The Gluten Sensitivity Epidemic
In the last decade the number of people who have developed a sensitivity to gluten has skyrocketed.
What is Gluten?
If you’ve ever wondered what makes dough sticky, look no farther than gluten. These proteins (known as gluten) are found in wheat, barley and spelt (an ancient whole grain) and act like a glue.
History of Humans & Gluten
Humans have been consuming cereal grains, such as wheat and barley for nearly 10,000 years. Wheat has played a crucial role in providing low cost, calorie rich nourishment for our species for a large portion of our recent history – without issue. In the past two decades there has been a three-fold increase in Americans afflicted with an autoimmune disorder called Celiac Disease – which results in damage to the small intestines, caused by a gluten sensitivity, triggered by the consumption of the gluten protein and the subsequent immune attack against it.
Three percent of the entire population now has celiac disease and up to 20% of the adult population in the United States are now “gluten sensitive” which is the less severe form of inflammatory gluten related disease, termed “Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (or NCGS). Symptoms of NCGS can be similar to celiac disease, as they both involve a gut centered inflammatory reaction to gluten peptides. Unfortunately, those suffering from NCGS are severely under identified by traditional western medical practices – leaving patients with chronic medical conditions that cannot be alleviated, because they have not been accurately diagnosed. In most cases medications are given to mask the conditions, which ultimately stop working to even mask the conditions – let alone treat the actual root cause of the illness.
Why are people becoming more sensitive to gluten?
To meet the rapidly increasing demand to feed the world’s growing population (from 3 billion in the 1970s to over 7.5 billion today), wheat suppliers have used several mechanism to modify the grain to increase output. This activity is the Godfather of what is commonly known now as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The process includes hybridization, which produces a genetically modified plant that yields far more than its non-GMOed ancestor. Moreover, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides have been added to help keep the plants “healthy.” Since our bodies are unequipped to manage significant changes in our food in such a short period of time, immune systems have reacted by perceiving these new food proteins as the enemy and then mounting an attack against them. This attack is what 20 percent of the population with immune reactivity to gluten is experiencing.
What does gluten sensitivity do to the body?
Beyond causing a destructive inflammatory response in the gut, gluten reactivity can have significant effects on the entire body. As wheat yields grew, so did obesity, diabetes, cancer and of course, gluten sensitivities. Other organs typically involved in celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity include the brain issues (such as brain fog and/ or headaches), skin conditions (eczema and/or psoriasis), thyroid imbalance and other hormonal conditions (such as hashimotos), heart (such as coronary artery disease) and more.
This occurs because the three-dimensional structure of gluten peptides are very similar to proteins found in these organs. By creating antibodies against gluten, the body mistakenly also attacks other body parts that are structural similar. This phenomenon is called “molecular mimicry” and is an essential mechanism behind several autoimmune diseases. It is through this mechanism that gluten has been proven to be a set up for several debilitating auto-immune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, gluten ataxia, inflammatory arthritis, psoriasis, and even neurodegenerative diseases such as alzheimer’s.
Top 10 Symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity:
• Bloating or cramping after meals
• Diarrhea or Constipation
• Chronic Headaches
• Chronic Abdominal Pain
• Brain Fog
• Chronic skin conditions like Eczema or Psoriasis
• Mood imbalances like anxiety or depression
• Joint pain
• Numbness of the hands or feet
Although celiac disease is taken seriously, due to lack of awareness of the condition and the effects it can have on the body, non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is not. The fact is that when someone with NCGS continues to eat gluten they will unknowingly develop progressive inflammation in the gut, which can lead to a variety of difference types of autoimmune disease. The functional medicine doctors at Regenera Medical use a new blood test through Cyrex Labs to easily detect NCGS. As a result our team can now precisely detect the condition. Once diagnosed, we then create a customized diet and treatment plan that will reverse the condition and any potential autoimmune conditions that may have occurred during its course.