Gluten-free diets have becomemore in more fashionable over the past 10 years. People avoid gluten for a variety of reasons. For starters, foods containing gluten are usually high in carbohydrates and are quickly converted into sugar by the body. Foods containing gluten include foods like pasta, bread, baked goods, and processed foods. But the mystery gluten molecule is actually a combination of proteins naturally found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, spelled and kamut. Protein gluten breaks down into two proteins, glutenin and gliadin. In the United States, wheat is the most consumed grain containing gluten.
glutenin + gliadin = gluten (the protein found in wheat products) Although many people avoid gluten-containing foods to watch their waistline, the number of people suffering from more serious immune responses such as celiac disease and immediate-response allergies to gluten is increasing. There are several types of reactions that individuals can experience from gluten, ranging in severity from mildly delayed food sensitivity to celiac disease allergy, a severe immune system reaction to gluten proteins.
Types of gluten responses can include:
- Allergy (IgE response) to gluten: The IgE-mediated immune response to gluten occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to harmless food proteins. IgE allergies are immediate allergic responses. The onset of an allergy occurs immediately and up to 3 hours after consumption of the offending food. Symptoms of a gluten allergy vary from person to person and may include swelling, itching, rash, digestive problems, headache, pain, swelling, throat closing (anaphylactic reaction) and/or congestion.
- Food sensitivity (IgG response) to gluten: IgG-mediated delayed-response sensitivities are capable of causing inflammation that can cause a large number of adverse reactions. The onset occurs 3 hours and up to 3 days from the consumption of foods containing gluten. The delayed response can make it difficult to identify wheat as the culprit. The symptoms of a food sensitivity may include upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, inflammation, weight gain, foggy thoughts, skin rash, headache, sinus congestion and/or pain in the body. Responses to IgG food sensitivities can sometimes be the same as an IgE response, but will manifest much more discreetly.
- Celiac disease is an autoimmune response to gluten proteins in genetically predisposed individuals, resulting in damage to the small intestine. It is estimated that celiac disease affects 1 in 100 people worldwide. The diagnosis must be made by intestinal biopsy. If gluten has already been eliminated from the diet, biopsy may not be a reliable method for screening for celiac disease. Genetic testing for complex genetics that may contribute to celiac disease can be done if gluten has already been eliminated from the diet to assess whether an individual carries genes that put them at risk for developing celiac disease. Genetic testing is especially useful in infants and children with a family history or suspected celiac disease. Symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly from person to person and include vomiting, constipation, bloating, weight loss, fatigue, tooth enamel defects,
One study compared the presence of undiagnosed celiac disease in samples from subjects taken more than 65 years ago to same-sex samples taken in Olmsted County, Minnesota, 9 years ago. The results of the study revealed that the rate of celiac disease in more current Olmsted Country subjects was 4 times higher than in the 1940s/50s group of subjects.
Factors that may contribute to the development of gluten allergies, gluten sensitivities, and/or celiac disease are debated. This may be due to any or all of the following:
- MODERN WHEAT IS HYBRID. Modern hybrid wheat has increased gluten protein. Wheat breeding began in the 1960s to help increase wheat production and prevent disease resistance in wheat crops. It is theorized that there is an increase in protein gluten in hybridized wheat. Some people say that when they go to Europe they have no problem with bread, but in the United States they experience symptoms when they eat it. Is it because their wheat has less gluten so there isn’t as much protein to react to?
- PLOT THE QUANTITIES OF WHEAT IN EVERYTHING. Wheat is one of the “BIG 8” in the United States; the BIG 8 refers to the top 8 allergens in the United States. You will notice that manufacturers are required to label products that may contain wheat due to the allergenic risk for allergy sufferers. Trace amounts of wheat/gluten can be found in many processed foods and packaged food products, leading to overconsumption and overexposure for individuals. Frequent overexposure to a food can make individuals more susceptible to developing future reactions to wheat.
- HYPER HYGIENE.TheHygiene Hypothesis refers to the overuse of antibacterial soaps, antibacterial hand sanitizers/sprays, and antibiotics both for the treatment of infections and in our food supply, resulting in a decreased incidence of infections in the United States and in other Western countries. Due to the decrease in bacteria (both good and bad), the incidence of autoimmune diseases and allergies has increased. Hello, wheat allergies!
- GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM??? The USDA discovered accidental GMO wheat in Washington State in 2019 and it’s not the first time (GMO wheat has been found three other times). Monsanto suspended commercial production of GMO wheat in 2004 due to growing concerns that Europeans would not buy the exported crop. Although GMO wheat is not approved for the food supply, it is doubtful that the GMO version of the crop will ever slip through the cracks.
- GLUTEN AND GUT LEAKS. Even people with no known reaction to gluten should be tired of overconsumption. Wheat can be high in mycotoxins, which are toxins produced by certain molds (fungi) and can be found in grains. Wheat and other grains also naturally contain antinutrients called phytates that block the absorption of important minerals. Those with no known reactions to wheat should always opt for sprouted wheat varieties such as Ezekiel products. It’s also easy to soak and germinate your own cereal. Replace gluten-containing grains with grain-like seeds such as millet or quinoa. Oats are naturally gluten-free, but if you have a known reaction to wheat or gluten, select varieties of oats labeled ‘gluten-free’, such as Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oats.
So now we want to hear from you! Why do you think wheat/gluten and celiac disease allergies and sensitivities are on the rise? Have you noticed that you can eat wheat abroad, but you can’t eat it in the United States? What about wheat and gluten?