Gluten is one of the most common food sensitivities a person can have. In fact, it is linked to over 55 diseases! Gluten is actually a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and some oats. It is extracted from these grains and used in other foods to add texture and protein as well. No human can digest gluten from wheat, rye, and barley.
Gluten is highly addictive. You have receptors in your brain that are affected by gluten much the same way that opium affects them. This is one reason why it can be so difficult to eliminate from your diet. Gluten is known to cross the intestinal barrier, either intact or partly digested, and can disproportionally feed the bacteria in the gut, leading to gut dysbiosis. It also stimulates the release of zonulin, which acts directly on the tight junctions in the gut; this causes them to open up and allows the contents of the gut to leak out. Once gluten has leaked out, it interacts with the immune system of the gut.
What is Gluten Sensitivity?
Gluten sensitivity is a disorder of the immune system that has a wide range of manifestations throughout the body and brain. When gluten is consumed, the immune system responds by producing inflammation, and this inflammation damages tissues throughout the body. The immune response from gluten is delayed (from 10 minutes to 2 days) but long lasting. Many people who have gluten sensitivity seem to have zero symptoms, which can make the diagnosis and avoidance more difficult. Whether or not we experience a reaction to gluten is due to crossing an imaginary threshold in the body. This is an internal process, so most of us don’t even know when it happens.
Symptoms can vary, but no tissue, organ, or gland in the body is immune to the effects of gluten. The brain and nervous system are commonly affected causing difficulty concentrating, memory problems, fatigue, and irritability.
“In children, gluten sensitivity is linked to disorders such as ADD and ADHD, depression, anxiety, and apathy.”
-Dr. Tom O’Bryan
The following are examples of diseases and symptoms that can be triggered by gluten. This list includes but is not limited to:
Fatigue Liver Disease Hormonal Imbalance
Infertility Diarrhea/Constipation Brain Ataxia
Obesity Some Cancers Dermatitis
Diabetes Headaches/Migraines Being Underweight
Depression ADD/ADHD Muscular Pain
Rheumatoid Arthritis Acid Reflux MS
Anxiety Autism Alzheimer’s
Thyroid Disease Brain Fog/Poor Memory Osteoporosis
Where Gluten Hides
Any packaged or prepared foods, candy, or beverages such as hot chocolate and soda need to be checked for hidden gluten-containing ingredients. This includes salads, soups, and so-called “healthy” options. Common hidden sources of gluten include but are not limited to artificial colors, baking powder, broths, caramel color, emulsifiers, food starch, modified food starch, French fries, hydrolyzed protein, maltose, natural flavorings, and non-dairy creamers. If you are buying anything in a package, you MUST read labels carefully to make sure the item is gluten-free. The good news is that animal proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats are naturally gluten-free!
Do I Need to Avoid Gluten Completely?
“Just a little bit” of gluten is enough to cause a significant reaction from the immune system, and the effects can last weeks or even months. It can take up to 6 months for the immune system to calm down and heal from a single small exposure! With that being said, if you have a known autoimmune disease/condition (overactive immune system), I encourage you eliminate gluten from your diet for the rest of your life. Trust me, your body will THANK YOU!
“Gluten is the most common environmental toxin that we are exposed to.”
-Dr. Tom O’Bryan
Why would we continue to eat something that causes/increases inflammation and increases gut permeability (leaky gut) every time we eat it?
If you have not done so already, I HIGHLY encourage everyone to pull gluten out of their diets for at least 21 days and notice how they look, feel, and perform.