Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Gluten - more than just a pain in the guts?

Remember the advert "I'm feeling a bit bloated". "Here, have some Bifidus Digestivum!"? I wonder what percentage of the population suffers from bloating, gas pains, constipation, IBS or some degree of failure to absorb the nutrients from their food?

People with Coeliac Disease (CD) or Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH) (intensely itchy spots on pressure points) have to avoid gluten as much as possible, as it produces an auto-immune response with antibodies that attack their own bodies. However, gluten is also implicated in other conditions due to molecular mimicry. Sjogren's syndrome (dry eyes & other bits) and cerebellar ataxia (brain damage) are mentioned in a huge article by Loren Cordain Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword.

This article suggests that there are conditions other than CD & DH which can be helped by switching from gluten-containing grains (wheat, rye, oats, barley & spelt) to non gluten-containing ones (rice, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, millet & amaranth). Luckily, supermarkets like Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury's now have a large "Free from" section, which makes finding gluten-free substitutes for breads, cakes, biscuits & breakfast cereals etc a lot easier.

EDIT: See also Keep 'em tight.


Dr. Art Ayers said...

I think that we would learn a lot about celiac, if we pondered the evolutionary significance of gluten. Is gluten a defense against herbivores? Gluten has long stretches of glutamine amino acid residues (similar to Huntington's). Those glutamines are converted to glutamic acids by tissue transglutaminase (tTG). Celiac sufferers produce antibodies to tTG and gluten, so on the surface of the intestine is a big matrix of gluten/tTG/antibodies. This matrix probably also sticks to the surface heparan sulfate proteoglycans. This is reminiscent of the amyloid plaque that kills neurons in Alzheimer's.

Anna said...

Good to know about the GF section at the UK grocery stores. My son and I recently tested as gluten sensitive, with anti-gluten antibodies, tTG IgA, and each with two copies of genes that predispose to celiac or gluten sensitivity. We're visiting my MIL and SIL in London this spring. This will be our first time traveling GF, so not sure how much of a challenge we'll face. Good to know options will be easy to find in at least some grocery stores.

Diana Moon said...

I got a dead link on the Cordain site.

Nigel Kinbrum said...

The url for that article has changed more times than I've had hot dinners! Please try again.