Conditions| last modified: February 2, 2011 9:57 pm

Why is Wheat Controversial? Exploring Gluten and Digestion

You may have noticed an increasing number of stories in health news recently about wheat, gluten, and digestive disorders. Many are claiming that wheat is bad for us. But how can this be?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat that can cause an allergic response by the body’s immune system. This reaction is strongly hereditary. However, since so many sufferers are misdiagnosed, it’s confusing to know if you may be at risk. The allergic response to gluten occurs because the body considers gluten a toxic substance and mounts an immune reaction with specific antibodies. The antibodies then attack the intestinal walls, damaging the crucial villi that line the intestine, causing serious problems in the digestive tract. This in turn causes inflammation in the body. This type of reaction to gluten may be the cause of many serious digestive conditions as well as skin afflictions. To know for sure if you suffer from gluten intolerance, have a blood test done to test for antibodies, or more accurately, have a tissue sample taken from your intestine. However, be aware that some may test negatively from a tissue sample, but have a blood test that shows gluten antibodies. This is because many people suffer from gluten sensitivity, which produces similar symptoms, but not complete intolerance to gluten.

Some nutritionists and doctors claim that most people do not digest grain well because we did not evolve eating grains. Wheat and wheat flour are relatively new to the human diet, and some experts assert that 30 percent of people of European descent carry the gene for gluten intolerance. It’s important to note that today’s modern wheat is much different than the wheat of ancient times, as modern wheat is often genetically modified and contains much higher amounts of gluten.

If you have digestive problems or other conditions that you can’t seem to treat, try eliminating wheat flour products as well as barley, rye, spelt, and kamut for one month and see if you notice a difference. Oats do not naturally contain gluten but are often contaminated during processing. Rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and millet are safe alternatives, as is potato, tapioca and nut flours. Be aware than many processed foods containing starches, stabilizers, and acid-hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) may contain gluten.

Maintaining a healthy digestion system is crucial to your health because it allows you to properly absorb nutrients from your food. If you suffer from irregularity, constipation, heartburn, or other issues, there are several key dietary components and herbs that can promote digestive health.

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