A Close Look at Gluten

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Why Should I Avoid Gluten?

Gluten is a tricky food protein.  You may have symptoms that seem totally unrelated to food – such as hot flashes, joint pain or anxiety, and the symptoms may occur hours to days after eating it.  Until you remove gluten from your diet, you can’t really know for sure the impact it has on your body.

Removing gluten from your diet can improve immune antibodies.  It is possible to have a change in antibodies without feeling or noticing anything different in your body.  Testing done in a doctor’s office is one way to determine if this is happening.

Most experts agree that anyone who is suffering with an autoimmune condition has what is called a “leaky gut”.  A leaky gut causes you to develop food sensitivities to things that you may have eaten all of your life with no problem.  This is why it is very likely, if you have an autoimmune disease, that you are having reactions to more than one type of food.  Food sensitivities involve a reaction from your immune system, which is not a good thing if you have an autoimmune disease. It increases inflammation in the body.

While many different foods can cause sensitivities in a leaky gut, gluten causes the worst immune reaction.  As a leaky gut is weakened, gluten particles make their way past the lining of your intestine and into your bloodstream.  Your immune system identifies these foreign particles as invaders and marks them. Your whole body becomes on guard for gluten, even when it is where it should be, digesting in your gut.  While your body is body attacking gluten, it also starts to attack the tissues of your small intestine, your thyroid and your joints. These tissues become inflamed and damaged.  This whole process is known as molecular mimicry.

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Why is gluten such a problem today?  Why were our ancestors calling bread “the staff of life” and everyone now seems to be avoiding pastries and crackers?  One, the wheat we eat today is no longer genetically related to the wheat our great great grandmothers and grandfathers ate.  It has been engineered by man to be completely different. Second, you are exposed to more gluten today than ever before. Our Western diet is comprised of 20 percent wheat every day.  Today’s flours are higher in gluten and lower in bran, fat and protein.  These genetically modified plants have been bred to contain more gluten, because bagels and bread taste better when they are softer, whiter and chewier. Third, these modified gluten particles have an easy time breaking past a weakened intestinal lining and they cause more of a reaction in our immune system.

But wait…a “gluten-free” label is not a get out of jail free card.  As gluten-free became trendy, supermarket shelves became lined with processed and packaged gluten-free foods that mimic those that we love so well, riddled with industrial oils, sugar, fat and preservatives.  Not to mention some of these are made with flours that are whiter and even less nutritious than the gluten containing white wheat they are replacing.  They cause high blood sugar, weight gain and inflammation.

What to do?  Eat a whole foods based diet, instead of reaching for packaged foods.  Avoid gluten and give your body a chance to heal.  Work on improving the health of your gut; your microbiome.  This will usually resolve the chronic symptoms of inflammation.  Over time, you will likely come to a place of being able to tolerate small amounts of high quality gluten foods such as homemade bread or pasta.

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