Certain grains frequently eaten by humans can cause our immune systems to react pathologically to specific proteins found in these grains. These “disease-causing” proteins are universally found within the seeds or grains of wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and triticale.  These proteins are loosely called “gluten.”  Cereal grains containing these gluten proteins are collectively called the “gluten grains.”  Gluten is made of several families of proteins.  The scientific name for the most studied of these sub-fractions of proteins is “gliadin.” 

Our distant ancestors ate almost no gluten grains.  Grains started to be cultivated only ten thousand years ago, and even then, only in some parts of the world.  The American continent, for example, had no gluten grains until they were introduced a few hundred years ago. Of all the grains, wheat is the number one culprit.  Modern wheat is also very different from the wheat that grew in the Bronze Age and before because the United States genetically modified the grain to contain a higher percent of the wheat protein under the misguided premise that it would “feed the masses better” and be more nutritional. What they did not realize was the digestion of this protein was too broad a step for our genetics to go from hunter-gatherer and expect the body to genetically adapt to a higher concentration of this protein in the grain.

Many of us have simply not yet adapted to tolerate grain, unlike ruminant animals that live off grasses and grains. A substance called gluten constitutes 78 percent of the total protein in the modern wheat. Countries that adopted the use of this genetically modified wheat for a higher gluten content show a direct correlation to inflammatory and auto-immune diseases! This may explain why grain sensitivities are so widespread. 

There is now plenty of research to show that it is the specific subset of gluten, gliadin, that is an intestinal irritant and causes the inflammation to multiple tissue systems.  The body reacts to it as if it there was an invader present.  Bakers love the gluten as it helps to give bread its silky light texture. So the higher the gluten content, the lighter the loaf, but the harder it is on our intestines!                                                                    

Tragically, gliadin frequently causes the immune system to react as if it is not a component of nourishing food, but an invading bug or microbe or, worse, as though it is indistinguishable from normal organ tissues found in our bodies.  The effects of gluten on the immune system, and brain, along with profound nutritional deficiencies that so often accompany gluten sensitivity, contribute to many modern inflammatory diseases that did not exist before the widespread use of gluten products.    

In those people who are genetically predisposed to gluten sensitivity, eating these grains has serious detrimental effects on the body’s immune system.  Gluten grains often trigger autoimmune disease, such as insulin dependent diabetes, hypothyroidism, where the immune system, instead of protecting the body, aggressively turns against it, causing these chronic, debilitating inflammatory diseases. If not a direct cause, gluten/gliadin’s presence in the body aggravates these conditions significantly. Other inflammatory diseases having potential links to gluten/gliadin proteins are Chron’s disease, Celiac sprue, irritable bowel, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia.

Gluten grains and dairy products contain morphine-like substances that affect behavior, cause learning difficulties, contribute to aggravations in ADD/ADHC, OCD behavior in those sensitive individuals, as well as migraines, headaches, eczema, increased food cravings especially for carbohydrates and more gluten! These grains are known to affect emotion and induce mood changes and swings in those neurologically sensitive. These food-derived “drugs” even alter how our immune system works, how our brain functions, altering our neurotransmitter synthesis and function and, as a consequence, dramatically increase our risk of developing many different kinds of cancer.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease, sometimes referred to as celiac sprue, is a genetically influenced condition that results from eating gluten.  More specifically, celiac disease is an ailment whereby the inside lining of the small intestine, called the intestinal mucosa, is chronically damaged by gluten proteins and their interaction with the immune system.

When actively sought, celiac disease is found in 1 in every 111 apparently healthy, symptom-free American adults, making it more than twice as common as cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis combined!

Previously, it was a universal truth that all celiac patients have predictable symptoms of weight loss, muscle wasting, failure to thrive, chronic diarrhea, smelly stools, abdominal bloating and cramping, and perhaps iron-deficiency anemia.  However, today’s celiac displays quite different symptoms, such as psychological depression, intestinal cancer, insulin-dependent diabetes, osteoporosis, short stature, canker sores, and /or chronic liver disease of unknown cause, to name just a few.  In fact, well over 150 medical conditions have now been reported as overrepresented among gluten-sensitive individuals.

A misconception also exists that celiacs are undernourished or emaciated.  Yet, more of today’s untreated celiac are reported to be overweight or obese rather than underweight or wasted.  The same research shows that the majority of untreated celiacs are well within the normal weight range.  Contrary to prior beliefs, many research papers are reporting that most untreated celiacs have no abdominal symptoms at all!

Whatever the health concerns, whether for a loved one or yourself, the answer is often found in one’s diet and metabolism (and how the body reacts to food) and one’s immune system’s function. The more inflamed a person is, meaning the more symptoms a person may have such as: sugar cravings, bloating, gas, diarrhea, irritable bowel, mood swings, irritability, skin eruptions, eczema, chronic fatigue, aches and pains, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, diabetes, headache, migraine, seasonal allergies, food allergies, food sensitivities, PMS, environmental sensitivities, ADD, ADHD, OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, autism, chronic ear infections, hives, chronic sinusitis, autism, hypothyroidism, lyme disease, the more likely a person is to develop a sensitivity to some degree to gluten and gliadin proteins. And these proteins will add fuel to the fire of inflammation.

One does not need to be diagnosed with Celiac sprue to benefit from avoidance of gluten products. It also takes a minimum of three weeks to eliminate the metabolic byproducts of gluten from the system and that is for a non-immunologically inflamed individual! Therefore, if you stop gluten from your diet you need to do it for at least a month to 6 weeks to determine the relative benefit to your system or longer.

A majority of celiacs have silent or nonspecific, non-abdominal symptoms.  Those who have specific antibodies against gluten circulating in their bloodstream but do not show intestinal damage are frequently unaware of the degree of detriment they suffer if they continue eating gluten; or they are completely unaware of antibodies against gluten, despite serious gluten-induced inflammation against a variety of other organ, tissue, and metabolic systems.

Immune Matrix tests all its patients for the degree of immune sensitivity it has to approximately 30 related gluten/gliadin proteins and metabolites. It assists its patients in reducing their inflammatory states by de-sensitizing the body to recognizing these proteins, such that after completion of their proprietary protocol, the patient is able to tolerate an occasional treat of a gluten product. Some more severe cases need to completely avoid all gluten products but these patients benefit greatly from the de-sensitization procedure because so many products and restaurants will have hidden gluten their dishes that they are exposed to, thereby improving their tolerance levels.

In summary, anyone suffering from any type of inflammatory condition should strongly consider going gluten free, if not daily then from Monday through Friday. Take little steps to eliminate it from the diet. Patients are suggested to eliminate it from one meal a day until for example it is never eaten at dinner. Then when the patient has adjusted to this change they can move on to make substitutes from sandwiches at lunch to alternative grains such as brown rice with their meals instead. Little steps over time make for great change and improvements in health.

There will be future articles about the latest research on how certain genotypes absolutely must avoid gluten and the types of symptoms they are most likely to suffer as a result. So stay tuned!

Please note:
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

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Thank you!
I've been wondering why, all of a sudden (it'd seemed,anyway), I was hearing so much about avoiding gluten in our diets.  None in my circle of friends and acquaintances was able to tell me, except that I should "avoid" them.  So, THANK YOU for this article.

I've never eaten that much bread in the first place, so that may be why I haven't had any observable problems with glutens, but is there a source for vintage grain seeds, from before we started trying to "improve" them?

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Anna Manayan

Anna Manayan