Many people relate gluten to bread, but that is only part of the gluten story.
So, what is gluten?
Gluten is made up of many different proteins and we can also see that gluten is found in other grains such as wheat, barley, or rye. Gluten’s true job is to provide nutrients to the germ of the seed and also protect the germ from the invading environment. This is important to understand because seeds were meant to survive harsh environments so that they may grow. For example, when a seed is digested by an animal, the gluten is there to ensure that it will survive the digestive tract and come out unharmed so that it may then propagate wherever the animal left it. In order for gluten to be successful at this, the structure of gluten is comprised of many different proteins.
We can break gluten down into two sub groups called prolamins and glutelins. The prolamin in wheat is classified as gliadin, which many are familiar with due to the correlation with celiac disease. What is not known by many, is that different types of grains (not just gluten) have different types of prolamines. This is why most people who have gluten allergies or sensitivities can also be sensitive to prolamins in other grains. Their body notices the resemblance and will often times become triggered. It is important to know exactly what part of the gluten a person can be sensitive to.
Many “gluten-free diets” just simply exclude wheat gluten and will substitute the wheat with another type of grain. If a person has any sensitivities to prolamines than their body can react to the prolamine in the substituted grain. Therefore, the person may still have the same or similar symptoms as to when they were eating the wheat gluten. To be on a TRUE gluten free diet is to exclude all grains. If another type of grain is ingested than the body’s immune system may react to the prolamines in those grains causing a symptomatic reaction.
The differences between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease
Gluten sensitivity is a genetic disorder that can cause other diseases and autoimmune diseases such as celiac. Gluten sensitivity is not a disease. Gluten sensitivity can create an immune response and lead to the production of antibodies which leads to an autoimmune disease. This is specifically caused by an immune response to the protein gluten that can be found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats. Celiac disease, asthma, fibromyalgia, neurological disorders are all possible manifestations of a gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease arises from damage by gluten to the intestines. Other factors also play into the role of celiac disease which could include environmental factors that trigger a genetic response. If a person has a predisposition to celiac disease then stress, foods they are allergic to, or environment could trigger the onset of the disease. So, we see here that the gluten sensitivity can set off the immune response, but it is not a disease and it is not always the only trigger. So it is important to rule out a gluten sensitivity when looking at any disease.
At Optimal Wellness Redefined, Dr. Larisa Scott is a certified Gluten Free Healthcare Provider. If you have any questions or would like to know more about all things gluten please contact us.