One of the first questions skeptics raise about gluten sensitivity is whether or not there has been an actual increase, if gluten-free is only a temporary health fad, or if awareness is what is leading to more diagnoses and therefore the number of cases is not truly increasing.
Fifty years ago, one in 700 people were sensitive to gluten. A study now reveal that one in 100 people are reacting to gluten (1). Extensive research indicates this dramatic rise in gluten sensitivity is not only attributed to growing awareness and detection clinically but the food itself.
The gluten that is now eaten has been changed for many years and is not the same as it was for past generations. Processes of hybridization and deamination have created a “new wheat” and caused it to be inflammatory for humans to consume (1).
So, what is gluten and what is it doing to our bodies?
Gluten (glu-ten) was given its name for its glue-like properties. It is the main protein found in wheat and other grains, such as, rye, spelt, and barley.
The most commonly known and recognized reaction to gluten is Celiac disease, an autoimmune response that occurs in the small intestine after coming in contact with gluten and the body begins to attack healthy cells. This disease may be affecting up to one percent of the population.
Gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, is affecting a much greater percentage of the population and is any immune response to gluten. This has become known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
Also, gluten can be connected to Leaky Gut Syndrome (intestinal permeability) by making the lining of the intestinal track more permeable that is, to have holes in it. The body is affected by the permeability when food particles are not fully digested and ‘leak’ from the digestion system into the bloodstream. Once any substance, not just gluten, crosses into the bloodstream, havoc can occur in one’s body from a variety of symptoms.
Many brain disorders, such as, schizophrenia, cerebellar ataxia, epilepsy, and autism, are also being linked to gluten. Many contributing factors in addition to gluten, including genetics and the environment, also play a role in mental illness (2).
Determining if a person is intolerant or sensitive to gluten can be a difficult process if the proper testing is not conducted. Standard testing has shown to be inconclusive because only a small portion of the gluten protein, alpha-gliadin, is being tested for when there are more than 100 different components of gluten that can provoke a reaction (3).
There are 12 components of wheat that cause immune responses most often. These components were identified by Cyrex Labs, which conduct five arrays of test to determine if a person is having some type of reaction to gluten.
An unforeseen issue with being gluten sensitive is cross-reactivity. Cross-reacting occurs when the body thinks another food is gluten and then reacts to it as if it were. This happens because the food’s molecular structure is very similar to gluten. There have now been twenty-four foods associated to cross-reactivity with gluten. The two most common foods are dairy and instant coffee (Cyrex Lab Array 4).
If you are thinking about how gluten may be affecting your body and want to remove it from your diet, remember that eating gluten-free food does not necessarily mean it is healthy or beneficial for your body. Processed gluten-free foods may have extra sweetener added to replicate the gluten version of the recipe, be high glycemic, and/or contain GMOs. There are many resources, recipes, and protocols to help you heal your digestion system.
Are there any health related topics you’d like to see broken down and written for teens? I’d love to have your input! Email me your suggestions at edibleattitudes (at) gmail (dot) com.
- Gluten Can Devastate Brain and Nervous System
- 6 Ways “Heart-Healthy” Whole Wheat Can Destroy Your Health
- Eating Gluten Increases the Need for Thyroid Hormones
- Modern Wheat – Old Diet Staple Turned into a Modern Health Nightmare
- What Type of Gluten Intolerance do You Have?