Avoiding gluten is one of the first recommendations nutritionists often give when their clients are looking to improve their overall health. Not too long ago, it was thought that only people who had Celiac Disease were negatively affected by gluten but as time goes on more science is emerging linking gluten to gut inflammation/leaky gut for just about everyone. This type of sensitivity is known as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. The effects of consuming gluten can show up in a wide variety of ways.
What is gluten and where is it found?
Gluten is a general name for the sticky protein molecule found in wheat and other specific grains like rye and spelt. It’s often found in pasta, bread, pastries, crackers, cereals, breaded foods, baked goods, some sauces, beer, and flour tortillas.
What is Celiac Disease (CD) and how common is it?
Celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune disorder where the individual has a severe form of gluten intolerance. When gluten is consumed the person will experience intense digestive issues, weight fluctuations, and often skin and joint problems. It affects approximately 1% of the entire population.
What is Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and how does it differ from Celiac Disease?
NCGS is extremely common and occurs as a result of the body and immune system reacting negatively to gluten. It’s different from Celiac Disease because there are no gene markers, autoantibodies and the level of intestinal damage isn’t as severe as CD. Studies show that when gluten is consumed a protein called zonillin is activated which triggers a cascade of events that lead to the cells of the gut lining separating. This separation allows contents into the bloodstream which ignites an immune response.
What are the symptoms of NCGS?
- Brain fog
- Hormone imbalances
- Joint Pain
- Nutrient deficiencies
Why is gluten sensitivity on the rise?
This question is harder to answer. There are several theories for why this could be and everyday there is tons of new research being done to understand this issue. One theory is that the hybridization of wheat crops could be causing the crop to change in ways that have negative health consequences. Crops are often bred to have more desirable attributes in terms of increasing the yield of the crop and the ability for it to adapt to the environment but this does not consider what might be the “healthiest” crop for humans. Other theories will compare gluten sensitivities by country and look at the differences in the type of wheat that is used and the processing of it. In Europe for example, soft wheat is used more often which has lower levels of gluten protein. They also use less preservatives and additives and more time for fermentation is also allotted.
Should everyone avoid gluten?
Test tube studies have shown that when intestinal cells are exposed to gluten, intestinal permeability occurs in all of the samples. Intestinal permeability means that it causes inflammation in the intestines that leads to leaky gut syndrome. Holes in the intestinal wall allow bacteria and other toxins into the body. This can be a major contributing factor to all of the symptoms that are reported.
The best way to find out if eating gluten is good for you is to remove it from your diet for a period of time and then introduce it back in. It’s recommended that you remove it for four to six weeks and note down the differences in how you feel and the prevalence of symptoms. What often happens is a significant amount of symptoms will reduce or be gone entirely. During the reintroduction phase, symptoms often come back immediately and are temporarily even more intense than before. Our body is designed to adapt so when we are chronically consuming gluten the symptoms might be there but we’ve learned to tolerate them. Once we’ve experienced what it’s like to feel good without gluten the symptoms feel more intense.
Looking to go gluten-free? Check out these easy swaps to get started!
Here are some delicious recipes that are completely gluten-free:
Also, check out these Top Gluten-Free Products
If you think you may have leaky gut or other food sensitivities you can find tests for it here: Functional Testing
Overall, everyone’s going to react differently to gluten but the general consensus is that less is better. If you’d prefer a more personalized nutritional program to help you address your major health concerns and health goals click here for your FREE 20 minute discovery session.
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