Naperville Neuro Metabolic Center Discusses The Gluten Epidemic

14 09 2011

Gluten is the common protein found in wheat, barley, oats, spelt, kamut, & rye.  Gluten is a sticky, storage protein that when combined with water becomes sort of “gluey.”  Inside of the digestive tract, this reaction can lead to gluten binding to the small intestinal wall where it can cause digestive and immune system disorders.  Gluten sensitivity is an epidemic that is a major contributing factor with many of today’s health problems.

 Gliadins are the glycoprotein portion of the gluten molecule that is responsible for the negative effects.  Researchers have found that certain gliadin compounds can binds a chemo attractant receptor and increases a certain factor that destroys tight junctions.   These junctions tie the small intestinal cells together and prevent leakage of food particles into the body.  This gliadin reaction has been linked to increased intestinal permeability and leaky gut syndrome. 

When the gut is permeable and food particles are able to cross into the blood stream it creates a stress response in the body.  As a result of this, the body very often forms an immune response to the circulating molecules as well as the toxic culprits causing havoc in the gut. 

This immune reaction begins with the body forming T-lymphocyte recognition of gluten peptides in circulation and gluten peptides that are bound to tissue.  Once this recognition is formed the second immune interaction results in the production of Anti-Gliadin anti-bodies (AGA).  Over time this process creates a dramatic increase in gut inflammation and finally toxic destruction to the villi of the small intestine as seen in Celiac disease.

Experts now believe that celiac disease represents just one extreme of a broad spectrum of gluten intolerance that includes millions of people with less severe — but nevertheless problematic — reactions to the protein. While celiac disease affects about 1% of the U.S. population, certain experts believe that 3-15% of the population have elevated AGA levels and may or may not have any diagnosed symptoms.  This is a syndrome entitled non-celiac gluten intolerance (NCGI).  There are many others who have negative AGA levels but may still have gluten sensitive reactions

When it comes to celiac disease and gluten intolerance, scientists look at HLA DQ genes.  According to gluten researcher Dr. Kenneth Fine, 90% of people with celiac have the DQ2 gene.  This gene is mostly found in individuals with Northern European background.  9% have the DQ8 gene which is more common among those of European/Mediterranean descent.  The DQ 1 & DQ3 genes are associated more with gluten intolerance than celiac disease.   

“This is something that we’re just beginning to get our heads around,” says Daniel Leffler, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston. “There is a tight definition of celiac disease, but gluten intolerance has been a moving target.”
 
 Dr. Kenneth Fine’s research estimates that Americans genetically susceptible to celiac disease to be 43% while 81% are predisposed to gluten intolerances.  While some may have digestive discomfort, most do not.  Many may instead experience inflammation in the skin (excema & psoriasis), joints (arthritis), respiratory tract (asthma, allergies) and brain (brain fog, poor memory, dizziness, etc.). 

“Gluten is fairly indigestible in all people,” Leffler says. “There’s probably some kind of gluten intolerance in all of us.”  Untreated or undiagnosed individuals with elevated AGA are at an increased risk for lymphoid cancers and other auto-immune disorders such as Sjogren’s syndrome & Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  Anyone with chronic inflammatory conditions should immediately consider removing gluten from their diet.  Brown rice, quinoa, millet and sprouted grains are much better choices. 

Do not let a negative AGA test lead you to believe that you are successfully digesting and assimilating gluten.  One of the best subjective ways of testing your own gluten sensitivity is through a food elimination test.

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