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Beyond Gluten-Free: How Corn and Oats Are Becoming Just as Troublesome as Wheat Gluten!

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.

Why are some people sensitive to wheat gluten, while others are not?

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:

  • Whether or not you were born cesarean section.
  • If you were fed breast milk, formula, or both as an infant.
  • What your parents ate: Did they consume traditional foods, or was their diet full of processed, modern foods?
  • What you ate as a child.

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.

The gluten sensitivity test isn’t perfect.
Is grain the enemy? A gluten-free diet can provide digestive relief and even improve mental wellbeing. Fermenting grains will make them easily digestible and will also help to improve their nutritional quality.

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:

  • Check in with how you feel physically and mentally after eating certain foods.
  • Grains are common allergens.
  • Pay particular attention to how you feel after eating foods that contain any grain, even “safe” grains.
Prolamines are hard to digest and can irritate the gut.

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:

  • Barley contains hordein.
  • Rye contains secalin.
  • Corn contains zein.
  • Oat contains avenin. 
If you are not seeing the results that you would like on a gluten-free diet, you may want to try removing other common grains from your diet and lifestyle.

Oftentimes, removing gluten from the diet can give extraordinary relief. After going gluten-free, many people report a reduction of:

  • Chronic respiratory disorders
  • Digestive complaints
  • Skin eruptions and rashes
  • Joint pain
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Bouts of depression or anxiety

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:

  • Zein, which comes from corn, is used commercially to line paper cups, coat candy, and as a “vegetable protein.”
  • While oats are a common and obvious ingredient in some foods, you may also find oats used in popular skin care products and in several lines of organic, whole-food vitamins. 
Grains are full of nutrients.

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.

  • Prepare a solution of water and a few ounces of InnergyBiotic.
  • Soak grains in the solution for 12 -24 hours.
  • Use the grain as you normally would.
  • Only experiment with traditionally prepared grains if you are certain that you do not have an immune response to the prolamines in the grain. 

What to Remember Most About This Article:

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!

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  • BananaMan

    Dear unnamed author, it's not at all true that corn and oats are becoming JUST AS troublesome as wheat. "The Celiac Sprue Association reports that the gluten zein of corn is usually well tolerated by people with celiac disease, which is why corn flour is often used as an ingredient in gluten-free products such as corn tortillas, breads, chips and crackers."

    That's not to say that oats and corn gluten won't affect people, but to say it's just as troublesome as wheat is an outrage.

    About me: gluten-free, organic eater and health nut.

  • Shannon

    Babies who are breast fed and have a natural (vaginal) birth receive their healthy gut bacteria (their probiotics) through these processes from their mother. Babies who are born by c-section and formula fed have little opportunity then to build up their healthy gut flora. Gut flora is an important part, possibly the most important part, of our immune system. These flora also produce enzymes that help breakdown food and harmful anti-nutrients. Therefore, it's believed that an absence of adequate gut flora can lead to food sensitivities.

  • Megan

    So I read these articles and then when I am looking at the ingredients in the products there is wheat, and soy etc etc that seem very conflicting. Are you products GMO free? I'm just a bit confused on this issue. I would like to try the vital greens but see there is soy in it, I want to try the Dong Quai but there is wheat and soy in it...

  • sneh

    How does one ferments the grains.

  • Kirsten

    Yes, I wondered about the c-section birth as well. My daughter was an emergency c-section delivery...and she breast fed for 2 years. While I know you cannot predict the situation for us, what is the general thought on the difference between c-section birth, breast feeding, bottle feeding and the gluten intolerance that you mention as a possible correlate here?

  • susan

    Could you discuss more about these factors and what the research is. Not sure - for example - if a cesarean birth means more likely gluten intolerance or less... etc.

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