What is Gluten?
Gluten is a component of a number of grains commonly found in Western diets. Gluten contains a protein known as alpha-gliadin, which can cause severe digestive & bowel complaints in susceptible people.
The four primary grains containing gluten are...
Wheat, oats, rye and barley. Buckwheat is not a type of wheat but rather a grass and is gluten-free. Spelt is related to wheat, however some gluten intolerant individuals can consume spelt without reactions.
Research has shown that millet and malt may pose a problem for some coeliac sufferers, while oats may be acceptable in moderate quantities to some gluten sensitive individuals.
Some herbs contain a small amount of gluten, such as psyllium, but this amount is usually not of a significant concern to the health of individuals.
What kind of problems can gluten cause?
Gluten can cause a reaction in the mucous lining of the intestine. The villi lining the small intestine suffer damage and destruction, which impairs the body's ability to absorb vital nutrients.
Malabsorption becomes a serious problem and the loss of vitamins, minerals and calories results in malnutrition despite an adequate diet. Because gluten impairs digestion, food allergies may become more apparent.
Over many years of gluten ingestion, acid accumulations from the gluten perforate through the intestinal wall, creating a 'leaky bowel', allowing all kinds of undigested food particles to leak into the lymph and blood stream, creating leaky gut syndrome. Impure blood conditions then occur, leading directly to degenerative disease. This leaky gut may also give rise to parasites, worms and other bacterial organisms, further complicating the matter and leading to a rapidly diminishing immune system.
Why is gluten sensitivity rising?
We believe gluten is becoming more of a problem due to two significant changes in the food industry. Firstly, the gluten content in grains has increased dramatically. Most gluten rich grains today contain up to 37% more gluten than wild varieties. This is due to cross-breeding, hybridisation, artificial fertilising and hormonal treatment. Increasing the gluten content in grains is highly profitable for agricultural companies who largely supply to the pastry and baking industry. A high gluten yield in a grain creates limited work for bakers when preparing breads, as gluten gives dough a definite structure and forms a network that holds the starch granules, thus determining the baking properties of the flour.
Secondly, the domestication of cereals some ten thousand years ago challenged the human metabolic system by altering its nutritional composition. Human beings shifted their traditional food consumption from gatherers to producers, potentially causing inherited digestive problems. Feeding on cereals once or twice per day would be acceptable over a period of time to certain blood types. However, today we are encouraged by health authorities to consume 6-11 servings of breads, cereals and pastas per day, all produced from gluten containing grains.
What are the symptoms of a gluten intolerance?
Symptoms can include:
Irritable bowel problems
Nausea and vomiting
Drowsy after eating
Unexplained weight loss or gain
While these symptoms of health disorders may be attributed to numerous causes, gluten intolerance is frequently overlooked. Many physicians are not aware of the various symptoms associated with gluten intolerance, so misdiagnosis is common. Misdiagnosis can cause further complications, as gluten intolerance can become life threatening.
Bone disease, central and peripheral nervous system impairment, internal haemorrhaging, pancreatic disease, infertility, miscarriages and gynaecological disorders have all been associated with poor diagnosis.
On a more positive note, we are seeing a great deal more gluten-free foods available. Various bakeries have been established to provide gluten-free products to an expanding market, with continual improvements to product taste and availability. Most supermarkets now stock a standard gluten-free breakfast cereal, bread and baking mix lines, however the majority of gluten-
free products are still found in organic food and health shops.
Most gluten-free products will state on the label the flour/grain used and should use the standard gluten-free symbol devised by the Coeliac Society. Individuals seeking a gluten-free diet need to become accustomed to spending time reading labels on food products as to avoid gluten-containing grains.
The alternative is to simply spend some time and make your own breads, muffins and breakfast cereals. Initially this may be a tiresome task, however you can adjust your recipes to suit your needs and you will never be 'out of stock'.
What foods do you need to avoid with a gluten intolerance?
Most dairy foods are acceptable, although patent milk foods with grain fillers do need to be eliminated.
All basic meat products are allowed. Processed sausages, meats and fish products coated with breadcrumbs and canned meats need to be avoided.
All fruit and vegetables are acceptable.
Bread, cereals and flour products must be checked for gluten containing grains (wheat, barley, oats and rye). Ample gluten-free pastas and breads are now available. Some breads on the market are made from sprouted wheat and rye. These are known as 'Essene' bread and are less reactive than traditional breads made from these two grains. Interestingly, there are certain blood type groups who would usually need to avoid these two grains, as they do not carry the antigens to this type of sprouted bread and find the bread is usually tolerable and healthy to their digestive and immune systems.
All cakes and biscuits will contain gluten unless otherwise stated.
Desserts and puddings will certainly contain gluten as will sauces, condiments, flavourings and dressings. Once again alternatives are available.
All nuts and seeds are gluten-free and a good source of fatty acids.
What about nutritional supplements that contain gluten?
There are a number of nutritional supplements that contain gluten. Typically, these are largely the supermarket, low quality and low strength brands. The higher quality supplements will add to their label 'no gluten etc' or may state 'hypoallergenic'.
Apart from the exclusion of gluten, individuals can expect superior results from quality supplements, due to a higher grade of ingredients and greater care in formulation.
As a result of restriction in diet, a decrease in dietary fibre may cause problems, the most common being constipation. Nutritionists recommend including dietary fibres into the diet. Insoluble fibres lower cholesterol, cleanse the bowel, increase faecal bulk, reduce the incidence of gallstones, diabetes and correct sugar irregularities. Choose a gluten-free fibre product to add to your diet.
What about Coeliac's disease?
If you suffer from Coeliac disease, the use of specific supplements are essential to help overcome the malabsorption syndrome problem that develops along with this disorder.
At Ideal Health, our recommendations are to first complete a basic detoxification program. This will help to lower the level of toxicity in the body and improve liver function.
You should also take an enteric coated acidophilus supplement and Symbiotic Colostrum. These will help to repopulate your bowel with good bacteria and then feed this.
Nutritional support is essential. You should take a good multivitamin/antioxidant formula, a zinc supplement for the growth of the intestinal lining and a formula for healing the digestive membranes. A low reactive (gluten-free) dietary fibre supplement is also highly beneficial. Contact Ideal Health for further information.