Gluten Intolerance Fact or Fad?

We are seeing Gluten Free foods more and more, in supermarkets, health shops and even Restaurants due to the increase in people suffering from gluten intolerance and celiac disease.

Is gluten really an issue ? Should we be concerned about giving our children gluten and eating it ourselves? 


Most of us have heard of Celiac Disease. This condition is considered to be an auto immune disease and for individuals with Celiac disease, eating Gluten can be catastrophic. Gluten severely damages the digestive tracts ability to absorb nutrients, resulting in malnutrition. Sufferers often experience a variety of symptoms including bloating ,pain and fatigue. However many people with celiac disease have no obvious symptoms at all ,allowing the disease to go undiagnosed for many years. 

Although it has been thought of as a disease from childhood,for many people the disease will come seemingly out of nowhere, in adulthood. Celiac disease is caused by the immune system reacting to gliaden which is a protein in gluten  This reaction results in the immune system attacking the intestinal wall lining resulting in inflammation and severe damage to the microvilli lining the small bowel.

A diagnosis is often confirmed following a biopsy, gliaden antibody test and resolution of symptoms with elimination of gluten.

What is Gluten Intolerance?

So many people report an improvement or elimination of general and gastric symptoms when they take gluten out of the diet completely. These people may not have the genetic susceptibility or positive antibodies and they have a normal looking bowel on investigation.

What Can be Going On?

Recent research has revealed some thought provoking information on gluten which may help to make sense of why so many people suffer from gluten intolerance. 

Approximately 10,000 years ago human beings started to change from a more nomadic lifestyle to a more settled lifestyle. The first town in the world was supposedly built approx 9000 years ago. With this change in lifestyle came the beginning of agriculture and this gradually spread over the globe to what we have today.

The grains from the past ,however, are different genetically than what we have today. For Example Wheat has gone from having 28 chromosomes and 100,000 genes to 42 chromosomes and 150.000 genes. Also in ancient times such as ancient Egypt ,only the top of the wheat plant was used, unlike today when the whole plant is used.

It is when we ingest gluten that the interesting scenario happens in our digestive tract. The gluten is unable to be broken down as no enzyme is dedicated to, or strong enough to do this, in humans or any animal tested.

The immune cells in the digestive tract respond to the gluten as a foreign invader like a parasite or bacteria and start initiating an immune response. This response will include an inflammatory response with the release of chemicals from the white cells in an attempt to destroy the foreign body. It is definitely not ideal to have an ongoing inflammatory response in the gut . We know that many diseases can be triggered from sustained inflammation eg cancer.

At the same time specialised cells in the lumen(wall) of the digestive tract release a chemical called zonulin which opens up the tight junctions of the intestinal wall causing gut permeability or leaky gut. Humans are the only species which produce zonulin.

Leaky gut will allow toxins from the gut to spread into the systemic circulation and liver and will considerably increase the risk of autoimmune and other disease. Some studies have even linked leaky gut to Autism and Schizophrenia.

Serum zonulin is found to be increased in irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut is present in many conditions including asthma ,fatty liver, metabolic syndrome and many other autoimmune diseases

This release of zonulin happens in all humans who ingest gluten Not just those who have celiac disease.

Knowing this ,do we want or need to eat gluten or not ?. We all know people who seem to have no problems with eating it or do they ?. Is eating gluten a bit like a ticking time bomb that will eventually result in us getting some kind of health condition .

Gluten is found in Wheat ,Oats ,Barley and Rye

It's definitely worth some serious consideration whether its worth the risk.

The research is showing that we are all have gluten intolerance whether we have celiac disease or not .

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