Gluten Intolerance

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GlutenYou would not willingly inhale car exhaust or drink chlorinated pool water, would you?
So why eat foods that contain similarly toxic substances? The answer for many is simple: “I don’t feel sick after eating gluten.” This hidden or delayed reaction is responsible for a tragic misunderstanding of the risks associated with gluten.

Gluten is the general name used to describe the protein component of wheat, barley, rye, oats, and other cereal grains.

It is classified into two groups of proteins: the prolamines and glutelins.

It is classified into two groups of proteins: the prolamines and glutelins.

The prolamine group, especially its gliadin molecule, appears to be the major culprit in causing celiac disease or celiac sprue—a severe form of gluten intolerance—and subclinical gluten intolerance.

Common Foods, Common Threats?
From our experience working with thousands of health professionals, gluten intolerance has proven to be the single most prevalent source of chronic stress on patients in North America. If you are gluten intolerant, one of the most destructive things you can do is consume foods that contain gluten.

Subclinical gluten intolerance describes an immunological/inflammatory response to gluten that can occur without noticeable symptoms, but certainly not without harm. Exposure to gluten in intolerant individuals causes significant chronic stress. Gluten intolerance is not an allergy, despite this common misconception. It is an autoimmune reaction in which the immune system attacks the gliadin polypeptide on the lining of the small intestine, causing tissue damage. The tissue damage triggers inflammation, which stimulates the immune system to respond. This leads to a chronic cycle of inflammation and immune system activation––a classic case of the Chronic Stress Response.

To illustrate how toxic gluten can be, consider the following study. An endoscope was inserted into the small intestine of gluten-intolerant individuals to deliver a tiny gliadin molecule and observe the resulting inflammatory response. The effect? The entire small intestine became inflamed for 10 hours! With this degree of inflammation, mucosal barrier surfaces are damaged and often destroyed. This makes way for malabsorption, intestinal permeability, parasitic infections, and other destructive GI and immune processes. The dominos fall.

Inflammation of the Intestinal Barrier
When a gluten intolerant and persisting to eat gluten containing foods, their intestinal wall can go from healthy (left) to horrible (right). A long list of health problems follow.
Intestinal Barrier

The inflammatory reaction to gluten in individuals with celiac sprue is similar to subclinical gluten intolerance, except that it is far more severe. The difference is as stark as the difference between sunburn from a day at the beach and third-degree burns on a fire victim. Symptoms of celiac include swollen belly, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle wasting, extreme fatigue, and pale, foul-smelling stools that float because of their high-fat content. People with celiac sprue experience disabling pain when they consume gluten.

The clear symptoms of celiac sprue make this condition relatively easy to diagnose. In addition to its clinical presentation, celiac sprue can be detected by a blood test and confirmed with a biopsy of the small intestine. In contrast, gluten intolerance can present without any symptoms, or ambivalent symptoms. Gluten intolerance is difficult to diagnose without doing laboratory testing.