Why is it better to avoid gluten? Do you think that gluten should be avoided only by people with diagnosed celiac disease? Do you think that if it is contained only in wheat, life and barley, then in a normal diet “do not take care of everything a bit? Are you sure?
All you have to do is enter the larger store and look at the shelves with food products. Racks with bread, cakes, pastas, cookies, and savory snacks usually take up almost 1/3 of the store’s retail space. Each of these products consists mainly of wheat.
But this is not the end … Now we’re going to shelves with semi-finished products baking powder, jelly, pudding, cakes with a bag – in most of them you will also find wheat flour. You go further – ready products for reheating (eg potato dumplings, potato dumplings) also have wheat or gluten in them.
You will also find gluten addition in products where you would not expect dense cream, processed cheese, sausages, pâtés, mustards, ketchups, vodka, beer – everywhere you will find traces of wheat in the form of gluten.
Why is gluten (wheat) so common?
About 12,000 years ago a great change took place in human history – at that time we invented agriculture. Until then, people were feeding on what they managed to hunt and find. Contrary to appearances, it was not an easy task, so the amount of food was limited.
Thanks to the invention of agriculture based on the cultivation of cereals and animal husbandry, the availability of food increased significantly, which was a strong impulse for the further development of civilization.
The first, ancient varieties of cereals had a very simple genetic structure and negligible efficiency. For thousands of years on the path of various crosses (hybridization), more and more efficient, resistant to pests and unfavorable climatic conditions of the variety have been created. Currently cultivated dwarfish varieties of wheat have little to do with their predecessors. As a result, a lot more crops can be obtained from a small area, which directly translates into a lower cost of the final product.
The present wheat varieties contain much more gluten, which when combined with water has fantastic mechanical properties – it stretches, giving the ready-made bake of elasticity and lightness. To this, thanks to the large amount of gluten contained in wheat, breads, rolls and cakes based on this flour are flexible and longer fresh.
Why is it best to avoid gluten from wheat?
A man on the path of evolution has developed qualities that allow him to survive in the best possible environment in the best possible way – this also applies to adapting to the available food. However, evolution is usually a very slow process – it requires hundreds or even thousands of generations to develop new desirable traits.
When we were collectors and hunters, we naturally adapted to the changes taking place in the environment. The people living in the circumpolar regions based their diet basing mainly on meat obtained from hunted animals. For a change, the communities living in the reciprocal climate enjoyed the benefits of nature in the form of a multitude of fruit and seeds available at their fingertips.
The achievements of science and technology, in particular in the field of genetic modification, turned this order upside down. Currently, year by year, by interfering with the genetic code, we can obtain new varieties that would never appear in nature or their creation would last thousands of years, and people would have time to adapt.
In the case of wheat, no evolutionary adaptation mechanisms have a chance to work. The human digestive system is not able to adapt quickly to changes in the structure of wheat proteins (gluten), which may translate into their improper digestion, as well as stimulation of the immune system, which unknown proteins treat as intruders.
But what exactly can happen and what part of the people may be affected?
- Most patients do not know that they suffer from celiac disease.
Gluten is a protein that in natural conditions is found in wheat, rye and barley. In practice, you can often find it in other cereals (such as oatmeal) – it gets there due to contamination with gluten crops. Gluten contamination can occur at the stage of cultivation (eg, single wheat ears in the oat field), transport and even processing.
Gluten consists of two groups of gliadin and glutenin proteins. Gliadins are particularly toxic and cause the greatest havoc in the human body.
When gliadin molecules are in the digestive tract, they stimulate the immune system, which recognizes them as an intruder. In some people, particularly sensitive to gliadin, it causes an immune system reaction that attempts to destroy the enemy (gliadin).
In the case of celiac disease (celiac disease), the immune system attacks gluten particles as well as tissue transglutaminase enzymes located in the gastrointestinal tract. For this reason, if you suspect celiac disease, one of the standard tests is to check the level of antibodies against tissue transglutaminase tTG.
Therefore, the consumption of gluten by people with celiac disease causes both stimulation of the immune system, as well as the attack of the immune system on the digestive system – hence the name autoimmune disease.
Celiac disease statistically affects about 1% of the population, although there are studies showing that in older social groups it can affect up to 2% of the population. In addition, other studies show that the number of people suffering from celiac disease in the last 40 years has been systematically increasing.
- Hypersensitivity to gluten may affect 20% of the population.
Yes, you do not need to be diagnosed with celiac disease to feel the negative effects of eating gluten. Why? There is another disease, called hypersensitivity to gluten or gluten intolerance, which is much more common.
What is hypersensitivity and gluten intolerance? This is a whole group of unwanted effects occurring while eating gluten and giving way to a gluten-free diet.
If you have any unwanted reactions of the body and excluded celiac disease (Celiac disease), you will almost certainly suffer from hypersensitivity or gluten intolerance.
In the case of hypersensitivity to gluten, the immune system does not attack your body’s cells. Nevertheless, many symptoms are very similar to celiac disease, gastrointestinal bleeding, stomach pain, weakness, diarrhea, pain in the bones and joints.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of a clear definition of intolerance or hypersensitivity to gluten, it is currently impossible to give exact data on which part of society these complaints relate to.
Screening tests to check the content of anti-gliadin antibodies show their presence in 6-8% of society. However, among people reporting to gastroenterologists, anti-gliadin antibodies were present in 11% of blood samples and in 29% of stool samples.
In addition, about 40% of people have HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes that may cause hypersensitivity to gluten.
Given the lack of a clear definition of hypersensitivity and intolerance to gluten and the inability to simply diagnose them, the only sensible option is to temporarily eliminate gluten from the diet and observe your body.
If after a few weeks the gluten-free diet disappears symptoms of indigestion, lack of energy and irritability or bloating, and after returning to the previous diet symptoms will return, then you have a simple answer to the question whether this ailment affects you or not.
- Gluten can affect each person negatively.
There are also studies showing that people without celiac disease and diagnosed gluten intolerance may experience adverse reactions after ingesting gluten.
In one of the studies, 34 people with irritable bowel syndrome were randomly divided into two groups. One group received foods containing gluten, the other was on a gluten-free diet.
Patients on the gluten diet experienced stronger gastrointestinal pain and more frequently experienced bleeding and diarrhea compared to the group being tested on a gluten-free diet.
There are also studies showing that consumption of gluten can cause inflammation of the intestine and degeneration of the intestinal lining. This can directly affect the unsealing of the intestine-blood barrier (intestinal leakage) and the penetration of undigested food particles directly into the blood, including allergenic proteins.
Irritable bowel syndrome causes many ailments not only in the digestive system and currently affects almost 14% of the community living in the USA (it is good to consider research in more developed communities to learn to prevent them). According to studies, many cases of IBS may be caused or exacerbated by gluten intake.
Studies on the impact of gluten on human health are still ongoing, however, from those that are available, it is clear that not only people with diagnosed celiac disease should seriously consider reducing or eliminating gluten from the diet.
- Consumption of gluten may be related to brain diseases.
Many people associate gluten with an effect on the digestive system. It is quite obvious that what we consume in a direct way translates into the condition of the digestive system. But does the effect of gluten on our body end there?
Unfortunately not. Many mental illnesses can be caused or exacerbated by eating foods containing gluten. This is called gluten-dependent idiopathic neuropathy. In studies (23) conducted on patients suffering from neurological diseases of unknown cause, anti-gliadin antibodies were detected in 30 out of 53 cases.
Cerebellar ataxia is one of the neurological disorders that is most probably caused by gluten. It manifests itself as a disorder of balance and difficulties in speaking. It is called gluten ataxia and consists in the irreversible destruction of the cerebellum, which is responsible for the control of motor activities.
There are many studies showing a high correlation between gluten consumption, gluten sensitivity and cerebellar ataxia. There are also studies showing that patients with ataxia experience significant correctness on a gluten-free diet.
There are also several other mental disorders that patients experience significant improvement on a gluten-free diet
So if you have any neurological disease, and your doctor does not know exactly what is causing it, maybe a good start would be to temporarily eliminate gluten and check whether he or she is not the cause of your ailments.