Several loaves of various breads lined up on wooden table

I'm sure we've all noticed that for a while now, more and more companies in the food industry are choosing to go gluten-free. But, what exactly is gluten? And what are the potential side effects of gluten that are causing companies to remove it from their products?

What is gluten and how can it affect the body?

Gluten is the common protein molecule in wheat, barley, rye, kamut, and spelt. It is a storage protein that sticks to the walls of the small intestine where it becomes a common cause of disorders of the immune and digestive systems. Gluten sensitivity has become somewhat of an epidemic and is playing a major role in inflammatory disorders of the body. In fact, gluten intolerance can be a contributing factor in many autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease is a disease in which your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body. It can also aggravate asthma and certain allergies. Gluten Free Society has a test you can take to determine whether you may have a gluten sensitivity, however, the only way to confirm is to consult your doctor.

Can gluten cause cognitive dysfunction?

Gluten has been shown to increase levels of the protein zonulin in the gut. This often leads to leaky gut syndrome. This permeability of the gut allows food, proteins, and bacterial endotoxins that are undigested to enter the bloodstream. This activates an inflammatory response in your body.

Elevated zonulin levels in the gut have now been linked to elevated zonulin levels in the brain. When the gut is suffering negative effects, the brain can also suffer negative effects. Once the blood-brain barrier has been breached, your brain's immune system can be activated. Glial cells in the brain will then cause inflammatory reactions throughout the brain.

Studies have shown that patients with celiac disease are more likely to experience improvements in brain fog after starting a gluten-free diet. Studies have also linked gluten sensitivity and disorders in almost every part of the neurological system including the peripheral nerves, spinal cord, and brain. Gluten is now a well-known trigger in most neurological disorders. Many people experience negative side-effects from gluten consumption for months after ingestion.

Testing for gluten sensitivity can be complex

There is a portion of gluten called glutenin (which is sticky), and a portion that is called gliadin (the protein). Gliadin breaks down into three different gliadins. They are gamma, omega, and alpha gliadins. Most tests only take into account the alpha-gliadin antibodies, but this is just a small part of the entirety of the molecule. Often times this lab will come back negative because the individual is reacting to one or more of the other components of the molecule. A complete gluten sensitivity test should test all of the following:

  • Gliadin – Omega, gamma, and alpha

  • Wheat Germ Agglutin

  • Deamidated Gliadin

  • Gluteomorphin & Prodynorphin

During the baking process, gluten is what gives dough its strength and elasticity. Many people can end up having severe reactions to this molecule, however, it goes undiagnosed because most tests do not test the entire molecule.

When the food industry goes through the processing period, they very often deamidate the gliadin molecule, making it water soluble. Deamidated gliadin is well-known in triggering severe immune responses in individuals.

Gluten and the Blood-Brain Barrier

Gluten can cause the lining protecting the brain from toxins to degenerate. This will lead to an increase in chronic inflammatory damage in the brain and autoimmune reactions. This can also create a pathway for heavy metals to enter more easily into the brain. Aluminum is most commonly found in the temporal lobe of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Gluten intolerance is more common now than ever. If you are experiencing digestive issues it may be time to see your doctor and get tested for gluten sensitivity.

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About The Author

Jade Pulman's picture

Jade is a full-time mother of three children she adores. She graduated with her bachelors degree in Family Studies and Nutrition and works hard to implement her learning into her family life. When not writing, you can find her in the outdoors or exploring museums and aquariums with her loving husband and children. 

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