Gluten is a large, water-soluble protein that gives dough its elasticity. Gluten is derived from the word glue and is one of the toughest proteins to digest. It’s found in pasta and grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats. It’s also used as an additive for thickeners and fillers in everything from lunch meat and soup to candy.
Once thought to be rare, gluten sensitivity is now believed to affect over a third of the population. This intolerance is four times greater than it was in the 1950s. This is in part due to the hybridization of wheat that increases their gluten content. Gluten is an immunogenic anti-nutrient that increases intestinal permeability and triggers systemic inflammation by the immune system that can lead to autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, ect.). Gluten sensitivity is considered a lifelong disease that sometimes remains ‘hidden’ until a person is in their thirties or forties.
Gluten sensitivity is actually an autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract, and more. When an affected person consumes something containing gluten, the protein initiates an inflammatory response similar to an allergic reaction which varies from person to person. Initial symptoms may include: fatigue, join pain, acid reflux, abnormal menstruation, dermatitis and infertility.
In serious cases gluten intolerance can cause your immune system to attack the gut lining and kill the intestinal wall. Not everyone will have recognizable symptoms before the condition has wreaked serious havoc in the intestinal system. The flattening of the villus epithelium majorly decreases the area for nutrient absorption leading to Celiac disease. Often Celiac disease isn’t diagnosed until after the effects of malnutrition have set in (low growth in children, diarrhea, stomach pain, bloating, vomiting, decreased mood, irritability, ect.). Biopsies are often taken to assess the extent of damage and aid in diagnosis. There are also blood tests for specific antibodies that can be read before any damage has occurred. Researchers are also beginning to test for antibodies in the intestinal tract.
Diet and Health Scientist Paul Jaminet says that
“If you eat wheat, it’s probably only a matter of time before you develop some disease or other. All of the autoimmune diseases, from rheumatoid arthritis to Hashimoto’s to lupus, are made more likely by wheat consumption.”
In his book The Perfect Health Diet he writes
“Grain fiber has two major problems. It contains toxic proteins such as gluten, … and it contains roughage that can injure the intestinal wall.”
Gluten intolerance is a spectrum. Some people believe that everyone is sensitive to gluten to some extent. Nora Gedgaudas’ presentation slides at the Ancestral Health Symposium mentions that
“Only an estimated 1% of all suffering gluten sensitivity or celiac disease is ever diagnosed.”
“ONLY total and permanent abstinence from gluten can lead to restored health in a person that is gluten sensitive”
Her book Primal Body, Primal Mind has a chapter brilliantly explaining gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease. She does not believe in consuming grains, especially gluten containing grains and insists that anyone with autoimmune or autism issues should consider eliminating gluten.
“Fully 99 percent of those people who have this entirely curable and potentially lethal condition are completely unaware of the dangerous vulnerability within themselves.”
A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 “diseases” that can be caused by eating gluten. (1) These include osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, (2) and rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric (3) and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, (4) schizophrenia, (5) dementia, (6) migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage). (7) It has also been linked to autism.(8)(autism)
Dr. Mark Hyman writing addresses Gluten in a HuffingtonPost article titled “Guten: What You Don’t Know Might Kill You” where he mentions
“you don’t have to have full-blown celiac disease with a positive intestinal biopsy (which is what conventional thinking tells us) to have serious health problems and complications–even death–from eating gluten.”
Mat Lalonde says
“one of the biggest problems, or I should say maybe the most well studied, is the fact that there are peptides derived from the digestion of gliadin, which is a part of gluten, that increase intestinal permeability. And that increase in intestinal permeability can lead to a wide, a very wide variety of problems”
Gluten is bad, Mmkay.
Probably wise to avoid gluten, Mmkay.
(1) Farrell RJ, Kelly CP. Celiac sprue. N Engl J Med. 2002 Jan 17;346(3):180-8. Review.
(2) Sedghizadeh PP, Shuler CF, Allen CM, Beck FM, Kalmar JR. Celiac disease and recurrent aphthous stomatitis: a report and review of the literature. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2002;94(4):474-478.
(3) Margutti P, Delunardo F, Ortona E. Autoantibodies associated with psychiatric disorders. Curr Neurovasc Res. 2006 May;3(2):149-57. Review.
(4) Ludvigsson JF, Reutfors J, Osby U, Ekbom A, Montgomery SM. Coeliac disease and risk of mood disorders–a general population-based cohort study. J Affect Disord. 2007 Apr;99(1-3):117-26. Epub 2006 Oct 6.
(5) Ludvigsson JF, Osby U, Ekbom A, Montgomery SM. Coeliac disease and risk of schizophrenia and other psychosis: a general population cohort study. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2007 Feb;42(2):179-85.
(6) Hu WT, Murray JA, Greenaway MC, Parisi JE, Josephs KA. Cognitive impairment and celiac disease. Arch Neurol. 2006 Oct;63(10):1440-6.
(7) Bushara KO. Neurologic presentation of celiac disease. Gastroenterology. 2005 Apr;128(4 Suppl 1):S92-7. Review.
(8) Millward C, Ferriter M, Calver S, Connell-Jones G. Gluten- and casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(2):CD003498. Review.