For most of us, going gluten-free is a big part of digestive health, optimal immune response, hormonal balance, and even mental wellbeing.
This is because wheat gluten has certain proteins that irritate the digestive lining, making it inflamed and permeable. A permeable gut opens the door for all sorts of disorders and uncomfortable health conditions.
The answer to this question is complex and is still being formed by large groups of researchers and scientists. What we now know are some factors related to wheat gluten sensitivity. Factors like:
Figuring out why some people are sensitive to wheat while others are not could give us clues as why other grain proteins are causing immune-related health problems. Besides wheat, other grains that initiate an immune response are grains like corn and oats.
When doctors test for gluten sensitivity, they often check for an immune response to one protein in gluten called alpha-gliadin. Although most doctors only test for this one form of gliadin, alpha-gliadin, there are actually four forms of gliadin in wheat. All forms of gliadin make up a group of storage proteins called a prolamine.
If your gluten sensitivity screen comes back negative, this is not enough reason to freely eat gluten or other grains.
In fact, immunological screenings are still in the process of development, and the test that most doctors use to test for gluten sensitivity is only partially complete. While we wait for more accurate tests to become standard protocol, it is a good idea to always listen to your own body. In other words:
Nature had a goal when designing grain seeds: durability. The hard outer shell of seeds from cereal grains contains a high amount of prolamines. This, along with other anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors, is what makes the outer shell of grains so durable. It also makes them tough to digest.
Each grain has a different set of storage proteins, or a different prolamine. For wheat, the prolamine group consists of gliadin, which is found in wheat gluten. Other common grains have their own prolamines:
Oftentimes, removing gluten from the diet can give extraordinary relief. After going gluten-free, many people report a reduction of:
However, sometimes this relief is minimal or limited. This means that we experience some improvement. Nonetheless, there is room for more improvement, and we do not yet feel 100%.
It turns out that those who are sensitive to wheat gluten may also have a sensitivity to other common grains like oats or corn, which contain the prolamines avenin and zein.
Removing other common grains from the diet and lifestyle can be tough:
The trick to consuming grains and benefiting from them: knowing how to get to these nutrients. The outer shell of grain seeds is extremely durable and not easily broken down by the human digestive tract.
Traditional food preparation used methods like soaking and fermentation to access the vitamins, minerals, and proteins available in grains.
Unfortunately, modern processing tends to produce grain products that are quickly and cheaply made. Instead of fermentation, solvents, chemicals, and high-heat processing methods are used. This leaves many anti-nutrients in grains intact.
If you would still like to consume grain-based foods, try fermenting your grains first for optimal digestion and nutrition.
Opting for a gluten-free diet can help to improve digestive health, immunity, hormonal balance, and even mental wellbeing. The cause of gluten sensitivity is still somewhat unknown, although it may be related to if a child was born cesarean section, if they were fed breast milk or formula, and even what kind of foods their parents ate.
Unfortunately, the gluten sensitivity test used by doctors still has a margin for error. It is best to assess how you feel after eating certain foods to determine how your body responds to any type of grain. Removing common grains from your diet could bring relief from digestive issues, skin rashes, joint pain, chronic fatigue, and even anxiety.
For the best results, ferment your grains 12 to 24 hours in advance to make them easily digestible and to improve their nutritional quality!