Gluten-intolerant or Genetically Modified Grain Intolerant?

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Gluten-free diets are extremely popular as a way to manage weight and improve a sense of well-being. Amongst clinicians, it is a contentious issue and many see them as fads with unsupported claims. More common in practice, however, anecdotal evidence, sees them as necessary for optimal gut health regardless of who you are.

There is a subset of the population for which gluten avoidance is absolutely necessary to maximize quality of life. Eating gluten-free is not always convenient or possible, putting many individuals at risk for adverse effects. Research is currently trying to understand why gluten is frequently not well digested and broken down before it reaches the intestines to cause problems.

Gluten is an exhaustedly well-researched compound when it comes to celiac disease, but its role in other conditions, like non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), is still being investigated. Regardless of pathology, some individuals may not feel well after eating gluten, which makes having a pill available that could reduce the fallout of accidental gluten consumption invaluable.

A gluten-free diet is a necessity for people with celiac disease, however more recently, it is being encouraged as a treatment of numerous other autoimmune and gastrointestinal diseases with great results. In fact, many individuals following a gluten-free diet with little reason claim to experience an overall sense of improved well-being. The mechanism of this is largely unknown, making diagnosis reliant upon a recurrence of unpleasant symptoms when gluten is reintroduced into the diet.

In otherwise healthy individuals, gluten consumption has shown to be linked to markers of inflammation, and stool samples have indicated gluten as a cause of increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut, and in addition often associated with several autoimmune diseases. Perhaps this explains why a gluten-free diet has been used successfully to help reduce symptoms of non-celiac autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid issues.

The overall link between gluten and inflammation in general is weak, however in the big picture regardless of the true health effects of gluten, some individuals feel better following a gluten-free diet giving reason enough to avoid gluten.

As with all aspects of medicine, a pill that may help reduce the likelihood of experiencing gluten’s ill effects would be very attractive and investigation in this area is well underway. Researchers continue to look for bacterial enzymes with gluten-degrading abilities.

Another area could be to process gluten out of grains especially wheat which contains about 80% gluten bound to starch in the endosperm or the white floury part that is refined to make All-purpose flour. All wheat varieties contain gluten, as well as their relative’s rye, barley, triticale, malt, brewer’s yeast, and basic wheat starch. Oats, are commonly cross-contaminated with gluten because of processing alongside other wheat-related products or grown near wheat belts. Many grains are gluten-free, rice, tapioca, corn, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, arrowroot, amaranth, teff, and oats.

Gluten is a protein found in grains wheat, rye and barley, and along with all other proteins, is broken down by stomach acid and further digested in the upper small intestine (duodenum). However, gluten’s structure makes it highly resistant to most of our digestive enzymes, allowing fragments of the gluten protein to linger in the small intestine. Scientists have narrowed down some of the resistant proteins specifically to long chains of proline and glutamine amino acids that require special enzyme activity and the human gut is insufficiently armed for this purpose. In addition, numerous friendly microbes and bacteria have been identified that can also help to degrade gluten but not so effective for the new genetically modified strains and All-purpose flour. These have been bred to resist contamination by fungus and bacteria as well as insects. This is a very provocative area of emerging science as the effects of genetically modified modern grains, that have swamped the Western world and enter the food chain in such abundance, are showing clear signs of negatively affecting gastro-intestinal health.

Genetically modified grains are just not so well tolerated by our digestive juices, and due to the nature of the plant being kitted out to withstand pesticide attack, fungus and react to weed control. Glyphosate and Roundup ingrained into GM crops challenge friendly gut bacteria and favour the growth of harmful bacteria that may be linked to findings of other toxic effects from disturbed gut bacteria. This is more commonly found in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, and malnutrition, as well as in autism spectrum. It may play a role in auto-immune issues which have increased over the last decades alongside this major food chain event, as well as the other modern diseases.

The authors of a review (Samsel and Seneff, 2013) of glycophosphate’s ability to influence human health, focused on the chemicals known ability to disrupt gut bacteria and influence the detoxification process where the body regulates what it needs and what is eliminated as waste. They concluded that glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of foodborne chemicals and environmental toxins. They were especially interested in looking at the effect on celiac disease and gluten intolerance, with additional links to a broader range of diseases, such as ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, infertility, birth defects, and cancer.

This forms the basis for your clinician omitting genetically modified grains when health concerns become an issues and yet there is no clear cut explanation for its cause. Gluten is often the most commonly consumed grain and the most altered to challenge the functioning of the gut.

A half-hearted approach to omitting gluten doesn’t tend to allow the body to heal, while a gluten test may also not indicate an antigen response. This explains why so many people feel better gluten-free. In view of the effect of chemicals such as glycophosphates and Roundup being consumed, taking a good probiotic with a wide range of strains is also highly recommended. And for those who are still wanting to go the extra distance, organic foods are highly desireable. That I am very sure of!

While detoxification is a major pathway on its own, it seems ironical that vegetables are the key to this process and yet they are also one of the major food items to contaminate the body alongside GM grains such as wheat.

If you are keen to start a detox plan and reduce inflammation in the body, choose GM free and wheat free grains, lots of clean and preferably organic vegetables such as celery, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, kale, onion, leeks, garlic, asparagus, artichokes; and either kefir yoghurt or a potent 20 to 50 billion probiotic. Lean, grass fed meat, starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds and good fats are also consumed to get the best quality protein and fats. Make the foods you eat support gut health, restore friendly gut bacteria, and allow the liver to eliminate with vegetables what it doesn’t need.

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