won’t digest the gluten. When you eat gluten, it is not digestible. It’s supposed to be broken down into very small molecules called individual amino acids or 2 or 3 together a dipeptide or tripeptide and that gets absorbed very easily into the blood stream through the intestines but you can’t break it down into dipeptides or tripeptides.”
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When we eat protein, the digestive system will break down that protein into 1, 2 or at most 3 amino acid peptides that are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. The gluten molecules of wheat, rye, and barley are not digested into those small enough molecules. They remain in larger sizes, sometimes very large, and these macromolecules trigger an immune system response because they aren’t recognized by the body in such large form.
With repeated exposure to these large molecules from toast, pancakes, bread, pastries, cereal, condiments, sauces, pasta, croutons and the like, you hit a critical stage internally. Your body starts sending signals of distress by way of symptoms.
It is important to note here, that these symptoms are not restricted to the intestines. It won’t just be stomach pains or bloating alerting you to a problem. Eating gluten will trigger an immune response, leading to inflammation that can be in any part of the body.
Some extra-intestinal symptoms include: anxiety, brain fog, vertigo, headaches and migraines, motion sickness, chronic aches and pains, fatigue, and even nerve pain.
At this point, you might make your way to the doctor who will run tests, but will you get accurate results? My son, Matthew, didn’t. Too many doctors tell their patients that if the symptoms they are having are not severe, or if there is no advanced intestinal damage (such as total villous atrophy) then you don’t need to worry about avoiding gluten. Unless they find completely worn-down villi, you are told that you do not have Celiac Disease and therefore you do not need to avoid gluten, because gluten is not the problem.
Celiac Disease is an allergy to gluten, and those with Celiac Disease do have completely worn-down villi. However, with gluten sensitivity (sometimes called gluten intolerance), you do not have completely worn-down villi so your intolerance to gluten will be over-looked, even dismissed. But the toxic peptides of gluten act as a trigger in the auto-immune mechanism whether or not you have worn-down villi. Remember, it is the large molecules that initiate the problem. The worn-down villi is a result of the problem.
My advice: the symptoms are signals, messengers, from the body. No matter where they come from, they should not be ignored. Recognize it, and catch it early.
In an excerpt from The Autoimmune Fix by Dr Tom O’Bryan, he states:
“…gluten is a primary trigger of inflammation, which activates the genes for intestinal permeability, and the development of the autoimmune spectrum. All people have a problem digesting the toxic gluten peptides from wheat, rye, and barely, whether or not they have symptoms when they eat it. We mistakenly believe that if we don’t ‘feel’ bad when we eat something, we do not have a problem with that food. We do not associate the headache we woke up with this morning – or our high blood pressure or our brain fog or lack of ability to think in school – with the food we ate yesterday.”
For some, as in the case of my son, the messages did come from the gut. However, gluten reactive patients can notice symptoms on the skin (dermatitis, psoriatic arthritis, eczema), the brain (altered neurotransmitter production, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, ADHD), or even the nerves (carpal tunnel, idiopathic neuropathies).
Pathology to gluten exposure can occur in multiple systems without any evidence of intestinal damage. The tests will come back negative, as they did in my son’s case. Since the comprehensive testing has been done showing that no one can digest gluten, it is a safe bet that if you are eating gluten containing foods, you are introducing large molecules into your bloodstream, initiating an immune response, and slowly but surely wearing down your intestinal villi and increasing your intestinal permeability.
A lot of doctors do not recognize this connection and tend to wait for the accumulated damage of this immune system attack on our tissues, when damage is extensive enough that there is complete organ failure. That is when you’ll receive an auto-immune diagnosis. We can avoid organ failure and chronic disease by cutting gluten out of our diets altogether.
Going gluten-free is easier than ever, nowadays. There are plenty of gluten-free flours to choose from when making baked goods. Some of my favorites are almond flour, brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and oat four.
There are gluten-free pasta alternatives such as pasta made from rice, corn, or quinoa.
Replacing wheat and white flour is the easy part. It is the hidden gluten to be on the lookout for. Gluten is hidden in items such as:
- Energy bars
- Pasta sauces
- Salad dressings
- BBQ sauce
- Soy sauce
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Processed foods
- Lipstick/lip gloss
- Vitamin supplements
- Canned soups
- Candy and candy bars
Be sure, when buying a packaged product, you look for a gluten free label. It will ensure there is no cross-contamination. Ingredients that masquerade as gluten on ingredient lists are words like: fried, coated, crispy, or crusted.
Your best bet is to leave the processed foods in their packages and eat whole-foods, like plants!
All the recipes on my website are gluten-free!