What is gluten?
Gluten is found not only in wheat but in a variety of grains such as rye, barley and spelt.
It is also used as a common food additive and stabilising agent in processed foods or common bathroom products such as shampoos and mascaras to give texture and prevent curdling. As you can see, it’s insidious and difficult to avoid.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Gluten is hard to digest
Gluten has changed. The bread we are eating isn’t the same as that which our ancestors ate, or even what our grandparents ate.
This is because the food industry now subjects gluten to enzymatic treatment to make it water-soluble to deamidate it, a process which seems to have made a lot of people to become a lot more sensitive to gluten.
Food sensitivities cause an immune response in people that cannot tolerate wheat in its new altered state, which then has a knock-on effect on the gut, causing systemic inflammation and leaky gut.
An estimated 99% of people have undiagnosed Coeliac disease or gluten intolerance
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which damage of the small intestine occurs and nutrient absorption is affected. In many people there are no digestive symptoms whatsoever which makes it really hard to pick up as more damage occurs in the body.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance include
Digestive issues such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and gas
Migraines and headaches
Inflammation and swelling or pain in joints
Fatigue, foggy brain and being tired after meals containing gluten.
Both conditions require abstinence from gluten in the diet. I would recommend seeing a nutritionist who can guide you towards relevant accurate testing.
Gluten can also cause neurological symptoms and may be addictive
Gluten contains opioid peptides such as gluteomorphin.
These opioid peptides have highly narcotic properties and may be addictive, which is why so many people find it hard to give up wheat (dairy contains the same opioid peptides, which is why dairy is also hard for people to give up).
These opioid peptides have been linked with autistic spectrum disorders, brain fog, anxiety, mood swings, attention deficit disorder and depression.
Gluten is linked with auto-immune disease and systemic inflammation
A number of studies have linked gluten with auto-immune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Ulcerative colitis, Psoriasis, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Lupus and of course, Coeliac disease.
Symptoms improve markedly when gluten is removed from the diet.
Should you go gluten-free?
In a nutshell, it won’t do you any harm to try and eliminate gluten or try and reduce it as much as possible. Sandwiches every day aren’t a good lunch option.
Gluten-free bread is not a good alternative either though, as it’s heavily processed and usually full of sugar.
I tend to tell my patients to try and avoid eating grains as much as they possibly can as they are quite inflammatory but I think substituting pasta for courgetti or a pasta made from buckwheat or black beans from time to time isn’t a bad idea (and far easier on the digestion!).