Problems with gluten are becoming an epidemic. With the most recent research showing that consumption of gluten and its closely related compounds can cause innumerable disease processes, there is a lot that is still not understood by both the general public and those in the medical field. Many people have heard of a gluten sensitivity or know someone who suffers from Celiac disease, but this issue reaches much further.
What Exactly Is Gluten?
Gluten gets its origin from the Latin word for “glue.” Made up of 2 proteins, gluten makes up at least 80% of the protein found in grains. Giving bread dough its elasticity and baked goods a chewiness, the Latin-based term gives a good definition. It is found in numerous grains which include wheat, rye and barley as well as oats due to the modern processing methods. Small amounts of a similar structure, gliadin, are found in corn products and cornstarch. Many processed foods use gluten as an additive and is becoming a more popular stabilizing agent in numerous personal-care products. Yes- even your shampoo isn’t safe.
We, as humans, have spent the last 2.6 million years eating a specific way and the inclusion of gluten is a very new practice. This protein is very difficult to digest, even when prepared properly, and can complicate your health in a wide spectrum.
Gluten and Celiac Disease
Let’s start with fully diagnosed Celiac Disease, which has been shown at a 400% increase in the last 50 years. Your small intestine is a tube that is lined with villi, which resemble a shag carpet. These finger-like projections increase the total surface area of your small intestine and aid in the proper absorption of nutrients. The diagnosis of Celiac disease is awarded when all of these villi have been completely destroyed. The interesting thing here is that if the villi are only partially warn down, the full diagnosis is not given. So you can see there is a massive gray area! Unless you swap your carpet for hardwood floors, you are blind to what is happening in your tummy. Un-diagnosed Celiac is just as potent as the complete atrophy itself. Celiac disease is simply a form of gluten sensitivity, both of which result in chronic malabsorption of nutrients which leads to other disease states and increases the degenerative process.
So What Destroys the Villi?
If you are genetically predisposed to a gluten sensitivity, when you consume the compound, your body crosses over into a heightened state of an immunologic response due to the ingested protein. Similar to what occurs when you get a virus, your body is fighting off the foreign body that it does not know how to break down. Both Celiac disease and the much more common gluten sensitivity are autoimmune conditions which lead to wide-spread inflammation. This affects your entire body and not just the gut.
Gluten sensitive individuals are at a greater risk for heart conditions as well as several cancers. Their bodies essentially cease blood flow to the brains frontal cortex which is used for focus, planning, organization, manage emotions and short-term memories – basically everything that makes you human. Do you have a child that struggles with focusing in school? Due to our changing GI tracts, children are at a much greater risk for developing this sensitivity. There are numerous markers on routine blood tests that might point you to this diagnosis. Sub-clinical anemia, elevated or raised protein levels, raised or elevated levels of HDL, low BUN levels and even chronically elevated liver enzyme levels may point to chronic, full-body inflammation.
Another very important factor in all of this is the presence of morphine-like compounds found in grains called exorphins. These compounds are EXTREMELY addictive in nature leaving you craving more of some of the worst foods out there. This can be one sign there is a potential gluten sensitivity present. Do you crave pizza in large amounts and want nothing but pastas or breads? You may want to read this twice.
What About my Dairy Sensitivity?
Funny you should ask! Gluten sensitive individuals are at an increased risk for developing a cross-reaction with several other compounds. This includes casein (milk protein), oats, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, yeast, coffee and milk chocolate. In some cases, once gluten is removed from the diet, a dairy sensitivity is decreased.
I also get a lot of questions about my Italian roots. People will say “My ancestors grew up on breads and pastas. How am I supposed to stop eating my cultures foods!?” In this case, you have to look at the difference in the quality of what people were consuming in the past. Many times, these grains were fermented in house and with modern processing methods, gluten is so modified that we are literally not able to recognize the compounds. So if you want to germinate and ferment your own grains and press your pasta yourself, go ahead!
Some underlying symptoms of a possible gluten sensitivity are: headaches, general fatigue, indigestion, feeling overly full after a meal, bloating, pain or symptoms in several parts of the body, mood swings, crankiness or a skin rash/bumps on the arms (very common symptom of an underlying issue in children!).
How to Combat Gluten Sensitivity
There are a few things to try if you feel you have a sensitivity. The easiest is to use an elimination diet. Consume no gluten for 2 weeks then reintroduce it. If symptoms get better at the end of the two weeks then return as gluten is re-added, it is most likely you have a sensitivity. One of our favorite ways to test for this using your blood. Sending this out to a lab where we can have several tests for both gluten and its many cross-reactive compounds tested is easy. All that is needed is a 5 mL blood sample which is sent to a lab. Results are then given within 7-10 days and we are able to sit down to discuss what was found.
If you are questioning if you have a sensitivity to gluten or one of its many cross reactors, feel free to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with Dr. Casey. We can discuss your symptoms and look into getting a test done if we feel necessary.
If you want to live the healthiest life possible for as long as possible, please consider this article. Much of the information shared has been studied and cited in several articles. Our sources for this are The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine and Primal Body, Primal Mind. Both are very well researched and have a large index for all the research cited throughout the books. Again, any questions, please call and request a consultation.