A Tale of Two Glutens
Warm bread baking in the oven, filling my childhood home with a loving aromatic embrace. We made bread by hand as children on Saturdays. Life was good as we sat around on those lazy, hazy Sunday afternoons and at homemade two inch thick slices of homemade cinnamon raisin bread slathered in butter.
In another world (that other world being my gut), a different story was talking place. A war was breaking out, as pointless and arbitrary as any war. The bread that tasted so good to my tongue was making contact with my intestinal walls, and wreaking havoc. Inside each grain of wheat is a protein called gluten. Gluten is also present in the grains barley and rye. Gluten is a slinky shaped protein that makes bread spongy.
By a tremendous bit of back luck the protein we call gluten looks to the body like it is a dangerous bacteria, and not just any bacteria. It’s spiral size and shape (one nanometer spiral) make it look like the bacteria that cause syphilis and Lyme disease.
We know well what the immune reaction to the Lyme bacteria can do to a patient or a loved one. No organ system is safe from the destructive inflammation. Likewise doctors from an earlier generation were aware of these effects from syphilis infection. The damage from these disease is caused by the powerful weapons of our bodies reaction to their presence.
Our immune system is over reacting react to gluten, and that causes all of our problems. Symptoms may not show until a lot of damage has been done, or an autoimmune disease or cancer is diagnosed. Gluten intolerance is the hidden epidemic of the 21st century, the equivalent of syphilis and Lyme disease when these disease where misunderstood, misdiagnosed and poorly treated. Gluten related disease is vastly under diagnosed in this country. It is diagnosed 40 times more often in Europe.
The reason that gluten is so confusing to our immune system is because it resembles these bacteria in size and shape. We know what the body is willing to do to itself in its attack on these bacteria. It will willing to not only create tremendous inflammation, but to create such destruction in attacking these bacteria that it will literally eat through muscle, tendon, bone and nerve tissue. Destroying the function of these tissues and our health and happiness in the process. The immune reaction is so strong that our body is even willing to put our life in jeopardy.
In thinking about the effect of gluten on the insides of our body we have to remember that the insides are not just “inside” the body. We we are growing in the womb our bodies form three layers. These layers are basically the inside, middle and outside.
However the body is more interesting than that. The inner tube is called endoderm and while this inner tube is forming, parts go off in some interesting directions. Part of the endoderm goes up into the throat and becomes the the thyroid gland! Here is a complete list of endoderm tissues. The endoderm forms: the liver, the pancreas, the urinary bladder, the lining of the urethra, throat, the lungs, the thyroid, the parathyroid, and, of course, the stomach, small intestine, and the large intestine.
Gluten sensitivity must be considered with blood sugar issues, mood disorders including depression and anxiety, foggy thinking or low energy. Autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s disease and other autoimmune diseases like colitis and Crohn’s disease. All behavior disorders (including Autism) are either caused or aggravated by gluten. Irritability in children is one of its first clues.
While the body is going after the gluten protein is is destroying our own tissue, and even mistakenly going into attack against our own tissue. In a frantic attempt to destroy anything that may be the invader. After the battle the body will clean up and do the repair work. The problem is that the attack never ends. We keep eating gluten and the immune system keeps attacking. Making antibodies against gluten but against our own tissues also. Against our thyroid, against our pancreas, against our liver, against the lining of many of our other tissues and of course causing most cases of colitis and Crohn’s disease.
In addition to all of this bad news there is also tissue running through the intestines called endomysium. This tissue runs throughout the intestines and includes blood vessels, nerve tissue and lymphatic tissue. For this reason it is possible to see an immune response to gluten show up anywhere in the body.
Undiagnosed gluten sensitivity can destroy the potential for lifetime health and wellness. Celiac disease is one kind of gluten sensitivity, but my own 15 years of ulcerative colitis taught me gluten has many was of damaging the body.
To recover from gluten induced illness complete avoidance without exception is required. Thankfully we now have more resource for this than ever, in stores and on the internet It is a major life change, but one that can save your life.