We attended a very interesting and informative talk by Deena Thompson of Spark Therapeutic Nutrition!
Gluten, found in wheat, rye and barley, is made of two proteins. It’s what gives bread it’s elasticity and chewiness. Deena says that no-one can completely break gluten down to it’s individual components. Because we’ve only been eating grains since the advent of agriculture, about 10,000 years which is not very long in evolutionary terms, we still haven’t evolved the capacity to effectively digest it. Traditionally these grains were prepared very carefully by grinding, fermenting, then cooking to enhance their digestibility and nutritional value and decrease their toxic or gut-irritating substances. Modern methods of preparation denature and strip the grains of their nutrients but leave the toxic components behind.
Reactions to wheat and gluten can vary widely from person to person. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating and constipation, fatigue after eating a meal with gluten, migraines, diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, anxiety and depression are just a few. While many people believe they are gluten-intolerant, they often are reacting to one of the many other components of wheat.
Ingesting gluten triggers the gut to release zonulin, a protein which opens the tight junctions between gut cells causing intestinal permeability. In a healthy person, the doors stay open for about 4 hours. In a sensitive individual, the junctions can stay open for extended periods of time causing longer term “leaky gut” which can lead to food allergies and immune dysfunction.
Gluten-related disorders can be very serious. Deena says that 1-2% of the population has Celiac Disease, an autoimmune condition that can develop at any time. 95 % of people with Celiac Disease have not been diagnosed. The most common complaints when diagnosed are fatigue and anemia, not gastrointestinal symptoms! Gluten-sensitivity has no allergy or auto-immune component but it can have a very negative health impact as well.
What I took from this talk is that if you are having almost any sort of symptoms, it’s a good idea to be tested for gluten issues because they are serious and quite common. As Deena suggested, “Test, don’t guess”.
By Karen Hamilton-Roth