Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Why Behind Gluten Free

Have you noticed how popular gluten-free is becoming? Have you ever wondered why? Why is it that people all of a sudden are blaming many health problems on gluten? Keep reading and you will know what it is all about.

First lets get a few words straight. Remember that gluten is a protein but it is made up of subunits of peptides called gliadin. The lay public uses the term gluten, but in reality we are talking about gliadin - the 300 or so amino-acid peptides which are the building blocks of gluten. This gliadin peptide is the part of the molecule that gives us trouble. The problem with gliadin is that it has a high number of glutamine repeats in its sequence. This means that the amino acid glutamine occurs frequently along the chain of 300 amino acids. The trouble is that glutamine also repeats frequently in human tissue. So on a molecular level, gluten and human tissue "look alike" in terms of their structure.

This creates a problem when the immune system gets involved. Because of the glutamine repeats in both human tissue and gluten grains, gluten is considered immunogenic (immuno = immune system and genic = to begin). The purpose of the immune system is to determine which proteins belong to self and which are foreign. If we are eating gluten and the immune system comes into contact with the gliadin fragment of gluten, it begins an immune reaction in genetically susceptible persons. In these genetically susceptible individuals, once the immune system is stimulated by gluten/gliadin in the GI tract the immune system travels to other parts of the body to create inflammation and damage tissue.

But who is genetically susceptible you might ask? Aren't celiacs the only the people with a genetic gluten problem? The genes involved in celiac disease are HLA DQ8/2 and approximately 100% of all celiacs have one or both of these genes. So from that we know that all celiacs have the HLA DQ8/2 genes. But these HLA DQ8/2 genes occur in the general population around 40%. Meaning roughly half of our population has the genetic marker shared by all celiacs, therefore this portion of the population is susceptible to gluten sensitivity. This is the big idea here. We are talking about roughly 150 million Americans who have a problem with gluten.

So now we see that there are large numbers of Americans who at least have the gene for being sensitive to gluten. Remember, these are not just celiacs (occurs in 1 out of every 100 persons!) but people with all manner of health problems. As I posted on my site last year, gluten sensitivity can have a wide range of effects. The reason gluten can cause so many wide and varied problems is due to the fact that it involves the immune system. The immune system is over 70 trillion cells and once it "turns on" and attacks gluten, because of the similarity between gluten proteins and human proteins, every tissue in the body is a potential target. This explains why gluten can cause wide and varied symptoms in different people. Each person is going to react to gluten in a different way, with a different tissue being attacked by the immune system.

The WHY behind gluten is really to understand that it stimulates the immune system and leads to biochemical and cellular chaos and damage. We live in the most toxic, polluted, and stressful world ever known to man. We are subjected to all kinds of environmental assault throughout our daily life, the last thing we need to do is add a processed, genetically modified, nutrient-deficient, irradiated, dead food into our bodies. We can deal with a toxic environment outside our bodies only if we choose to clean up the environment within out bodies. A first step in that direction, is getting gluten out of your diet.

On caveat however is that gluten foods are addictive, and many people have an enzyme dysfunction in their GI tract that creates Gliadorphin - an morphine-like molecule - when they eat gluten. This will create some level of withdrawal once gluten is removed from the diet so watch out and be diligent. We aim for perfection but settle for excellence and that includes changing our diet and everything we do.

Once we realize that gluten free is a preventative approach to longer, healthier life then its easier to make the switch. If you are waiting for your body to change overnight then you may be disappointed. Gluten-free is a long-term commitment to new foods, new habits, and self discipline. There are zero negatives from going gluten free - NONE. It is not an essential nutrient. The side effects of gluten free are as follows: clearer thinking, less pain, resolution of chronic diseases, improved digestion, immune system health, reduced inflammation, etc. Zero negatives, only positives.

I predict that in the future 5 to 10 years that "gluten free" will become a massive shift in our food production and consumption. If half of the population has a likely reaction to gluten, then that is a huge market segment. Gluten free is definitely the wave of the future.

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