Gluten is a Latin word that means “glue,” it is so called due to its ability to hold grains like wheat, barley, and rye together. It’s composed of two different proteins: gliadin (a prolamin protein) and glutenin (a glutelin protein).
Gliadin in particular can be difficult to digest. This is because nature had a goal when designing grain seeds: durability. The prolamin along with other anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors, is what makes the outer shell of grains so tough.
Why are we hearing so much about it now?
Barely a decade ago, gluten intolerance and celiac disease were considered uncommon genetic anomalies, occurring in about 1 in 2500 persons worldwide.
Not anymore kids.
With the rate that these anomalies are currently increasing at, it is hard to get accurate statistics of the actual percentage of people they are affecting worldwide. It is expected to be about 1 in 133 but new research is indicating it could be more like 1 in 33. Most reports conclude that the condition is “widely unrecognised” and “greatly underdiagnosed”.
Celiac vs. Wheat allergy vs. Gluten sensitivity vs. IBS
- Celiac disease (CD) is a genetic, autoimmune disorder that occurs in reaction to the ingestion of gluten in genetically susceptible people. The reaction to gluten causes the flattening of the cells lining the small intestine, which then leads to malabsorption of nutrients and many other symptoms.
- A Wheat allergy – is an immune reaction to any of the hundreds of proteins in wheat. When a person has a wheat allergy, one type of white blood cells, called T-cells, send out antibodies to “attack” the wheat. This reaction happens quickly and can involve a range of symptoms from nausea, abdominal pain, itching, and swelling of the lips and tongue, to trouble breathing, or in extreme cases anaphylaxis.
- Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is normally diagnosed when a wheat allergy or CD has been ruled out. It is not well understood but similar symptoms of CD are present.
- IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). It also causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea and constipation. Its exact cause is also unknown.
EVEN WITH THE CELIAC GENES PRESENT, YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM STILL NEEDS TO RECOGNISE GLUTEN AS A FOREIGN INVADOR.
ENTER LEAKY GUT
For your body to react to the gluten it needs to first to consider it a threat like it would bacteria.
Intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut” basically means the lining is like a damaged mesh filter, frayed and with bigger gaps. When the lining is more permeable than it should be, things that normally can’t pass through are now be able to, including proteins like gluten, bad bacteria and undigested foods particles. Toxic waste can also leak from the inside of your intestinal wall into your blood stream, causing an immune reaction and subsequent food intolerances.
It is hard to know in individual cases which came first.
Did the gluten inflame the gut lining and create the damage to the villi or was there already damage from other factors , such as other food intolerances, anti-biotics, medications that have let gluten pass through then causing an immune reaction.
AND EVEN THEN! WHY has a food that has been such a staple in our diets for thousands of years suddenly become a toxic substance to large numbers of the worldwide population?
HISTORY OF WHEAT
- After 8800 BCE Emmer wheat ‘which did have gluten’ – was harvested in Egypt and began spreading to other parts of the world.
- During the Bronze Age (3000 BCE – 1200 BCE) to medieval times Spelt, a species of wheat spread through central Europe, becoming a staple in people’s diets.
- Throughout the Age of Discovery (15th century). French, English, and Portuguese explorers brought wheat and other grain species to North and South America.
- In the 1600s Baker’s yeast was first introduced as an alternative to sourdough starters in 1668 in France. Before this, bakers grew yeast from sourdough starters, a mixture of grain and water where yeasts could ferment and grow.
- In the 1870s the modern steel roller mill was invented and revolutionised grain milling. Instead of just mashing it all together, it could separate the components, allowing the purest and finest of white flour to be easily produced at low cost. This ‘fancy flour’ even shipped and stored better. So well, that even pest problems were eliminated because they wouldn’t eat it. The reason it keeps so well is that the processing has stripped it of its vital nutrients. The bugs and rodents knew this way before we did.
- In the 1940s some bread started being made with “enriched” flour. The government started forcing companies to return vitamins and minerals to flour “enriching it” They recognised vital nutrients are stripped from wheat by bleaching and other processing methods; just about all nutritional value is removed.
- In the 1950s & 1960s the wheat crops were transformed. Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and credited for saving an estimated one billion lives for the increase in food production. His movement involved “the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.”
The new and “improved” species of semi-dwarf wheat, together with complimenting fertilizers and pesticides, increased yield spectacularly. This amazing new farming technology was spread around the world.
There was only one problem with Norman’s revolution…it basically had no regard to the effect it was going to have on human nutrition.
According to Wheat Belly author Dr. William Davis, “this thing being sold to us called wheat—it ain’t wheat. It’s this stocky little high-yield plant, a distant relative of the wheat our mothers used to bake muffins, genetically and biochemically light-years removed from the wheat of just 40 years ago.”
BUT if we have been having this kind of wheat since the 50s and 60s why has the gluten problem only really been seen an increase over to the last 10 to 15 years?
You know that stuff nearly everyone in the country has in their sheds to kill weeds.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, and is the most widely used weed killing chemical on farms, lawns, schoolyards and other public spaces around the world. It’s also extensively applied to many crops before harvest. The World Health Organization (WHO) performed its own independent analysis in March 2015, and determined glyphosate is a “probable” carcinogen. YAY!
The use of glyphosate has been used on crops around the world since the mid 90s. It is considered the “King of Herbicides.” Residues are now found on nearly all of the crops of the Western diet – sugar, corn, soy and wheat – and in the overabundance of processed foods made with these ingredients as well. In particular, GMO corn and soy are heavily doused in Roundup as these crops are genetically engineered to be immune to its effects.
Roundup is highly effective at killing weeds, but is it also highly effective at harming us too?
The currently accepted view is that glyphosate is not harmful to humans or any mammals because the shikimate pathway found in plants is not present in animals. The shikimate pathway aids the plant’s synthesis of certain amino acids and is lethally disrupted by glyphosate.
What has been completely overlooked until recently is that the shikimate pathway is ACTUALLY present in our gut bacteria.
A paper written by Dr. Anthony Samsel and Dr. Stephanie Seneff of MIT investigated glyphosate’s lethal toxicity.
The research demonstrated the villi in your gut get destroyed by the glyphosate. Normally, a reaction would take place that builds connections between different proteins in the wheat. Glyphosphate inhibits cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes. They believe glyphosate may attach to the gliadin (gluten protein) as a consequence of a chemical reaction. Unfortunately, glyphosate gets in the middle of the normal process, resulting in wheat that is even more indigestible.
“[G]ut dysbiosis, brought on by exposure to glyphosate, plays a crucial role in the development of celiac disease. Many CYP enzymes are impaired in association with celiac disease, and we show that glyphosate’s known suppression of CYP enzyme activity in plants and animals plausibly explains this effect in humans.”
Maybe it’s not poor glutens fault. The market is flooded with wheat, corn and soy products which could perhaps explain the dramatic increase of gut dysfunction and celiac disease. Food that is meant to be fuelling us and making our body function is actually slowly and quietly disrupting our gut flora and as a result affecting the homeostasis of our entire body.
The industry does not realise (or will not admit) that although grains are nutritious foods, they must be processed in ways that enhance their nutrition and digestibility. Slow development of starches and proteins, usually via a combination of sprouting and souring with the help of a host of useful microorganisms is essential. The modern “no-time” food processing industry has ignored these traditions to the peril of everyone’s health.
You might point out that with higher yielding crops people aren’t starving anymore. True. At least for the western world. But at what cost?
- Green and Jabri, “Celiac Disease,” Annu Rev Med57 (2005) 207-21.
- Fine, M.D., Kenneth, “Early Diagnosis of Gluten Sensitivity Using Fecal Testing: Report of an 8-Year Study,” http://www.enterolab.com/Lecture/Lecturenew/frame.htm. Accessed May 23, 2006.
- Alberts et al., Molecular Biology of the Cell: Fourth Edition, New York: Garland Science (2002) 1405-1409.
- Masterjohn, Chris, “Dioxins in Animal Foods: A Case for Vegetarianism?: Dioxins, Vitamin A, and Cancer.” Published October 17, 2005. Accessed May 23, 2006.
- Gluten Intolerance. 2014. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Accessed 3/2014. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-dictionary/gluten-intolerance.aspx