Gluten is a staple of our modern diet – it’s in everything from bread to cakes and even hidden in so called healthy foods (did you know some pre-cooked chicken has gluten in it – even store bought spice mixes…and some chocolate!).
But even if you haven’t been diagnosed with full blown celiac disease, gluten can still have a serious impact on your health. In fact, gluten sensitivity masquerades as many different diseases – The New England Journal Medicine listed 55 health problems (encompassing physical, psychiatric and neurological) that can be caused by eating gluten.
These health problems include:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis,
- Multiple Sclerosis,
- Schizophrenia, and
What is gluten?
Gluten is a compound protein which makes up approximately 80% of the protein in wheat, barley and rye. When water is added to flour, the two proteins that make up gluten bond together to form an elastic protein network. Gluten is the stuff that gives structure to baked goods and helps wheat flour morph into many different foods. It is what makes bread and pizza bases so elastic and malleable….it is also the reason that many homemade gluten-free breads and baked goods represent dense mounds of crumbs!
What happens when we eat gluten?
Gluten sensitivity is actually an autoimmune disease that causes an inflammatory response in our bodies when we eat gluten. This inflammation can then go on to effect all of the organ systems in our bodies, including our brain, joints, digestive tract, heart and more.
When we eat gluten (and have a sensitivity to it – i.e. all of us suffering from an autoimmune disease) it causes inflammation in the gut and antibodies against the gluten proteins develop. Gluten proteins can then enter our blood stream more easily (and especially if the gut is already leaky) and trigger immune reactions/flare-ups/attacks elsewhere in the body.
Gluten’s inflammatory effect on our digestive tract causes intestinal cells to die prematurely, leading to oxidation of those cells. This response creates a leaky gut which allows bacterial proteins and toxic compounds to worm their way into our blood stream. This can also lead to autoimmune flare-ups/attacks on our body.