What Is This Gluten Stuff? And how it’ll Deal with Your Body

What Is This Gluten Stuff? And how it’ll Deal with Your Body

People have been raving about gluten forever now. Gluten-free diets are not new to us anymore. However, it is surprising how few people actually know about this condition and about gluten. Yes, you can eliminate gluten from your diet, but if you don’t know what it really is, chances are you won’t be able to avail the full benefits. Hence, to help you out, we have gathered all the facts about what this food is and what it can do to your body. Have a look at all the details.

What is gluten?

First, let us view what gluten really is. Basically, it is a type of protein that is usually present in cereals such as wheat and barley. It is the core protein present in the kernel of the seed. Hence, when these grains are ground to make flour, the flour is extremely rich in gluten as well. In plants it serves to hold the structures together, working like an adhesive to join the different tissues. However, once it is ground and used to make the baked goods we are so fond of, it serves as the primary binder. It gives bread its consistency, joining the entire mass to make it a soft elastic dough, rather than a crumbly mixture.
Going deeper, we find that gluten is not just a single protein. In fact, it is made of a number of different proteins that all fall with similar groups. Hence the combination performs a very simple function, which is why the entire group is given the name of gluten. Primarily, we can divide the constituents of gluten into two big protein classes including gliadin and glutenin.

So, is Gluten Bad?

Gluten is a naturally occurring protein and it is mean to be ingested. This is why gluten is not harmful to everybody! In fact, many people don’t even realize they are ingesting gluten because it never showed any symptoms to them. However, certain people have an inherent allergy to this protein. They are called gluten sensitive. When gluten enters their body it can elicit hypersensitivity reaction, which ultimately leads to a buildup of white blood cells, causing an inflammation. A number of diseases come under the heading of gluten sensitivity. The most commonly known ones are irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease.
Now when people with these diseases consume gluten, it elicits a widespread inflammatory reaction, which produces the general symptoms commonly associated with this disease. In fact, the allergens can also diffuse into the skin, resulting in skin hypersensitivity and even breathing disorders. In short, people who don’t have a gluten hypersensitivity don’t need to worry about its content in their diet as long as it’s not too much. However, people who are sensitive should take particular care to follow a gluten-free diet in order to prevent these hypersensitivity reactions.

How does gluten sensitivity occur?

Now that we are done explaining the basic idea of gluten, let’s move on to why it occurs. Doesn't occur because of an autoimmune reaction or can it be acquired? Well, let’s begin by saying that there isn’t a single factor which you can blame. In fact, it occurs because of a combination of your genetic makeup and you’re eating habits as well as the environment you live in. however, the exact cause cannot be pinpointed.

Some doctors suggest that the sensitivity develops in early infancy and is caused due to the gut bacteria or specific feeding practices, especially when weening comes around or certain infections. In older people, it may be triggered by a sudden stress that releases a massive load of antibodies into the blood which may react with gluten as well. Some common conditions include a viral infection when your body is making huge amounts of antibodies. Childbirth, pregnancy, surgery and severe emotional stress are all conditions in which the body is either too weak or is producing excessive defensins which may counteract the gluten and initiate hypersensitivity reaction.
Yes, your genetics do play an important role in whether you are able to digest gluten or not. Certain genes are more likely to cause the disease than others. This shows that different factors come into play when determining the exact cause of the disease. Let us describe certain people who are particularly the risk of having gluten sensitivity:

  • Family member with a history of gluten sensitivity. This suggests that the person has genes that could contain gluten sensitive genes. If such a person is your family member, chances are that you may have similar genes in your genetic makeup as well. This can hypersensitize your system against gluten making you a victim of gluten sensitivity.
  • Diabetes, if you have a history of diabetes your system can contain a number of autoantibodies. Some of these antibodies can act against gluten, triggering an immune reaction. This can exaggerate a gluten sensitivity causing trouble and raising havoc in your system.
  • Congenital chromosomal defects, these syndromes result in gene defects that can actually give rise to the genetic aberrations resulting in gluten sensitivity. Congenitally, when a chromosome is lost or added, the genetic makeup changes resulting in a special combination that is different from the healthy DNA. It can code for a number of things out of which one is gluten sensitivity.
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease, this disease consists of a number of antibodies against the body’s own cells especially the thyroid. Along with this, it can also result in a number of other defects including a gluten sensitivity.
  • Addison’s disease, this is another disease which consists of autoimmune antibodies. The disease results in the production of antibodies against the gluten resulting in a complex gluten sensitivity.

What gluten does to your body?

We have recapped on the basis of gluten sensitivity. The disease, as we know it, has a number of causes. At some point, the presence of gluten in the diet leads to a series of reactions that results in a hypersensitivity causing havoc in the GIT system. Now, let us break down the many actions of gluten on the body into specific sections. This will help you understand its role as well as the entire disease process much better.

Gluten can damage your health with or without gluten sensitivity
Celiac disease, the other name for gluten enteropathy is commonly found to be the initiating factor of this syndrome. However, people who don’t have this disease are at risk too. Yes, a disease called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In this disease, the excessive load of gluten on your digestive system makes your body secrete excessive antibodies against it and hyper sensitizes your gut against it resulting in an acquired gluten sensitivity.

Inflammation reaction in the gut
Inflammation is a local area of redness and pain that is often marked by swelling. It occurs because of local trauma or because certain unwanted substances entered into the secure confines of your body. Excessive gluten behaves just like that. The protein acts as an antigen causing the white blood cells to react against it and initiate a hypersensitivity reaction. A part of the problem is due to amylase trypsin inhibitors, which are present in grains that cause the immune cells to react against the gluten protein and initiate the cascade of events.

Increased intestinal permeability
Not only does the gluten cause inflammation, it also results in the gut becoming hyperpermeable. This is because the gut has to control a number of molecules. Certain substances shouldn’t escape while others shouldn’t be absorbed. Gluten makes the gut lose this control making it hyperpermeable. Not only this, the immune barrier of the gut is disturbed as well. As a result, the usual protection due to the gut against tons of bacteria and viruses is list resulting in a leaky gut. In addition to this, gluten stimulates the gut to release zonulin which is a protein that loosens the cell to cell interaction. Once these junctions are loosened, the gut becomes super permeable.

Fortifies the attract
Not only does gluten itself cause a reaction, its combination with its antibody leads to a further exaggeration of problems as well. The complex contributes to the inflammatory reaction already going on in the gut, causing an exaggeration of the symptoms. Another side effect of eating wheat is the wheat germ agglutinin which is another protein with an action similar to gluten. Once the body is sensitized to gluten, it is sensitized against it as well causing a severe reaction.

Now that the gut has become permeable to a number of foreign substances, our once sterile body becomes open to a number of different pathogens. Once in the system, these foreign substances stimulate the body to secrete antibodies that have active sites which correspond to the body’s own tissue. This is called molecular mimicry and it results in autoimmunity. Our body starts producing damaging antibodies and cells against our own tissues, destroying different organ systems.

Deranged bacterial flora
Our intestine is home to millions of bacteria that serve to protect and nourish us. Some produce essential nutrients like vitamin K. whereas others serve to occupy space so that the other lethal bacteria can’t take over. Once the inflammation sets in and the permeability of the gut is altered, the natural balance of microorganisms is lost. Toxic bacteria can take over resulting in diarrhea. They can enter the bloodstream and seed throughout the body leading to sepsis.

Gastrointestinal disturbances
The most common manifestation of gluten sensitive disease is gastrointestinal symptoms. The people who suffer from the condition start with the early symptoms due to the onset of inflammation. These include heartburn, bloating, fatty, smelly stools, vomiting, and diarrhea. At the other end, the disease can also aggravate an attack of constipation simultaneously.

Skin symptoms
The gluten sensitivity also leads to a number of skin symptoms. This is simply because of a common association of a skin disease called dermatitis herpeteformis. It includes red rashes and blisters all over the skin resulting in eczema like a patch that very infuriating. It is caused due to the autoantibodies forming against bodies own structures resulting in chronic diseases like this one.

Affects the brain
You may not think there is any connection between gluten sensitivity and brain symptoms. In fact, when there are such a lot of derangements in the body, part of it will filter into the brain and manifest as brain symptoms. Initially, the symptoms are general and consist of fatigue and foggy consciousness. However, as the disease gets worse, the inflammatory substances and the immune reaction can result in Alzheimer’s disease. Besides this, depression is a common symptom associated with gluten sensitivity as well. However, this does not mean that mental problems can be cured by avoiding gluten! Rather, it means that the risk of mental problems can be decreased d if you avoid gluten in your diet.

Autoimmune diseases
As the disease gets severe, many different immunoglobulins accumulate in the body. The immunoglobulins react with a number of different body tissues causing an exaggerated reaction. It can increase in the severity to the extent that it can initiate an autoimmune disease. It can elicit Hashimoto thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis as well as other autoimmune diseases. This clearly states that not only can autoimmune diseases cause gluten sensitivity, it works in the opposite direction as well.

All in all, gluten is a complex molecule that results in a number of reactions in the body. It can elicit gluten sensitivity that has a number of major consequences. The information above will help you guide through different stages of this process. It is evident that excessive gluten is harmful to your body.

There are a number of ways that this gluten interacts with your system to create multiple effects which ultimately results in a massive disease. There are a number of reasons why you should void consuming too much gluten or eliminating it altogether from your diet. The many toxic effects of gluten highlighted above will help you understand the benefits of a gluten-free diet. After all, you are what you eat.

Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

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