Why gluten free

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Why are so many people going gluten free?

In this post I’m going to write a short summary to a very interesting video. The video is a recording of a presentation produced by Alessio Fasano, one of the leading researchers on gluten, gluten sensitivity and coeliac disease. I was initially made aware of this video by Danny Lennon over at Sigma Nutrition. I find the topic of gluten/gluten sensitivity fascinating, and enjoyed watching the video also, so I thought I’d share it. Plus, literally hundreds of people I meet are asking: why gluten free? What’s the hype about, and should I be gluten free too?

Start around minute 25/26. It’s a great watch, and as well as being very informative, Fasano is funny also.

Summary – for those not interested in watching ~30 minutes of video, I’ve written a short summary below.

When eaten, gluten causes gut ‘leakiness’ (in everybody). That is, gluten causes the permeability of the gut lining to increase. This is analogous to a ‘Toll Booth’ on the motorway perhaps, except this time we don’t want cars getting through the Toll; we want the cars (gluten) to stay one side, and only ‘good’ nutrients to come through to the other side. When we consume gluten, however, the Toll lets cars (gluten) through. When we don’t eat gluten, these mini junctions or tolls are much more strict on who they allow in. Following so far? Gluten opens the door when really it should be shut, or more strict on who enters.

The interesting part: we are not born with gluten related disorders. We seem to acquire gluten related disorders over our lifetime. This suggests that in people who are genetically at risk of gluten related disorders, they are able to tolerate gluten for some period of time before gluten exposure causes an immune response, such as gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease.

What causes this switch from being able to tolerate gluten to production of an immune response? This may include: the quality of the gluten, the quantity of the gluten, the maturity of one’s gut function (including barrier function and mucosa function), the timing of gluten introduction, and the changes in our gut microbiome. The latter appears to be most interesting.

It is suggested that the make up of our gut microbiome, and the millions and millions of bacteria within it, allow for and permit the expression of our genetic make up. Whereas our genetic make up is stable, our gut microbiome changes throughout the course of our lives. Theses changes may then alter the expression of our genetic code, meaning that someone who was previously tolerant to gluten is no longer tolerant. These changes occur due to things like: dietary change, travel, stress, change in country of residence, and many more.

Why gluten free

gluten source wheatThe gluten free market has increased exponentially in the last decade. However, only a very small % of these customers are actually likely to have been diagnosed with coeliac disease. Others following a gluten free diet will include those who suffer from gluten sensitivity, and those with wheat allergy. The rest of the market is therefore filled with people affected by other maladies who may or may not experience an alleviation in symptoms by going gluten free: autism, ADHD, Multiple sclerosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

There is a HUGE FAD FACTOR to all of this too, typified when a celebrity adopts a gluten free diet only to then lose weight or perform better. In these cases, the gluten may or may not have been the reason behind their ‘issue’ initially. It is likely that one’s overall diet improves indirectly when removing products that contain gluten.

So do I need to go gluten free? If you feel better on a low or gluten free diet, then continue with it. If you consume gluten and don’t experience any side effects, then going gluten free is perhaps not necessary. Some people appear to have a genetic weak link or predisposition to a gluten related immune response, and hopefully advances in research will highlight who those individuals are ahead of time. Lastly, some people remove gluten when it’s perhaps something else causing the problem.

To lead a healthy life, ensure you participate in light activity regularly, don’t smoke or drink to excess, and consume a wide variety of fruits & vegetables. Enjoy time with friends and family also. At that point, perhaps consider switching gluten containing products to unrefined, whole, fresh foods.

Further reading:

Children born by C section at slightly greater risk of celiac disease HERE & HERE

Fermentable carbohydrates could be one issue, not gluten