Gluten free? Gluten intolerance? Gluten what?

Posted: April 10, 2013 in General, Nutrition
Tags: , , , ,

Gluten

Gluten free diets is a bit of a buzz topic at the moment and more and more people seem to be switching to a “gluten free” diet. Market research specialist Mintel estimated UK’s gluten free market at around £160 million in 2012 and is predicted to hit around £561 million within 5 years. Does it make it a healthier option to buy gluten free products rather than normal? And is it really necessary to go gluten free?

What is gluten?

Gluten is just a protein (glue in Latin), and acts as a binding protein (hence glue), without gluten all breads would look like pancakes! It is typically found in foods processed from wheat and grain e.g. Barley and rye. Structurally gluten is actually made from 2 proteins called prolamins and glutelins, the types of these 2 proteins however vary depending upon the source:
– Wheat: Gliadin, Glutelin
– Rye: Secalin, Rye glutelin
– Barley: Hordein, Barley glutelin
– Oats: Avenin, oat glutelin

Why go gluten free?

Gluten free diets originally came about to help celiac disease patients. Celiac disease is a condition in which eating gluten causes an abnormal autoimmune response that damages the intestines. Resulting in an inability to absorb nutrients properly and efficiently…not what you want if improving your health is your goal. People with celiac disease are more likely to develop arthritis, Addison’s disease, Down’s syndrome, intestinal cancer, intestinal lymphoma, lactose intolerance, thyroid disease and type 1 diabetes.

How does gluten cause disruptions in our intestines?

A fantastic explanation of this problem is explained by Jordan Feigenbaum from http://www.thefitcoach.wordpress.com.

“Digestion primarily occurs in the duodenum (in small intestine), whereas absorption primarily occurs in the jejunum and ileum. We can think about the small intestine as a long tube with finger-like projections known as villi. The layer of cells covering the inside of this digestive tube are called enterocytes and these cells interact with any and all food particles including gluten and its main component Gliadin and glutenin. Enterocytes are sealed off between each other by whats know as tight junctions (zonula occludens), which is made up of three distinct proteins: cadherins, zonulins and occludins. We can generally think of tight junctions in the gut as being impermeable or resisting the transmission of any molecule, substance or compound between the cells. In a healthy person this would mean that absorption of nutrients happens directly across the enterocyte and not in between them.”

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The problem which arises is when the Gliadin and the glutenin interact with the enterocytes directly causing a disruption of these tight junctions in the small intestine. Several molecular changes occur resulting in an opening in the small intestinal wall…not what we want as when exposed to chronic openings in this wall unwanted molecules and substances move into the body’s blood steam directly causing autoimmune responses such as inflammatory responses (this problem is also referred to as leaky gut syndrome).

What to take away from this?

I would recommend you go gluten free and avoid wheat products and processed foods. However I wouldn’t recommend you go and buy loads of gluten free products as they will have just replaced the gluten with other additives and things our bodies don’t need. Eat natural from nature, if you can catch it, kill it or grow it than eat it and you should be pretty safe. If you eliminate gluten and decide to add it in again check for the symptoms:
– gastointenstinal problems (gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, constipation, diarrhoea)
– headaches/migraines
– irrational mood shifts
– fatigue after meals
– neurological problems I.e. dizziness and balance problems

*remember if you add in gluten to your diet of a period without than make it a slow process so you can figure out which food problems bring up the problem I.e. may have problems with wheat foods but not oats.

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