Gluten, gluten everywhere and the effect it’s having on our bodies is astronomical. The increase in hamburger buns, pizza dough, unhealthy snacks and processed bread in our diets has introduced more gluten than our poor digestive tracts can manage. You see, modern baking methods don’t leave enough time for the gluten to convert into digestable sugars and this causes a negative reaction in the immune systems of those who are gluten-intolerant leading to a number of unpleasant, and often debilitating symptoms.
Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity
Celiac sufferers are allergic to gluten which causes damage to their small intestine. The damage is actually caused by the auto immune system which attacks cells in the digestive tract called tissue transglutaminase that make up the intestinal wall.
This causes intestinal damage which can lead to nutrient deficiencies, anemia, fatigue, digestive issues and an increased risk of other serious diseases.
While only about 1% of the population suffers from celiac disease (an allergic reaction to gluten) many more show a sensitivity to gluten. Researchers are identifying this sensitivity to gluten as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Sufferers of NCGS don’t test positive for celiac disease, but show many of the same symptoms when consuming products which contain gluten.
Researchers are not in agreement on the existence of NCGS with a few studies suggesting there is some scientific basis for the symptoms, while others contend that only those diagnosed with celiac disease have a gluten intolerance. Despite a lack of consensus among the scientific community, it is the consumers themselves who are driving the gluten-free trend. They claim that they experience many of the same symptoms that celiac sufferers do and that these symptoms stop when they cut gluten from their diets.
Why is gluten bad?
Gluten is actually a natural composite protein which can be found in many grains like spelt, rye, barley and wheat. Gluten is made of gliadin and glutenin proteins and it’s the gliadin that gluten-sensitive tummies are reacting to.
When flour made from these grains is combined with water, it gets sticky and creates an elastic dough that makes the baking process so much easier. In fact, the name ‘gluten’ is derived from the glue-like properties of this protein.
In traditional bread-making processes, the bread was properly fermented through natural leavening, allowing the gluten to convert into digestible sugar. This allows for proper digestion and will not result in digestive issues. However, modern making methods create loaves that are baked in 45 minutes, leaving no time for the conversion of gluten.
This means your body is being flooded with gluten when you eat bread and other products utilizing modern baking methods. When all this gluten reaches your digestive tract, the immune system mistakes it for some kind of foreign invader, like a bacteria. In the digestive tracts of the gluten-sensitive, this causes their immune systems to launch a counter attack which results in some of the following symptoms:
Gluten sensitivity means your body has to work harder to fight the effects of gluten. If you are falling asleep at the keyboard or dozing off in meetings, you may find that this fatigue happens after a lunch which featured gluten.
Irritability and depression
Studies show a link between celiac disease and an increased instance of irritability, anxiety and depression. People who have a gluten sensitivity report suffering from the same symptoms.
There are a wide range of digestive issues which result from gluten sensitivity including diarrhea, acid reflux, constipation, and abdominal cramping and pain.
Research presented by Columbia University clinicians found that 56% of people who suffered from gluten sensitivity had chronic headaches including migraines compared to 14% of people in the control group.
Dandruff and eczema
Some forms of dandruff are varieties of eczema which are both side effects of gluten sensitivity. Sufferers may also experience itchy rashes as a result of their sensitivity to gluten. Not all forms of dandruff and eczema are related to gluten.
Pins and needles
Permanent tingling in the extremities is known as peripheral neuropathy and is a result of damaged nerves. Pain and numbness may also be experienced. This occurs in 1 out of 10 people who suffer from celiac disease.
The inability to focus or concentrate has been linked to gluten sensitivity. Studies show that people with celiac disease are more likely to suffer from ADHD. As yet, there is only anecdotal evidence linking attention deficits to gluten sensitivity.
This article was originally posted on the Shasha Bread Co. blog