We all know “those” people – the people who always seem to be jumping in on the newest diet fad. 2016 has been the year of gluten demonization. So, is there any research to back up the idea that gluten is now the most evil of of all evil foods? I think it’s clear to everyone that grains should not take up the bulk of our diets like the food pyramid has so adamantly encouraged. Wheat DOES crowd out the most nutritious foods like fruits, veggies, and meats. But is Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity a real thing? Are there any REAL health concerns with eating wheat other than it’s simply not the most nutrient dense food item out there?
A new research study conducted at the Columbia University Medical Center was published in July. It confirms that wheat sensitivity is a major player in intestinal permeability and systemic immune responses. The study measured specific intestinal and immune system markers in healthy participants that experienced a range of symptoms after eating gluten, but Celiac disease was ruled out. The study showed high amounts of specific protein markers for both intestinal permeability and systemic immune response. You can check out the study HERE.
Intestinal permeability is one of the many things that can go wrong with our digestion. Digestion is a critical player in our health. Even if you somehow manage to eat a perfect diet, you can still be malnourished if your body can’t take food and turn it into fuel. Every organ and system and cell in your body is reliant on the fuel and nourishment that comes from your digestion. Intestinal permeability is where the tight junctions in our small intestines becomes permeable and allows tiny pieces of undigested food into the blood stream. The body sees these as invaders and develops antibodies to these foods. This trains our body’s to have an immune response to otherwise healthy foods. For this reason, research has shown that intestinal permeability and food allergies are irrevocably connected (1, 2). Foods that are hard to digest often cause and continue to perpetrate the cycle of intestinal permeability. The study showed that there was a significantly higher rate of intestinal permeability in people who self reported non Celiac wheat sensitivity. In this study, intestinal permeability was measured by looking at the serum levels of the protein FABP2 taken during a biopsy tissue analysis. (3) The biopsy confirmed that those with non Celiac wheat sensitivity had epithelial cell damage similar to the Celiac disease group. By damaging the lining of the small intestine, wheat can make it hard for sensitive individuals to absorb nutrients.
Systemic Immune Response
Serum levels of lipopolysaccharide-binding protein and sCD14 were measured as markers for elevated systemic immune response (aka the immune system going haywire). Systemic immune response typically means low-grade inflammation throughout the body. The markers were elevated in individuals with non Celiac wheat sensitivity in comparison with individuals with EITHER Celiac disease and healthy controls. This means that those with non-Celiac wheat sensitivity had more immune system markers than even those with true Celiac disease. Some claim that non Celiac wheat sensitivity is even more dangerous than Celiac, because it goes un-diagnosed and thus untreated which leads to long-term deficiencies and inflammation.
After individuals stuck to a gluten-free diet, they found that inflammation and cell damage markers improved significantly after six months of wheat avoidance.
So what does this mean for you??
1) Stop hating on everyone who is taking gluten out of their diets. 😉
2) Focus on gut health. Check out THIS page for more info about how your digestive system works and what you can do to support it.
3) Learn more about your own body. Do you know if you tolerate gluten? The gold standard for knowing if a food item is right or wrong for you is an elimination test. Take the food out of your system for a few weeks and then try and reintroduce it. If you notice any symptoms up to three days after initially introducing the item, there’s a good chance your body needs some digestive healing.
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