Healthy Beginnings

Why a Gluten-Free Diet is Not a Fad: And Why You Should Test for Gluten Intolerance

It is estimated that 40-60 percent of the U.S. population are gluten intolerant and this leads to and/or contributes to many chronic illnesses, autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders and neuro-psychological issues. Gluten intolerance is also a suspected contributing factor to cancer and heart disease. The identification of intolerance requires specific testing, and confirmation requires major dietary changes to address healing at the root cause and those changes are more complicated than just eliminating gluten.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a term loosely used to label a group of 12 proteins that are in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and any grain with the name wheat. Gluten first hit the medical headlines two decades ago because of the emergence of Celiac’s disease, which is a disease where the person has a genetic coding for their immune system to produce antibodies that destroy the intestines when the intestines are exposed to Alpha-Gliadin-17 (one of the 12 proteins). Today, we have a new disease that does not require a genetic coding, and it is called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), a.k.a. gluten intolerance. With NCGS, the immune system is reacting to any of those 12 proteins causing inflammation and/or antibodies that can damage many parts of the body and how the body functions. The food manufacturers and restaurants use the powdered form of gluten (extracted from wheat and other grains) and add it to many processed foods to make breads and pastries u y, make gravies more creamy, prevent salad dressings and condiments from separating, thicken soups and more.

Why is this happening today?

Our food has changed too quickly for our immune system to adapt to the ‘new proteins’ that are in our hybridized grains. A quick review of farming practices and our immune system will explain how we got here. At the end of World War II, U.S. grain farmers had a huge challenge. Europe’s food supply system and farming was decimated, and therefore had no ability to feed itself. Subsequently, the U.S. had to rapidly increase grain production to prevent starvation and chaos on that continent. That demand lead to repeated hybridization of grains to increase the harvest quantity per acre.

What is hybridization? It’s like two people producing a child, the o spring of two grains (or people) will have many similar traits along with its own unique features, and with that comes a different DNA sequence. (Note: GMO is a laboratory process of hybridizing grains.) It is this different DNA sequence that can be incompatible for a person’s immune system. Think of your immune system as having soldiers who have been given orders to ‘seek and destroy’ the enemy that are wearing blue-colored clothing: Hat, shirt, pants, shoes and scarf. While on patrol, they discover a group of enemy troops wearing blue-colored hats, shirts, pants, shoes and red scarfs. What will the soldiers do? If they are ‘hyped up’ (sensitive/intolerant), they will destroy that group because “4 out of 5 traits matched, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.” In our bodies, if the immune system is intolerant to gluten, it can produce antibodies (soldiers) that misidentify and destroy cells, tissues, glandular secretion, brain tissue, blood vessels and more.

If I’m gluten intolerant, will non-gluten foods be eliminated from my diet?

If you are gluten intolerant you will need to eliminate oats, corn, rice, yeast and cow’s dairy. Eliminating these foods is necessary because of gliadin cross-reactivity, which causes a gluten intolerant immune system to misidentify the proteins in oats, corn, rice, yeast and cow’s dairy to be gluten and then react the same way (produce inflammation and/or antibodies) as if those foods were gluten. About 50 percent of people who are gluten intolerant are experiencing this type of confusion, and therefore those foods are eliminated because it is “better to be safe than sorry.” The requirement of a gluten-free diet is not only the elimination of grains that contain gluten, but also includes those gliadin cross-reactive foods.

Why gluten-free products are not safe for the gluten intolerant.

If you are gluten intolerant there are two reasons why gluten-free products are not safe. First, the food manufacturers stopped adding wheat-derived gluten to some products in response to the Celiac’s disease population. About a decade ago the general scientific understanding was that the problem was solely con ned to the protein in wheat, and so the food manufacturers substituted gluten from other grains. Today, we now understand that the gluten reaction is not limited to wheat, but the food manufacturers have not updated their products. Therefore, a label that states “gluten free” only indicates that the product is “wheat gluten free” and as such gluten intolerant immune systems can react. Secondly, the “gluten free” products may contain the gliadin cross-reactive foods (oats, corn, rice, yeast and/ or cow’s dairy) and the gluten intolerant immune system has a 50 percent chance of reacting.

Foods that typically contain gluten:

  • Baking mixes
  • Canned beans
  • Condiments
  • Cream sauces
  • Gravy mix
  • Packaged and processed meats
  • Pastries
  • Pie fillings
  • Salad dressings

What is the best test to identify gluten intolerance?

At my clinic, we utilize the laboratories that test both IgG and IgA reactivity. Most laboratories only test IgG reactivity and therefore can miss if the individual person is IgA reactive. As well, if you are gluten intolerant, it is important to test for other food sensitivities and allergies that maybe contributing to inflammation, and those foods need to be temporarily eliminated from the diet until the immune system calms down.

For more information, call Van Harding at Tahoe Neuro Healing at 530-536-5084, email or visit