What is Gluten and Why Shouldn’t I Eat it?

By Nikki Jackson-Drummond, CCN

Have you ever wondered what gluten intolerance is and why it has received so much attention recently?  Is this just a new fad from the health food industry or something to take notice of?  How do you find out if you or your child is gluten intolerant?

The answers to these questions might be surprising….

The Basics about Gluten

First, let’s be clear on the meaning of gluten intolerance.  It does not mean allergy.  Gluten intolerance is a physical condition in the gut.   It basically means that your body is not able to digest gluten proteins (from wheat and other grains).  Instead, the body begins to attack these undigested proteins as if they were a foreign invader, damaging the micro-villi that line the small intestine.  The lining becomes inflamed, which reduces the surface area available to absorb nutrients. 

Common symptoms of gluten intolerance:

  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Impulsivity and/or aggression in children
  • Poor Focus/ Poor Memory
  • Weight Gain or loss
  • Bloating and/or diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Joint pain
  • Eczema/Psoriasis
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Low Iron levels
  • Neurological disorders

It All Starts in the Gut

The severity of gluten intolerance may range from gluten sensitivity all the way up to full-blown celiac disease, a true “allergy” to gluten that is an inherited autoimmune disorder.  This is no fad.  In fact, many people are gluten sensitive or intolerant and have absolutely no idea.  In 2000, gluten intolerance was estimated in 1 out of 2500.  Today that statistic is an astounding 1 in 133! 

The misuse of words by the media has caused lots of confusion on this topic.   However, the differences are profound. 

Gluten Sensitivity Can be Fixed 

Put simply, if you test “sensitive” to gluten, take it out of the diet for at least 6 months.  The gut heals and gluten can gradually be re-introduced.  However, some folks may not be so lucky.  Removing the gluten and healing the gut can take care of the symptoms, but removing gluten from the diet must be permanent if there is a true intolerance. 

Why Are More People Gluten Intolerant Today?

Even over the last ten years, cases of gluten intolerance are on the rise.  There are several factors:

  • Dysbiosis:  Some people may not be able to digest gluten because they have gut dysbiosis, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.  Dysbiosis can occur from taking antibiotics (especially if used more than once every few years), or from eating foods you can’t digest.  For example:  feeding grains to infants before they can digest them can cause dysbiosis.  The overgrowth of “bad bacteria” along with the undigested fragments of gluten can trick their immune system into thinking the undigested food particles are from the bad bacteria. 
  • Genetics:  Some people may have the gene responsible for improper digestion of gluten, although it has not yet been identified. 
  • Food Quality:  We all know that food today is much more processed and genetically modified in many cases.  We also know that breads today are not made the same as they used to be.  In fact, the gluten proteins found in grains today are structurally different from the grains our ancestors used.  Scientists have recently discovered a peptide in gluten (which triggers the intolerance) that did not exist in ancestral grains. 


How Do I Get Tested?


Click here.  Gluten intolerance is identified with a simple blood test.  As a clinical nutritionist, this is one of the first tests I order when patients do not respond well to neurotransmitter balancing.  We’ll  send you a test kit and then go over the results to devise a diet that suits your body’s needs.  The lab I like to use for this testing will also test for 19 other common food sensitivities, 10 food additives, and 10 food colorings.  You’ll receive the following:

  • Food Intolerance Test kit
  • Results identifying both food intolerances AND food sensitivities
  • 50-page Guide to living with food sensitivities
  • Half-hour consultation with Clinical Nutritionist
  • Gut restoration protocol
  • Price:  $225

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