The enthusiasm surrounding the idea of a gluten-free diet has increased immensely over the past decade. So many people are now either gluten-free or considering limiting their consumption of the substance. As for those who just hear about it once in a while, gluten and wheat are one and the same (it can also be found in barley, rye, oat, and triticale). You’ll be surprised to know even beauty products can contain gluten, which is why there are gluten-free makeup brands. But why are people so scared of gluten?
1. Celiac Disease
The first and most obvious reason why someone would avoid gluten is celiac disease, caused by an adverse reaction to gliadin, one of the two proteins that make up gluten. Once inside your bloodstream, the immune system forms antibodies against gliadin. That’s not so bad. But the problem is that gliadin mimics the molecular structure of the cells lining the gut, which means that the antibodies attack your body as well. That is why celiac disease is classified under autoimmune diseases.
This immune reaction can bring about the degeneration of the intestinal wall, leading to nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, anemia, and several other degenerative issues. And the issue gets worse when you consider that some people with celiac disease go undiagnosed because they don’t develop abdominal symptoms. They could only be experiencing fatigue, anemia, or worse – the double risk of premature death.
2. Gluten Sensitivity
You would think celiac diseases already had that covered! Unfortunately, there is another adverse reaction to gluten referred to as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (or gluten intolerance). Although there is no clear definition, it means that celiac disease is not present, but you have a bad reaction to gluten anyway. The effect subsides when you are on a gluten-free diet.
Recently, a lot of experts have documented gluten sensitivities that are unrelated to celiac diseases, but we still have much to learn about this condition. Most of the symptoms are the same as those of celiac disease – including stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, and fatigue.
3. Increased Intestinal Permeability
You may have heard the words “leaky gut” somewhere. It basically means that your gut lets unwanted substances pass through to end up in the bloodstream. The gut has a very comprehensive border control mechanism that allows only the digested nutrients to enter the bloodstream while keeping away anything else.
However, the inflammation caused by gluten disrupts this system and loosens the pathways between cells in the gut such that too much stuff can get through. Remember, we swallow food every day and along with it millions of random bacteria, viruses, and other indigestible molecules (like dust) that you wouldn’t want in your bloodstream.
4. Brain Disorders
Not the precious brain! Many neurological illnesses have been linked to gluten consumption in what is known as gluten-sensitive idiopathic neuropathy. One study published in NCBI found that non-celiac gluten sensitivity triggered neuroinflammation, gut-brain axis dysfunction, and vulnerability to dementia.
Many patients with brain illnesses experience a significant improvement when they switch to a gluten-free diet. They know it is their best chance at living right while ridding themselves of a horrific brain disorder. Besides just brain fog and fatigue as a symptom of both celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it may increase vulnerability to other neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, and epilepsy. These disorders show improvements in some people who adopt a gluten-free diet.
It doesn’t mean, however, that gluten is the cause of all mental illnesses. We all know that mental health is extremely complicated, and so is the rest of the human body.
There’s a lot more to be said about gluten. The following infographic we found on medalerthelp.org can help you better understand the issues surrounding it including how to avoid hidden sources of gluten if you intend to eliminate it from your diet.