New to a Gluten-Free lifestyle? Then Start Here
Are you concerned that Gluten might be the cause of your problems and don’t know where to start? Do you have a loved one diagnosed with Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity and you want to learn more? No matter what your question is, have a read below to get a grasp on the basics of Gluten – take it one step further and purchase the Book ‘What the…? I can’t eat THAT anymore?‘ and you will become an expert on gluten and how to manage your new gluten-free life or help others around you.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the collective name for proteins found in all grains like rice, oats, corn, millet, and wheat. In the instance of gluten intolerance and celiac disease, it is the proteins found only in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale that appears to activate the immune system, and society refers to these proteins as gluten.
Gluten proteins in other grains like rice and corn do not trigger an auto-immune response for celiac disease. This is especially important to know when you are learning what you can and cannot eat. So if you feel sick from eating other grains like rice, know that it’s not triggering an autoimmune response, you could be reacting to something else.
In Latin, gluten means glue and that’s what it does; it’s the glue that binds wheat products together. Gluten is responsible for the elasticity of wheat products, like pizza dough for example, and it reacts amazingly well with oxygen for dough to expand.
Wheat, rye, and barley have a wide variety of other names and forms, so spotting a gluten-containing grain can be tricky sometimes. Below are 21 other names to be wary of:
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is the more clinical name for what people call gluten-sensitive, or gluten intolerant.
When you consume gluten-containing foods the body sees clumps of those protein pearls in the digestive system and has a hard time trying to break them down properly. The acute reaction that people feel from this is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
People can have varying degrees of reactions but sometimes the body responds like this:
Uh-oh human host, you shouldn’t have fed me that food. Now I will make you bow down to the toilet bowl and vomit like a hung-over teenager, or make it come out of your rear end just as profusely. Perhaps I’ll plug up your bum hole so you can’t poop for a week or make you feel bloated and downright miserable for a while.
Once your body has finished punishing you for feeding it gluten, the lesson is over until the next time you consume gluten.
However, some people may not have an acute reaction but rather present with a problem that’s totally unrelated to the gut, like sore joints, brain fog, migraines, rashes, or eye problems but have no clue it may be linked to gluten consumption. These responses are called inflammation and they usually target the weakest spot in the body.
The other thing to consider is that testing for non-celiac gluten sensitivity doesn’t rely on a medical scale; the only way to diagnose is to eliminate the wheat and see if your problems go away.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is appearing to affect quite a wide range of the population, with Dr. Alessio Fasano (a guru in the celiac disease world) believing that upwards of 6% of the US population could be struggling with gluten.
This is where some of your warfare soldiers come into play.
In the instance of a wheat allergy, your IgE Warfare Soldiers are sent into battle against what it thinks is the foreign invader. These soldiers then bust out sub-soldiers called histamines and they cause an inflammatory response to deal with the allergen. The type of allergen will determine the reaction you have. Typical responses may be swelling of the throat, lips or tongue, wheezing, coughing, red eyes, and vomiting. However, to add to this, you may also present any of the symptoms in the non-celiac gluten sensitivity category.
Your IgE soldiers also get activated in other circumstances as well, not just wheat. To give you an example, a pollen allergy might cause a runny nose. A fur allergy might cause you to have swollen, bloodshot eyes, and a rash. Those reactions are caused by your histamines trying to purge the toxic substance out of your body. There is no one size fits all rule. In some cases, some people can have an anaphylactic wheat allergy that will require them to carry around an Epi pen, just as one might for nuts. You can have a wheat allergy without having celiac disease, or you can have celiac disease without a wheat allergy, or if you’re really unlucky you can have both.
A simple blood test can test for elevated levels of IgE and will let you know if you are allergic to wheat or any other potential allergens like pollen and dairy.
This is not an allergy or a sensitivity. It is a disease, a real disease, just like any other. It falls within the category of auto-immune disease.
When you eat wheat, your immune system has detected those clumps of protein pearls (peptides), and in most cases, has recognized the common gliadin pearl clump. Your immune system recognizes a special code (in most instances it’s gliadin fraction 9) stamped on the peptide clump, just like a virus protection software detects an incoming threat from the internet. The body then busts out your different set of Warfare Soldiers; these bad boys are called IgA and IgG. These guys have special training to defend against real threats like viruses, but for some reason, they have detected that code on the gliadin clump of pearls, become confused, and decided it’s a foreign invader that needs to be eliminated. This is not a good thing. This is notsupposed to happen, and in a normal functioning body, this does not occur.
When you eat wheat, those warfare soldiers get their wires crossed and, thinking that wheat is a bad thing, rush down to your intestines to deal with the bagel and cream cheese you ate for breakfast. They are going nuts down there, lighting fires to burn out the gluten.
Instead of giving those poor guys a rest and time to retreat, you eat a ham and salad baguette at lunch. So, now they are back and calling for reinforcements with the blow torches and really going crazy in effort to eliminate gluten.
Then you get home from work and, with any luck, your loved one has surprised you with a special dinner. They looked up a recipe on Pinterest (because you keep raving about this app) and they’ve made a sumptuous lasagna for dinner.
Repeat this process for most meals of the day, for most days of the week, for most weeks of the month, for most months of the year, and for most years of your life.
At this point, your immune system is in overdrive. It’s saying, “F* you” and is blasting everything…including the lining of your intestines. It’s burning the whole place down to the ground. As you learned from Digestion 101, this is where all those beautiful villi live that absorb nutrients into the body. Those soldiers have turned from antibodies into autoantibodies. They are not only attacking the gliadin pearl group (gliadin fraction 9) they are attacking your own body tissue on autopilot.
This defines an auto-immune disease. Your immune system is wrongly activating on autopilot. Somewhere along the line in your life, your body shifted balance and triggered your antibodies to recognize gluten as a bad thing, one this trigger occurs, those soldiers are reprogrammed for life and there is no going back. I discuss a bit further on the possible different triggers.
Now, when you eat gluten, the fire never goes out. Those poor soldiers are exhausted. How well do you think they can do their job when you get a real virus attack on your body or infection? Have you noticed that you get the cold or flu more frequently now and it lasts for longer periods? Your immune system is so overworked that it’s not able to protect the body like it should.
Now your body is struggling to regenerate. Your intestines are torched to a smoldering, raggedy sausage casing. Your immune system is sick, there is no villi left, and you’re struggling to absorb nutrients from food.
More information about:
- Just how much gluten does it take to destroy the villi;
- Symptoms of Celiac Diseas
- Why do you and I have Celiac Disease but others do not?
- How to diagnose for Celiac Disease
- The 5 Levels of your villi and how they are measured
- If I have Celiac will other family members have it too?
- Can you ever really heal from Celiac Disease?