What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in all types of grain such as wheat, rye, oats, barley, rice, corn, millet, sorghum and teff. Each different grain type contains a different form of gluten e.g. the main gluten in wheat is gliadin. It is this group of proteins (especially in wheat) that is responsible for the elasticity of dough when making breads and cakes – they are able to produce the amazing textures.

Which foods contain Gluten?

The most common foods that contain gluten are pastas, breads, crackers, seasonings and spice mix. In addition to pure wheat in all its forms (including: wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat germ, couscous, cracked wheat, durum, einkorn, emmer, farina, faro, fu (common in Asian foods), gliadin, graham flour, karnut, matzo, semolina and spelt), gluten is also often found in barley malt, chicken broth, malt vinegar, some salad dressings, veggie burgers (if not specified gluten-free) and soy sauce. The list of gluten-containing grains does not end at wheat. It also includes barley, bulgur, oats (it does not contain gluten, but is often processed in plants that produce gluten-containing grains and therefore may be contaminated), rye, seitan triticale and Mir.

Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity may present itself in many ways (although pain and inflammation are normally present), including but not limited to migraines, stomach pain, eczema, psoriasis and arthritis. Approximately 1% of the population is unable to tolerate gluten in wheat even in small quantities. It is estimated that 1 in every 133 have celiac disease and less than 10% are aware that they in fact have it. About 50% of celiac suffers will experience the classic cramping, diarrhea and weight loss over time, while others may have migraines, arthritis, anemia, chronic fatigue, depression, infertility or a variety of other symptoms that at a glance seem unrelated. In some there may be no symptoms at all initially, but these show up later on in life in neurological issues, dementia, incontinence or gastrointestinal cancer. In advanced cases, patients who cannot absorb sufficient nutrients experience extreme weight loss. If not diagnosed celiac disease can be life threatening.

If you are gluten sensitive, it is most likely that you will react to any gluten no matter from which grain. The majority of gluten-sensitive people who eliminate wheat, rye, barley and oats but continue to consume other grains do not get better. That’s because they have not excluded all grains – in other words foods from grasses. It is also very interesting that persons sensitive to gluten are usually also sensitive to certain proteins found in milk. It has been found that the body sees a similarity between gliadin (wheat gluten) and certain proteins found in milk.

There is no laboratory test for all of the different forms of gluten. These tests measure only one or more types of gluten found in wheat, barley and rye and therefore potentially create a false sense of security. The best way to see whether you are gluten sensitive is to stop eating all grains for 30 days and see if your symptoms reverse and you feel better.

What we need to realise is that pain is never normal. It is a sign from your body that something is wrong. As you get older, it is assumed that aches and pains such as arthritis is something we need to expect and live with. However, is it perhaps possible that making certain changes in your diet could let you live pain free?

Autoimmune Responses

Gluten also causes countless autoimmune responses in the body:

    The lymphocytes attack the myelin sheath on the nerve endings and this can lead to motor-neuron disease, some of the epilepsies, tingling and numbness in the extremities, speech impediments including stammering and stuttering as well as Tourette’s syndrome.
    Diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and distensions, spastic colon, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, stomach cramps, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, IBS and gall bladder challenges can all be caused by gluten.
    Lactose intolerance and sucrose intolerance (the enzymes that digest milk and sugar are situated at the tips of healthy villi).
    These include depression (such as bipolar disorder), behavioural problems in children, Myalgic encephalitis, ADD, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, dyslexia and schizophrenia.
    Down’s syndrome and Type 2 diabetes share the same chromosome (chromosome 6) on the DNA string of Coeliac disease.
    Rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, Crohn’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, myasthenia Gravis, muscular dystrophy, Sjögren’s syndrome, Addison’s disease, Pernicious anemia, Hepatitis, thyroid disorders, Type 1 diabetes, Raynaud’s phenomenon, scleroderma, lupus and psoriasis.
    An unhealthy intestine will lead to a “leaky gut”- other molecules of food pass through into the blood stream and cause allergic reaction. Removing gluten from your diet the intestine soon heals and the villi regrow and other food allergies could lessen over time.
    Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and cancer of any of the organs of digestion – these include the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, duodenum, pancreas, gall bladder and liver.
    Miscarriage, birth defects and infertility.