By Dr. Patrick Giammarise, DC
Gluten is everywhere, literally and figuratively. It’s in more foods then we know and in many of our conversations about food. You may have noticed that a lot of information about gluten is confusing. So here are a few important puzzle pieces to help you develop a clearer picture of the facts.
The first piece of the gluten puzzle to know is that our food is changing.
Grains containing gluten—wheat, spelt, kamut, barley, and rye—eaten for generations, are not the same grains found in our food today. One reason is that wheat hybrids have been developed to yield higher protein content. Second, food manufacturers have made chemical modifications to gluten so it can dissolve in water more easily (gluten is Latin for “glue”). And third, research on the hidden impact of GMOs on gluten is, well, in the embryonic stages.
The second part of the gluten puzzle is that while our food is changing, the human digestive system has not.
Our digestive system has not adapted to processing these “new wheats.” These altered varieties appear to be a major factor in the dramatic increase in gluten sensitivity.
The third piece to understanding gluten sensitivity is to understand how tough it is to digest something that your gut (and immune system) does not “recognize.”
New or “foreign” proteins, such as enriched gluten products, confuse the immune system. This may result in intestinal permeability (known as “leaky gut,” in which small molecules of undigested food particles leak out into your bloodstream), systemic inflammation, and autoimmune attacks on the body’s own tissues. See the “Gluten Reaction Flow Chart” for the potential impact of gluten on a variety of body systems and organs.
Maybe you have had the experience of being foggy headed, yet once you stopped eating gluten, you had a clearer mind? That may not be all in your head, because gluten can be a “brain drain.”
New research shows that brain and nervous system tissues are even more sensitive to gluten than the gut is. And that’s something to take very seriously. See the chart “Gluten —It’s Not All in Your Gut.”
In Dr. David Perlmutter’s groundbreaking book Grain Brain, he reveals that antigliadan antibodies may combine with specialized proteins in our brains that mimic gliadan protein found in gluten-containing foods. When this happens, gluten affects our brain and the entire nervous system. Balance issues, unexplained neurological problems, and dementia may be associated with the inflammatory effect that gluten is having on the nervous system in sensitive people.
The fourth piece to the gluten puzzle is to get accurately tested by a professional who knows how to test and treat for the sophisticated subtleties that can exist.
Gluten sensitivity cannot be identified by conventional allergy skin tests. The traditional gold standard of an intestinal biopsy can also miss gluten sensitivity because of gluten’s potential damage to tissues beyond the digestive system.
Because of the damage gluten can cause, and the vast numbers of people whom gluten affects, I believe gluten testing should be as prevalent as cholesterol tests.
One of the best starting points is to use a specialized saliva test that evaluates for a wide variety of immunoglobulins associated with proteins, such as gliadan and transglutaminase. This test is highly sensitive to detecting gluten sensitivity and costs less than $120.
A second test, a blood test, is very useful for determining if the gut has been damaged and you have increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut.” Increased intestinal permeability can eventually promote not only gluten but other food sensitivities.
Once a sensitivity has been identified, a third test of the blood can be run to determine the entire spectrum of reactivity that a patient may be having to wheat—it can determine if the different tissues such as the brain, thyroid, kidneys, or skin are reacting to gluten.
A fourth test looks for cross-reactivity to other grains and foods. Many people who are reactive to gluten are also reactive to brown rice and oats, because the genetic structure of these grains is very similar to that of wheat. Hence following traditional advice to substitute rice or oats for gluten grains may backfire on gluten-sensitive people.
The fifth and final piece is that because gluten sensitivity may be the answer to why you are experiencing unexplained or unresolved health problems, and it has the potential to affect both body and mind, it is important to seek treatment.
If you are experiencing uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, indigestion, and diarrhea, or other unexplained symptoms, get tested. Untreated, gluten sensitivities can eventually lead to brain, neurological, and autoimmune issues.
Getting tested and treated for gluten sensitivity by a professional who knows how to help you avoid the harmful long-term effects of untreated gluten or other food sensitivities may be the first step in solving puzzling health problems and a great investment in your future health.
Knowledge is power. Once you know whether you are gluten sensitive or reactive to other foods, you are in a better position to take charge of your health.
Since 1999, Dr. Patrick Giammarise, DC, has helped North State residents by using a whole-body systems approach to health. He specializes in providing natural relief for food and environmental sensitivities, intolerances and digestive problems. For more information contact Dr. Patrick at 530-899-8741 or For more information visit www.DigestionReliefCenter.com and be sure to visit http://www.lotusguide.com/articles/ and Search “Patrick” for more articles related to prevention & sustaining your health
© 2014. Dr. Patrick Giammarise, DC. All Rights Reserved.