The Low Down on Gluten

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Gluten is an immense hot word in nutrition and health right now. There has been countless studies/research on Gluten and similar inflammatory foods recently. I mean, 10 years ago hardly anyone knew about Gluten. So why all the noise? Well the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has catalogued 55 diseases associated with gluten intake including : osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, anemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, numerous autoimmune diseases, anxiety, and depression. Seems like this could be somewhat important. We will look into what Gluten actually is, where it is found, and what it does once in the human body.


Gluten is actually a protein that is found primarily in Wheat, Barley and Rye products. Here are some examples: beers (boo), breads, candies, cakes/pies, cereals, cookies, crackers, croutons, gravies, imitation meats, pastas, processed lunch meats, salad dressings, sauces, soups. These proteins are called prolamin proteins, and the specific ones found in wheat are gliadin and glutenin. There are other prolamin proteins in Barley and Rye but we will save those for a later date to avoid confusion. Don’t worry though, because all of the prolamin proteins have a similar effect.

Gluten primarily causes inflammation in our small intestine. It does this because the prolamin proteins resist being broken down by our gut flora. From this point, gliadin/glutenin will create inflammation at the semi-permeable gut wall, making it more permeable to prolamin proteins. This will cause an immune response from our body and subsequent inflammation. Having chronic exposure to this process may now lead you to develop a “leaky gut”, basically letting food stuffs in our circulation that should not yet be there. The possibilities of developing further inflammation or possible allergies are now heightened as well. Lastly, once gliadin is in circulation it can also have an effect on insulin receptors and may mimic its effect on fat storage. Signaling you to store fat and to eat more. Yet another reason we do not want to consume Gluten.

After looking at the science and possible effect of Gluten, it is a great idea to limit the amount of Gluten you consume on a daily basis. If you want to determine how sensitive you are to Gluten, remove ALL Gluten from your diet for 2 weeks. Now reintroduce food stuffs with Gluten, one at a time, and asses your sensitivity. Some complain that Gluten makes them lethargic, bloated, sick, or gassy. If you notice any of these symptoms it would be wise to limit/remove Gluten. Likewise, if you are looking to maximize the amount of nutrients you get from food it would be a good idea to remove all Gluten. Hopefully this cleared up your thoughts about Gluten and can secure your stance on its consumption.