Why People Who Don’t Have Celiac Disease Go On Gluten-Free Diets, Maybe You Should Too

What? Preposterous! Crazy!

But is it?

Lets explore the issues, pros and cons… and be informed

In this post I will show you how gluten

  • Is best avoided by many people
  • Is often silently causing damage to tissues and organs, including the brain, and we don’t know about it until damage is done
  • Is believed by many to be at the root of much ill-health in our culture

And we will consider the implications of this for us as individuals, as countries and cultures, and for generations.

Background Context

In previous posts I have looked at gluten in some depth. See here and here.

Some of the key facts for context for this post are

  • Gluten is a type of protein found in most grains, with a toxic strain of this protein being found in wheat, barley, spelt and rye. Oats are usually contaminated with this gluten strain too
  • It is found in a huge variety of products which we eat or have in our environment, including personal products we use
  • Of all the proteins humans eat, gluten is the only one we cannot fully digest, we lack the enzymes to do so
  • Ingestion of it, creates temporary intestinal permeability in EVERYONE as a result of zonulin secretion
  • For some this is a temporary situation with their immune systems mounting a successful reaction to reverse the increased permeability. For other susceptible individuals, the reversal is not successful and it is a problem. They may exhibit a variety of symptoms, or none at all, while tissue/organ damage ensues
  • The perpetual irritation can lead to inflammation of the intestinal tissues, leading to damage and ‘leaky gut’, allowing substances into the body which should just pass straight out though.

 

Gluten-Related Disorders

Gluten related disorders have been categorised into three types

  • autoimmune – celiac disease – three states being possible : symptomatic, silent or potential
  • allergic – wheat allergy
  • not autoimmune/not allergic – innate immunity – gluten sensitivity

We will consider two of these, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

Celiac Disease – What Is It?

Let’s define celiac disease.

The University Of Chicago Medicine Celiac Disease Center defines it as

‘an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine.’

Exposure and ingestion to gluten results in damage to the villi and microvilli in the digestive tract, leading to malabsorption of nutrients. The damage is caused by the immune response to the gluten and the antibodies actually attack the cells of the gut. The villi and microvilli are worn away if the exposure continues. It is a serious chronic condition which requires life-long avoidance of gluten – a gluten-free diet.

Statistics vary but the prevalence is thought to be 1-2%. However because many cases of celiac disease are clinically silent, the numbers may well be much higher.

 

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)

I have discussed in a previous post, ‘Gluten – It Tastes Good, Feels Good, But It Just Might Be Killing You! What The Big Companies Are Not Telling You…‘ many of the issues around gluten and the effect it has on our bodies.

Dr Tom O’Bryan has spent his working life studying gluten and the effects of it on the human body. In his book The Autoimmune Fix he describes non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and outlines some of the similarities and differences between it and celiac disease

Gluten sensitivity untreated

  • Causes a reaction to gluten via the innate immune branch in the body
  • Does not wear down the villi and microvilli
  • Causes as much, or more inflammation in the body as celiac disease
  • Causes similar symptoms when exposed to gluten, including but not limited to anxiety, headaches, brain fog, nerve damage, and general ill-health
  • Leads to autoimmune disorders, obesity, heart disease etc
  • Schizophrenia

He also discusses it in this video.

He reports that gluten sensitivity affects far more people than celiac disease, and that they too do just as well when following a gluten free diet.

It is ‘an unclear and controversial entity’ in some quarters but with increasing incidence and huge amount of research into the condition it is becoming more widely recognised. See here and here.

Fasano et al’s research discussion suggests that around 10% of the population experience problems as a result of gluten, although numbers vary in the research with figures being placed as high as 40% of Americans being affected to some degree!

The incidence is hard to gauge for a number of reasons, including the under-reporting of the condition and the lack of clear diagnosis, patients often seem to self-diagnose and start gluten free diet without medical advice. See here.

 

Inflammation

Let’s talk inflammation for a minute. My daughter just broke her toe, ouch! We have been watching it swell, turn a nasty shade of red, then purple and now the bruising is pretty black. And pain… boy is it sore!

These are symptoms of temporary inflammation whilst the injury heals. We are all familiar with them.

Chronic inflammation is a whole different game within the body. When the body is bombarded with irritants, of which gluten is for many, the situation can become ongoing.

Inflammation is believed to be causative of many modern day, common diseases which are growing to epidemic proportions. Dr Axe discusses the current frenzy of research into this area of medicine and the growing belief that chronic inflammation is behind diseases including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementias, autoimmune disorders and cancers.

Chronic inflammation, oxidative stress and damage to cells and tissues are things to be responsible over where possible, not promote.

Is There A Case To Suggest Everyone Should Eat Gluten-Free?

Facts are

  • Everyone releases zonulin in response to gluten ingestion
  • This leads to increased permeability of the gut lining, temporary in individuals who mount an effective immune response, more problematic in susceptible individuals
  • No human has the enzymes to fully digest the gluten protein
  • People can be gluten sensitive without symptoms
  • Gluten is absolutely everywhere
  • Repeated irritation of the gut lining leads to inflammatory chemicals being released, chronic inflammation and tissue damage
  • AND WE MIGHT NOT EVEN KNOW IT because we may not have symptoms just yet

Dr Perlmutter in Grain Brain makes an absolutely compelling case throughout his book for considering gluten in the diet whether a person exhibits symptoms or not.

He says on page 64,

‘Gluten is our generation’s tobacco’!!!

This is an incredible seeming statement, but he makes a powerful, strong case for it all through the book.

He is world renowned expert neurologist so he knows a thing or two. We would do well to consider his claims and writings before dismissing them out-of-hand so we can continue to munch away on our beloved glutenous foods.

Impact

When we have information we become responsible for what we do with it. As an individual, a country and a world. This information is so empowering if we use it well!

A powerful question to ask is…

Should we be continually ingesting something that sets us up for chronic inflammation and a near continual triggering of our immune system?

It is an interesting concept and idea to consider. Consider the effect of accurate health information dissemination regarding tobacco and smoking, the decline in numbers of people choosing to smoke despite it’s habit forming and addictive nature.

With transparent information and education on gluten, what far reaching impact and legacy could we leave for generations who follow us?

Within freedom of choice, what role and responsibility do government, advertising and food manufacturers have to make people aware of the disastrous affect this stuff has on many people?

If we did drastically reduce the number of people eating gluten, what impact would that have on the quality, and quantity of life for multitudes of people? What impact on our economies in the West, currently so heavily burdened with health care costs?

These are questions that I think are key in a day and age when we are experiencing epidemics of chronic ill-health, heart disease, dementias, diabetes and autoimmune disorders. Especially when the link has been made, and continues to be proved, that for many, many people gluten is of serious health concern… remind you of anything? (Tobacco?)

 

 

The information provided in this blog post is designed to provide helpful information regarding lifestyle, health and wellness; for educational purposes only. The information is not meant to be used, nor should it be used, to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition please consult your medical professional.

Always consult your healthcare professional for your individual needs, and it is also recommended to do so before starting any new dietary or exercise program.

About the author

Judith Ansty

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