After reading a recent blog from a doctor who claims going gluten free is just another FAD and is only necessary if you are diagnosed celiac disease, it prompted me to write this blog about how there are many reasons other than this to go gluten free!
Firstly we need to understand briefly what celiac disease is and how it affects the digestive system. celiac disease is a severe digestive condition which causes damage to the small intestine if you ingest gluten (found in wheat, rye, barley & some oats), which leads to malabsorption of vital minerals and vitamins and even cancer in the long term if undetected. This damage to the gut is caused by inflammation.
Then we need to understand what an antibody is. An antibody plays a key role in the immune system. They begin the process of getting rid of the invaders that may cause harm or infection. These invaders are known as antigens.
The antibody that is involved in dealing with celiac specifically is the IgA antibody, which responds to the antigen, which is the gluten here. Take the gluten (antigen) away, the inflammation stops and the gut can heal.
There are five different classes of antibodies in total- IgA, IgE (allergies), IgM, IgG and IgD. All of these antibodies can also be involved in reactions towards gluten, whether it be an allergic reaction or an intolerance to it. Obviously an allergy can be life threatening through an inflammatory response that is extremely severe. The other antibody reactions (intolerances) mean there is some level of inflammation going on, which can lead to damage to the gut lining, which may lead to malabsorption, so this can be nearly as damaging to one’s health as celiac disease, as it can lead to deficiencies in important minerals and vitamins also. As intolerances are still not an accepted digestive condition, (as such a lot of health professionals say that they are relatively harmless and more worryingly do not believe these intolerances lead to a number of serious health issues, which I will discuss later on,) this leads them to the conclusion that you do not need to go gluten free unless you have an IgA or IgE antibody reaction to gluten! This simply is not true! The common thought is if you are presenting with what is called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), this is nothing to be concerned about in terms of long term damage to your gut or health in general. This IBS is a sign there is some inflammation going on, it’s just it is not IgA or IgE mediated!
Due to this misconception if you are diagnosed with celiac disease you get more support and taken more seriously than if you have an intolerance which is leading to IBS, as it is still thought intolerances are not controlled by specific antibodies. It is now thought IgG and IgM especially are involved in dealing with the inflammation caused by ingesting gluten and a number of other foods that someone may be intolerant to.
Aside from these specific antibody reactions there are also other immune cells that can pose an attack against an antigen such as gluten. Some of these may be mast cells, which release histamine (involved in allergic reactions), or other molecules which are involved in general inflammatory reactions, such as cytokines or eicosanoids. These may all triggered by stress, environmental toxins, or various foods, one of them gluten. These molecules are involved in the development of various diseases or health issues.
These intolerances are only one reason in addition to celiac disease not to eat gluten. What about crohns or colitis? if you are predisposed to an autoimmune thyroid condition such as arthritis, Graves or Hashimotos, or just suffer with an under or over active thyroid? What if you have other autoimmune conditions? What about if you are having fertility issues? What about if you suffer with eczema or asthma? What about depression/anxiety/OCD autism and schizophrenia even? There are hundreds of studies to show that gluten is linked to any of these conditions through many different mechanisms which have nothing to do with IgA or IgE antibodies!
Therefore is it really a fad when so many people are suffering with these conditions or have IBS, which is on the rise! Or is it a FAD when so many are genuinely feeling better not eating it and when not eating it does not lead to any deficiencies what so ever, (which is what a FAD results in) and when the basic nature of gluten is to be inflammatory in the first place and it is not what many of us are still genetically evolved to eat, despite thousands of years of evolution! Food for thought!
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