Do You Know These 9 Facts About Gluten?

Bread with Gluten

Gluten sensitivities and gluten intolerance are on the rise, making gluten a very popular topic. Because it’s a subject with many facets, here are 9 facts for you to consider to make a sound, rational decision as to whether you should monitor, or possibly eliminate gluten from your diet.

Fact #1: Gluten is…

…a naturally occurring protein composite found primarily in wheat, rye and barley, as well as some types of oats. Gluten consists of gliadin and glutenin. Gliadin is one of the proteins that forms gluten. Doctors will test for anti-gliadin antibodies if celiac disease or gluten hypersensitivity is suspected.[1] In celiac patients, the gliadin triggers immune response. Glutenin is the other protein comprising gluten. From a dietary view, gluten has only recently entered the human diet; it gives bread elasticity and strength. [2]

Fact #2: Not All Grains Contain Gluten

Corn, rice and certain types of oats do not contain gluten. These grains do not typically provoke a response in individuals with celiac disease or with gluten sensitivity.

Fact #3: Humans Cannot Naturally Digest Gluten…

…is a false statement. Researchers have determined that in many cases the human mouth contains symbiotic bacteria colonies that help break down gluten.[3] Whether these bacteria have developed in the mouth, or have become prevalent because gluten has become part of the modern western diet still remains a point of conversation.

Fact #4: Gluten Allergies and Gluten Sensitivities are Different

Those with a gluten allergy (celiac disease) and those with gluten sensitivity suffer similar symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and abdominal pain. However, individuals with celiac disease suffer further complications from gluten consumption. Persons with gluten sensitivity can avoid complications by following a gluten free diet. [4]

Fact #5: Celiac Disease is an Allergy

Celiac disease is an allergy to gluten. Individuals suffering from celiac disease produce an intestinal immune response when gluten has been consumed. This response includes intestinal redness. The inability to absorb nutrients can occur, as well as weakening of the intestinal wall.

Fact #6: Gluten Aggravates Celiac Disease

For those with celiac disease, gluten does much more than create bloating, diarrhea and other unpleasant intestinal symptoms. Gluten can inhibit nutrient absorption. It can also get into the blood stream and create more serious problems such as bone loss or problems with bone mineral density, impaired hearing, dermatitis herpetiformis (a serious rash, though unrelated to herpes, despite its name), and potentially damaging effects to the brain. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Fact #7: Gluten Sensitivity Can Affect Children

Children can experience a range of problems related to gluten consumption. Those born with a gluten allergy (celiac disease) have obvious complications; however, doctors are finding more and more children expressing symptoms of gluten sensitivity and other gastrointestinal illnesses. [10] This suggests that gluten sensitivity can develop quickly. When a sensitivity like this arises in the youth population, consideration should be taken in terms of dietary sources, in particular, its inclusion in processed food.

Fact #8: Gluten is a Problem Around the World

While gluten sensitivity reflects problems with the modern ‘Western’ diet and food processing practices, gluten sensitivity afflicts people worldwide. However, the solution is worldwide as well. From Australia to the United States and everywhere in between,, the gluten-free industry has grown quickly to meet the needs of gluten sensitive individuals. [11]

Fact #9: You Can Eliminate Gluten from Your Diet

For anyone looking to avoid or eliminate gluten from the diet, the key is knowing what to avoid and what to eat. Part of that challenge is knowing the range of names of products that contain gluten. To eliminate gluten, avoid products containing barley rye, triticale (a cross of rye and wheat), wheat and wheat products such as bulgur, durum flour, farina, graham flour, kamut, semolina, and spelt.

Of course this goes for any foods using any of these products, such as breads, cakes, pastas, etc… and it also includes many sauces, soups, and even processed meats where gluten is used to add flavor. It can take a little effort to get started, but once you know what to look for, it is easy. To get started with gluten free foods, I recommend looking to natural fruits and vegetables, fresh eggs, meats and seafood, and grains like rice, buckwheat and flax.

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Volta U, Molinaro N, Fratangelo D, Bianchi FB. IgA subclass antibodies to gliadin in serum and intestinal juice of patients with coeliac disease. Clin Exp Immunol. 1990 May;80(2):192-5.
  2. H.-D. Belitz, W. Grosch & P. Schieberle (2004). Food Chemistry (3rd ed.). Springer. ISBN 978-3-540-64704-1.
  3. Fernandez-Feo M, Wei G, Blumenkranz G, Dewhirst FE, Schuppan D, Oppenheim FG, Helmerhorst EJ. The cultivable human oral gluten-degrading microbiome and its potential implications in coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2013 Apr 18. doi: 10.1111/1469-0691.12249.
  4. Biesiekierski JR, Peters SL, Newnham ED, Rosella O, Muir JG, Gibson PR. No Effects of Gluten in Patients With Self-Reported Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity After Dietary Reduction of Low-Fermentable, Poorly Absorbed, Short-Chain Carbohydrates. Gastroenterology. 2013 May 4. pii: S0016-5085(13)00702-6. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.04.051.
  5. Zanchi C, Di Leo G, Ronfani L, Martelossi S, Not T, Ventura A. Bone metabolism in celiac disease. J Pediatr. 2008 Aug;153(2):262-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2008.03.003. Epub 2008 Apr 14.
  6. Rastogi A, Bhadada SK, Bhansali A, Kochhar R, Santosh R. Celiac disease: A missed cause of metabolic bone disease. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Sep;16(5):780-5. doi: 10.4103/2230-8210.100674.
  7. Lucendo AJ, García-Manzanares A. Bone mineral density in adult coeliac disease: An updated review. Rev Esp Enferm Dig. 2013 May;105(3):154-162.
  8. Karabulut H, Hizli S, Dagli M, Karabulut I, Acar B, Celik E, Abaci A, Ozdemir O, Karasen RM. Audiological findings in celiac disease. ORL J Otorhinolaryngol Relat Spec. 2011;73(2):82-7. doi: 10.1159/000323181. Epub 2011 Jan 27.
  9. Plotnikova N, Miller JL. Dermatitis herpetiformis. Skin Therapy Lett. 2013 Mar-Apr;18(3):1-3.
  10. Karnsakul W, Skitarelic K, Gillespie S, Arkachaisri T. Isolated positive anti-gliadin immunoglobin-A antibody in children with gastrointestinal symptoms. Turk J Gastroenterol. 2012;23(5):485-9.
  11. Mulder CJ, van Wanrooij RL, Bakker SF, Wierdsma N, Bouma G. Gluten-free diet in gluten-related disorders. Dig Dis. 2013;31(1):57-62. doi: 10.1159/000347180. Epub 2013 Jun 17.

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