Have you ever wondered why bread is so fluffy? Why it almost sticks together like glue? This not by happenstance but rather the work of a protein found in grains called gluten. Gluten is the bond that forms a framework to bind together all the other parts of the grain and create a structure in which products such as cakes, pastries, and other grain products can be produced. There is even such a thing as high-gluten flour, which is used to make desserts like puffy pastry and turnovers.
Given that this week’s newsletter is discussing gastrointestinal (GI) health and the fact that wheat (a gluten containing grain) is at the cornerstone of our cultural diet, we can look at how this protein can have such a profound affect on our GI system.
We know for sure that there is one condition that is specifically affiliated with gluten and that is Celiac Disease. For people who suffer from this imbalance, their body has an inability to digest the gluten protein, which in turn creates an immune response surrounding that protein. Often times when substances are introduced to the body that are indigestible, the immune system will attack it in order to remove it from the body. For people who have Celiac disease and are unaware of it, there is literally a massive immune response happening creating unwanted inflammation in the intestines. This will lead to a myriad of complications. Now we must ask ourselves, if this one protein can cause this response in some people, can it really be that nutritious for the rest of us? Research is finding that gluten is pro-inflammatory across the board whether you are diagnosed with Celiac disease or not. There is another diagnosis that is becoming more prevalent termed Nonceliac Gluten-Enteropathy, which is being diagnosed in certain populations in the prevalence of 1in 133 people.
While it is almost impossible to completely remove gluten from you diet, we start by reducing the amount of gluten containing grains that we consume and begin working to strengthen the health of our GI system so that it is better able to deal with the immune response that results from gluten consumption.
Naturopathic physicians are experts at using medicine to do this very job while working with patients to educate them about their diet and how it is affecting their health.
Dr. Jesse I Buttler, ND
Northwest Natural Medicine, LLC