The 5 W's of Living Gluten-Free

By Dr. Stacy Mulkey, ND

What is gluten?  

  • Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related species, including barley and rye and spelt.  It gives elasticity to dough helping it to rise and to keep its shape
  • Gluten is composed of a gliadin fraction and a glutenin fraction

Wheat allergy vs. gluten sensitivity/intolerance vs. Celiac Disease

  • Wheat allergy is an immediate immune response that can happen in minutes to a couple hours.  It is an IgE mediated response that can cause hives, wheezing, swollen lips and throat or even anaphylactic response.

  • At the other extreme is Celiac Disease (CD), which causes the immune system to mistakenly attack the body's own tissue, and can be defined as a permanent intolerance to the gliadin fraction of protein found in wheat, spelt, rye and barley and many other grains.  Antibodies triggered by gluten flatten the microvilli, the tiny fingers in the intestines needed to soak up nutrients from food…symptoms are cramping, bloating and diarrhea, similar to irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, but celiac disease can lead to malnutrition, anemia, osteoporosis, or short-stature.  CD can also have non-gi symptoms like ataxia and encephalopathy…it’s the brain-gut connection!

  • Like other auto-immune disease, celiac involves the activation of a particular type of white blood cell, the T lymphocyte, as well as other parts of the immune system, which may increase the risk of developing GI cancers, in particular lymphomas…it has a genetic component, so all family members should be screened even if don’t have symptom

  • Conventional testing for CD catches only 30-50% (tTG-IgA or tissue transglutaminase-IgA, AGA-IgG or Antigliadin IgG, AGA-IgA or Antigliadin IgA, Total IgA)...see www.cyrexlabs.com

Gluten sensitivities or intolerances…the hidden gray area

  • May be a result of gluten triggering other parts of the immune system, such as an IgA or IgG response…an antibody is produced similarly to when encountering a virus or bacteria and can cause a more delayed response from 2- 72hrs AND can last for weeks to months!  Wide spectrum of symptoms may include gi, chronic respiratory/sinus infxn, acne, eczema, skin rashes, migraines, anxiety, depression, ADD, hot flashes, insomnia, joint/muscle aches, fatigue, brain fog, and MORE!

  • Latest research suggests 100% avoidance to decrease antibody production…may or may not be lifelong as with auto-immune disease or cancer

  • If any family history of auto-immune disease, may want to have HLA DQ 2/8 labs drawn along with celiac panel

When did gluten become a problem?

  • First 90,000 years humans were nomadic hunter/gatherers during Paleolithic Era

  • Neolithic Era started about 10,000 yrs ago and first evidence of cultivated grains in 7800BC

  • The majority of grains around the world around this time were rice, maize, sorghum, millet, all non-gluten and all non-leavened.  Mankind never lived on bread during this time.

  • 200 years ago began using more wheat and enriching grains with gluten (as leavening agent)

  • Celiac research diagnosis dates back to just after WW2…more processed food available

  • Change in agricultural practices…shared combines, etc

  • 1990’s- FDA allowed intro of Genetically Modified Foods (GMO’s)

Other hidden sources of gluten

  • Modified food starch, natural flavoring, maltodextrin, malt extract, food emulsifiers

  • Soy sauce, beer, ketchup, BBQ sauce

  • Lipstick, lip balms, cosmetics

  • Sunscreen or lotions

  • Stickers, stamps, envelopes

  • Soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash

  • Medicines

  • Play doh

  • Household appliances-put GF foods on a plate or use separate toaster

  • Anything in a box, bag, can…unless it is labeled gluten-free

Who should be gluten-free? 

  • Anyone with positive testing for CD or gluten sensitivity or allergy

  • Anyone diagnosed with ANY auto-immune disorder or cancer

  • Strong family history of any of the above

  • Anyone who has reduction in symptoms after eliminating gluten containing foods

  • Some publications question whether ANY of us should consume the gluten of today…and we are beginning to wonder about ALL grains…uh-ohhhhh!

Where can you find GF products in Durango?

  • Nature’s Oasis, Vitamin Cottage, Durango Natural Foods, City Market, Wal-Mart, Albertsons

  • Woods Ranch Bakery, The Yellow Carrot,  Wildflour Bakery and Intolerant Italian

  • Cosmo, Cypress Café, Himalayan Kitchen, Ken & Sue’s, Seasons, Kenebec Café,  Steamworks, Mutu’s, Guidos, EastBySouthwest, Sushitarian, Cocina Linda’s, Lost Dog, Ironhorse Pizza, OreHouse, Serious Texas BBQ

  • Many other restaurants will let you know after talking to chef…just ask!

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