Before I talk about gluten I want to explain two terms you will hear cropping up a lot when you read about the paleo diet
Coming into contact with any kind of foreign particle stimulates the immune system, and one of the things that happens as a result is inflammation. The immune system sends cells to the site of the problem to remove that problem. This is a good thing. However, if your immune system reacts to something that you are exposed to on a daily basis (like gluten for example), you get low-level inflammation every single day in your body. This means your immune system is less able to respond to actual invaders like pathogenic bacteria and viruses that cause disease. The result – you will suffer more from illnesses like coughs and colds, as your immune system is less effective at fighting them. Chronic low-level inflammation is also linked to a huge range of diseases. So anything that causes unnecessary inflammation is not a good thing.
- Leaky Gut or Increased Intestinal Permeability
These are terms used to describe the situation where the gut lining has been compromised. Certain things damage the gut either by:
- Killing cells in the lining of the gut
- Damaging cells in the lining of the gut
- Creating holes between cells of the gut
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and it is a big problem. We know the thought of giving up bread, pasta, cakes etc. forever is depressing, but adopting a gluten-free diet is the one thing we would strongly recommend you do.
Gluten has very unique and damaging effects on the body. If you are healthy your body can repair the damage caused by gluten (it takes anywhere from a few days to 3 weeks to repair the damage to the gut). However, why eat something that is causing your body damage day after day and overworking your immune system?
You will never be 100% healthy with gluten in your diet.
- Gluten is very hard to digest so is present in the intestines as undigested protein. This should not happen; proteins should be digested in the stomach.
- Gluten is known to cross the intestinal barrier, and damage it in the process (causing leaky gut). It can kill some cells in the lining of the gut, and cause holes to appear between other cells. There are at least 3 different ways gluten damages the gut. This is a bad thing as it means gluten activates the immune system when it shouldn’t be activated.
- The holes that gluten causes in the gut lining allow other things through like bacteria and bacterial fragments. This stimulates the immune system leading to inflammation in the body.
- Degeneration of the intestinal wall leads to nutrient deficiencies and other digestive issues which commonly manifest as fatigue.
- Gluten feeds pathogenic bacteria in the gut and leads to gut dysbiosis, which further overworks the immune system.
- Gluten is an important trigger in auto-immune disease. There are many amino acid sequences in the protein that are similar to amino acid sequences in the human body. Because gluten crosses the gut lining, the body makes antibodies against gluten. The similarities in gluten and proteins in the human body then increases the chance that the body makes antibodies against itself, which is one of the steps on the path to auto-immune disease.
- There are 140 auto-immune diseases and the only scientifically agreed upon cause is gluten sensitivity.
- In non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there is no attack on the body’s own tissues. However, many of the symptoms are similar to those in celiac disease, including bloating, stomach pain, fatigue, diarrhea, as well as pain in the bones and joints.
- Even if you are not one of the people who are highly sensitive to gluten, gluten will be causing subtle detrimental effects on your health, which will mean that you will never feel 100%. You could also be slowly developing auto-immune disease and not be aware of it. Alzheimer’s disease for example is now suspected to be auto-immune in nature.
- Gluten can have severe effects on the brain. Many cases of neurological illness may be caused and/or exacerbated by gluten consumption. In a study of patients with neurological illness of an unknown cause, 57% had antibodies against gluten in the blood. There are several other brain disorders that respond well to a gluten-free diet:
- Schizophrenia: In studies a subset of schizophrenia patients see massive improvements by removing gluten
- Autism: Several studies suggest that people with autism see improvements in symptoms on a gluten-free diet
- Epilepsy: There are several reports of patients with epilepsy improving significantly when removing gluten
Why eat something that is highly likely to cause you harm and lead to disease, when you could eat something else instead that definitely won’t harm you? Also keep in mind that wheat can be problematic for many reasons, some of which have nothing to do with the gluten.
The only way to know if you are sensitive to gluten or not, is to remove it from your diet, then reintroduce it and see if you get symptoms. After completely eliminating gluten for 30 days, eat a meal with gluten. If you experience adverse effects, then you probably have gluten sensitivity and should make a serious effort to avoid it. However, since gluten has detrimental effects on our health even if we do not appear to have sensitivity to it, we suggest avoiding it completely.