Gluten And Its Role In Gut Inflammation
If you are struggling with fatigue or gut issues, you might be wondering should you eat a gluten free diet?
I started eating gluten – free when I was diagnosed with a gut parasite that caused a lot of health issues for me. It was necessary to avoid gluten in order to starve the parasite of its food source and calm the inflammation in my gut. Getting rid of the parasite provided the last piece of my personal chronic fatigue puzzle. I finally regained my energy fully, after going gluten free and getting rid of the gut parasite.
Why can gluten be harmful? What happens in your body when you eat foods containing gluten?
What really goes on in your body after a supposedly ‘healthy’ breakfast consisting of some wholewheat toast or a bowl of wholemeal cereal?
Gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, and celiac disease have become common terms especially in recent years. While you probably relate to these terms, the specifics of what they actually mean, may seem a bit hazy.
We are no longer consuming the kind of foods our parents and grandparents ate. In the quest for faster growing, bug and drought resistant grains, hybridization is now the order of the day. In fact, recent studies have revealed that about 5% of the proteins contained in hybridized wheat were not present in plants of the original wheat.
This “change” in the grains is a part of the problem that has caused intolerance and inflammation in many people after they eat gluten containing foods.
Another problem created with modern day wheat is deamidation. Deamidation improves water solubility of wheat, making it more easily emulsified to be mixed with literally all kinds of packaged food. It has been shown to also cause an immune response in many people.
Once the wheat-rich pasta or gluten containing sandwich you eat reaches your intestines, an enzyme produced by the intestinal wall known as tissue transglutaminase (tTG) breaks the gluten down into gliadin and glutenin.
As the digestive process continues, the gut-associated lymphoid tissue, also known as GALT (the gut’s immune system) examines or assesses the system for the presence of substances that can be potentially harmful.
This digestive and absorption process goes smoothly in people without any gluten issues. However, in those with gluten sensitivity, gliadin is identified by GALT as a harmful substance producing antibodies to attack it.
In people suffering from celiac disease, the produced antibodies do not only attack gliadin, they also attack tTG, which is the primary enzyme that caused the breakdown of gluten into two parts.
The tTG plays a major role in the body, one of the most important is holding the micro villi in the gut together. The micro villi in the intestines help to absorb nutrients.
Attack on your tTG can cause atrophy of your micro villi, decreasing the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients, causing them to become inflamed and the gut to become leaky.
Digestive symptoms such as malnutrition, bloating, weight loss, constipation, and fat malabsorption can manifest in the individual. The attack and eventual blunting of the micro villi is a major indicator of the autoimmune disease known as celiac disease.
According to a study, over 80% of participants tested were found to have celiac disease without being aware of it.
Food Sources of Gluten
Lots of processed foods have gluten as part of their content. Because of this, identifying gluten in foods may not always be easy since it can be a component in some unexpected foods.
From your typical breakfast, lunch or dinner choices, it is likely that some of the foods will have gluten content in one form or another. But why is gluten used in so many foods?
First, it is important to understand what gluten actually is. It’s basically a protein found in grains, rye, barley, and wheat. Gluten grains, in particular are literally everywhere in our food supply, used due to their great taste and their importance in food processing and formulation.
Hence, they make up a large part of many preferred and processed foods that people eat every day.
So, which foods actually contain gluten?
Grains and Starches that contain gluten
- Semolina (Durum)
Many popular foods such as bread, doughnuts, scones, cakes, muffins, cookies, as well as savory pizza and pasta are made with wheat flour, and all contain gluten. While it is smart to always check the ingredient label before making any purchase, wheat may appear under a variety of words on a label. Some of these descriptions or words include flour, wheat flour, pasta, white flour, bread flour, bulgur, kamut, whole wheat flour, and spelt.
Barley is also used in food and drinks such as most beers, malt and malted beverages (including certain chocolates and malted milk), some soups, and it’s also used as a sweetener or to enhance the flavor of some processed foods.
Rye is the least common gluten grain used in foods, since it is only found in rye-containing breads and some forms of alcohol. Other gluten-containing foods include canned soups, sausage, and soy sauce. In addition, processed foods such as salad dressings, certain side dishes, spice mixtures, sauces, frozen meals, and even yogurt and other milk products may contain gluten.
What You Should Do
Obviously, gluten is found in many foods, and these may include some of your favorites. But, you can still stay gluten-free. You can achieve this by checking the ingredient label of every food product you purchase to ensure they are gluten-free. In addition, it is ideal to be sure of the different descriptions and words gluten can assume so you do not inadvertently consume foods with hidden descriptions.
All this may seem like a daunting task if you are new to a gluten-free diet. Indeed, gluten is so common in processed foods that it is either a main or featured ingredient, making it a near impossible task to avoid, especially at first.
It is best to eat natural foods such as fish, meat and poultry, fruit and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds. Make your own sauces and marinades so you can be sure they are gluten free.
Instead of pasta, make your own gluten free vegetable noodles with this great, easy to use spiralizer.
As you gain confidence over time, you can add gluten-free labeled foods often available from your local health food store.
Gluten Free Diet
A gluten free diet is basically a diet which excludes gluten. As explained above, this involves more than just avoiding wheat-rich pasta or breads. However, there are still a variety of foods for you to enjoy if you want to maintain a gluten-free diet.
From fruit and vegetables, eggs, plain fresh meat, chicken, legumes, oils, most dairy foods, fish, seeds and nuts, a gluten-free diet is invaluable in managing the signs and symptoms associated with inflammatory gluten related diseases.
Gluten Free Grains and Starches
Gluten Free Drinks
There are a wide range of gluten free drinks – including soft and alcoholic drinks:
- Fruit juice
In recent times, gluten free lagers and beers are being offered for those on a gluten-free diet. These drinks are becoming available in supermarkets.
Purpose of Gluten Free Diet
Gluten free diet is crucial in the management of certain medical conditions such as:
- Celiac disease
This is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system activity is triggered by the presence of gluten, damaging the wall of the small intestine. Over time, the attack on the intestine and consequent damage affects the absorption of nutrients.
- Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
In this case, there is no tissue damage as in celiac disease. However, some signs and symptoms common with celiac disease such as bloating, constipation, headache, abdominal pain, and diarrhea can be experienced.
- Gluten Ataxia
This is an autoimmune disorder which affects some nerve tissues, making voluntary muscle movement and muscle control an arduous task.
Like other food related allergies, this occurs when the immune system identifies gluten as a threat and disease causing substance. In response to this, antibodies are produced by the immune system to attack gluten, causing breathing difficulties and congestion, among other symptoms.
Improved Health Conditions
The gut damage caused as a result of gluten consumption may take between six months to even five years (or longer) to heal. Factors such as severity and age could affect the healing process. But whatever the case, a gluten free diet is ideal for improved health and a reduction in debilitating symptoms, even if it is a gradual process.
How To Ensure Nutrient Balance If Going Gluten Free
Gluten-free diets have become a trend in recent years, and have been touted as an effective solution to a wide range of medical conditions and symptoms. But while following a healthy, gluten-free diet plan, individuals with gluten sensitivity may experience different problems associated with nutrition deficiencies if they do not take care to follow a well-balanced diet.
How do you ensure nutrient balance while sticking to a gluten-free diet? How do you ensure optimum health while managing gluten sensitive symptoms? There is no denying that a gluten-free diet can be difficult to adhere to, but you can still ensure your diet is balanced, delicious, and supply full nutritional value.
Improving the Nutritional Profile
If you must follow a gluten-free diet plan, there are a variety of ways that can help you increase the nutritional value of your diet. Eating food in its natural state is an ideal start. This will involve consuming fresh whole foods such as fish and lean meats, and plant based foods. Here are a few tips that could guide you through a healthy, well-balanced, and nutritious gluten-free diet.
Optimizing your Diet
- Eat Whole Foods – Avoid processed or packaged foods.
- Increase Fiber Intake – Eat more vegetables, fruits, beans, and grains such as millet, amaranth, and quinoa.
- Increase Protein – Nuts, seeds, dairy, fish, lean meat, and beans should form a major part of your diet.
- Cut out Sugar – Remove sugary coffee, juice, and soda, try other options. Try using stevia as a sweetener. You can also drink sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
- Avoid excess Salt Intake – Processed foods and snacks typically contain high amounts of refined salt. Use sea salt and Himalayan salt for their nutrient value to season your food naturally.
- Reduce Alcohol – Adults are normally advised not to drink over 14 units of alcohol weekly. Ideally avoid it altogether or have several days each week without alcohol consumption. This has been shown to better manage the effects of gluten sensitivity.
The Importance of Vitamins and Mineral Supplements
Diseases like celiac and leaky gut are hallmarks of gluten intolerance and sensitivity. The conditions occur due to gut damage, and over time, this causes problems with food absorption and nutritional deficiencies. While a well-balanced gluten-free diet can be very effective, some people may need specific vitamin and mineral supplements to tackle any symptoms and nutrient deficiencies.
5 Benefits Of A Gluten Free Diet
Going Gluten-free is increasingly becoming a trend, coming into the spotlight as a result of its huge benefits. While gluten-free food stuffs are now showing up in grocery stores, health food stores and supermarkets, most people are still unsure about its health benefits.
- Lowers Inflammation
A gluten-free diet can be especially invaluable for people struggling with inflammatory diseases or autoimmune disorders. In this case, the immune system may find it difficult to identify the gluten in the grain, the body may identify it as an infected substance and attack itself in the process. This usually happens due to irritation of the gut, leading to inflammation – an immune system response to injury.
- Improves Energy Levels
Low energy levels are a major consequence of gluten sensitivity. If you often feel the need to take a mid-day nap every day, gluten in your diet could be responsible. Gluten intolerance makes it difficult for individuals to absorb vitamins and minerals like a normal person which may eventually lead to fatigue.
However, severities vary, and some may be mild, causing only sluggishness or a feeling of lethargy, with no other symptoms of insensitivity. But in any case, a gluten-free diet will help to increase energy levels.
- Supports the Digestive System
A gluten-free diet can help you manage digestive problems. People suffering any digestive issues could find symptom relief when a gluten-free diet resolves these problems. Those with leaky gut experience inflammation of the intestine leading to nutrient absorption problems and malnutrition. When you stick to a gluten-free diet, you often reduce a wide range of intestinal problems such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pains, and gas.
- Decreased Bloating
The inflammatory effect of gluten can cause bloating and gas, and in some cases, this may occur almost immediately following ingestion of gluten-based diet. Although those who are not affected by celiac disease are unlikely to experience permanent damage, they may suffer severe discomfort of the gastrointestinal tract when they consume gluten-based foods.
- Improved Immunity
Did you know that a significant percentage of your immune system is located in your gut? Sadly, it is the good bacteria in the colon small intestine that are first sent out to attack gluten in the body. But when you stick to a gluten-free diet, you would allow the bacteria in the intestine and colon to function optimally, allowing better management of other infections and poisoning that may occur in your intestine.
Putting it all together
If you decide a gluten free diet could be beneficial to you, become familiar with gluten containing foods and learn which foods you should avoid. Eat a natural, unprocessed diet for optimal nutrition. Be patient and give this new way of eating some time to work as it may take several months to reduce inflammation and heal damage to your gut.
If you have any comments or queries, please feel free to leave them below.