So, what is the big deal with gluten? Why is it such an issue?
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and wheat related grains (such as rye and barley). Gluten is composed of gliadin (an glycoprotein) and glutelin (). Glycoproteins are proteins or amino acids with a sugar molecule attached to them. Gluten is "essential for giving bread the ability to rise properly and fix its shape in baking". It provides the elasticity to the bread dough, helps it rise, helps it keep its shape, and helps give a chewy texture to the final product.
These substances compose approximately 80% of the protein in wheat seeds.
Gluten acts like a toxin to many people. The influence of this toxin varies from person to person. Some people have an extreme reaction and have significant and overt problems associated with any exposure to gluten. Others have milder symptoms that may not be readily identifiable without removing gluten altogether.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is essential a destruction of the villous portion of the small bowel wall. Here is the gist of what happens with celiac disease:
The small intestine processes much of our food intake. The lining of the small intestine has numerous folds which increase the surface area of the lining. Intestinal cells cover the lining and are responsible for the assimilation of nutrients and protecting the body from toxic substances.
Tissue transglutamine, an enzyme that cross links 2 specific amino acids, modifies the gliadin protein which then cross-reacts with the tissue in the small intestine causing an inflammatory reaction. This inflammatory reaction leads to villous atrophy - destruction of the 'numerous folds' on the lining - which interferes with small bowel absorption.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease &/or Gluten Sensitivity:
- Loose/Greasy stools
- Weight Loss (failure to gain weight in children)
- Abdominal Pain/Cramping
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thyroid disease
- Liver disease
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Brain fog/Poor memory
- Stunted growth
- Hormonal imbalance
Again, there is much variation from one person to the next regarding the amount of illness, or 'penetration', regarding gluten. Thus, some people can't tolerate any of it and will express tremendous symptoms. Others can have very mild symptoms. Still others seem to 'get by' just fine with gluten in their diet.
Regardless, there is more and more evidence suggesting that avoiding gluten and gluten containing products is the way to go.
My recommendation: cut it out COMPLETELY for at least 30 days.
Even still, there appears to be some damage even if you don't 'feel better'.
Feel free to take a look through some of these references & resources for more information.