What's the deal with gluten these days? Why is it all of a sudden such a buzzword? Does it really have any bearing on me and my health?
Lets address answers to the questions above and find out a little bit more about gluten.
Gluten is a protein in wheat as well as other grains like rye, barley, some oats and other grains. The word gluten has gained much attention over the last 20 years due to a process of grain production called hybridization. When wheat is hybridized, for instance, one wheat species is conjoined with another genetically to form a new wheat variety. This is done for yield purposes and to stave off bugs and critters. However, the new genetic blueprint is different from how our bodies process and metabolize the true/original wheat. Ultimately inflammatory cascades can be set in motion as a result.
This inflammation occurs due to a protein in the body called zonulin. When gluten is detected in the gut, the body releases zonulin. Zonulin actually opens up the tight junctions in the gut and therefore allows a permeable/leaky gut situation. When the gut is permeable, undigested food particles and antigens can get outside of the gut and get into the bloodstream. At this point they can travel systemically anywhere in the body. This breach in the gut is the foundation for autoimmune conditions to arise in the body.
Symptomatically, we see conditions result, such as: migraines/headaches, hashimoto's thyroiditis, adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia, digestive issues themselves, skin eruptions, mood instabilities, hormonal imbalances, etc.
Gluten has a tendency to cause headaches by mechanism of its permeability contribution.
I generally recommend for most patients, especially working with them at the start, to avoid many gluten-containing grains. This is a pivotal decision to help repair the gut and therefore allow healing mechanisms to initiate in the body. Honestly this step alone can have tremendous positive implications for patients. I don't underestimate how difficult it is to give up many of these comfort-carb choices, especially if it has been a lifestyle habit for years. It may be good to start out just limiting portion sizes or limiting gluten by a meal or two a week to start. Start somewhere, but ideally it's going to do us well to largely eliminate it, at least for a time, to let the body recalibrate and allow the gut lining to be bolstered.
I recommend for patients to focus more on quinoa, wild rice and perhaps buckwheat in place of wheat and gluten products.
Instead of wheat flour I'd opt for coconut or almond flour.
There are ways to make your favorite dishes with replacement options that I'd argue can still retain great taste.
So a challenge I have for those reading this is to perhaps take the next two weeks to eliminate gluten as a part of an elimination diet. See how you feel throughout, document and write down what you notice, and reassess at the end of the two weeks. You can reintroduce gluten at that time and see if any reactions come on. This is best administered under the care of a healthcare practitioner for guidance and observation. I'd be willing to guess that you will notice improvements in digestion, notice less brain fog and better energy to just name a few. I believe it's worth the try and I believe this is a step in elevating your health.
Dr. Seamus Allen
CFMP, DACBN, DC