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Gluten, why so many sensitivities?

March 6, 2010

Gluten is the protein component of the grains: wheat, rye and barley, also including spelt, triticale and kamut. In wheat, gluten contributes to elasticity making this grain superb for all types of baking. Farmers select varieties of wheat that are hardy and taste best. Ultimately they are choosing the species that naturally tend to be highest in gluten. High gluten content ensures bread products taste chewy without being too dense, just like a perfect NY bagel tastes. Often gluten is added to baked goods, breads in particular, to promote the dough to rise well and to enhance the overall consistency. It is concerning though, that bread created today now has 10 times the amount of gluten compared with breads made 50 years ago. Some research is showing that gluten acts locally affecting the cells that line the digestive tract. The protein interferes in the normal functioning of our immune system of the gut, especially working to break down the junctions between the cells. Once these junctions are weakened undigested proteins can cross the intestine. When this happens the body responds with inflammation and the creation of new antibodies to whatever just crossed over. In this case it is gluten moving across the intestinal barrier before it is broken down properly, which causes the body to mount  antibody production to the protein. If this happens again and again there is a risk of developing either a wheat sensitivity or creating a severe enough problem to warrant the diagnosis of  Celiac disease.

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