Friday, July 1, 2011

What happens in our body when we eat gluten?

If you look through the different paleo books and websites there is one fact which is consistent throughout all of them. Don't eat anything which contains gluten. There are differing opinions about diary, fruits and nuts. Some people don't worry about them and just eat them, others try to avoid them. Gluten is the one thing everyone treats equally. It's pure poison for our body and we should stay away from it. So what exactly happens in our body when we eat gluten? What's so bad about it?

Gluten is a mixture of proteins, which are found in the endosperm of grains. This protein mixture is made up off prolamine and glutelin. Both of them don't contain many essential amino acids and are therefore not of high nutritional value. A lot of people react allergic to gluten. This disease is called celiac and means that the innermost layer of the smaller intestines is inflamed. In Germany every 500th person has celiac, in the US its even every 100th. And these numbers only count the cases in which the disease is diagnosed by a doctor.

Some proteins of gluten, for example gliadin (the prolamine of wheat) , bind to specific antigens produced by the small intestines. The resulting complex in turn binds to specific lymphocytes  (a form of white blood cells) and thereby evokes an increased production of inflammatory compounds. Additionally the body releases antibodies against gluten itself and against antigens naturally produced in the body. One can say that the body recognizes gliadin as a foreign particle and tries to fight against it, just like it fights against bacteria and virus. These processes in the end lead to the death of cells in the inner layer of the small intestines. Normally these cells produce enzymes to split nutrients into smaller particles and these particles are transported  through the membrane into the blood system. When the cell membrane of the small intestines is damaged, nutrients cannot be digested and taken up properly anymore.

Symptoms of the celiac disease include loss of weight, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, tiredness, depression, debility, damage of the teeth, dry skin and anemia. The severeness of the symptoms can differ a lot between individuals. So if you just feel tired or have a small headache after eating some grains, this could already be a sign for gluten intolerance.

So do you really still want to eat bread and noodles? I literally try to live completely without it. At the beginning its hard to know what products are containing gluten. Stay away from everything that contains grains. But gluten is also often used as emulsifier in processed food.  Read the ingredient lists of products to find out if it contains gluten. The best strategy is still to stay away from all processed food and only eat real food like meat, vegetables, fruit, fish, nuts and seeds
In Germany its especially hard to avoid gluten because everybody eats a lot of bread and drinks beer. I just switched to red wine. But for the guys who really need their beer from time to time, here's a small tip for you:

 What's your experience with gluten? Are you really allergic or do you not have symptoms at all?

1 comment:

  1. I agree that it's much easier to just avoid grains than to try to find "safe" ones - especially as the gluten-free products are highly processed (crap). But it's immensely hard to watch my husband slather butter and Oma's jam over an Alsaesser at breakfast!
    I'm so glad to find paleo people in Germany; I've joined the FB group and will add you to my reader list. My bog is not pure Primal but does have some recipes, if you're interested.