What is gluten? What is its impact on health?

Gluten-free products are more and more numerous. To fully understand its impact on health, we must understand how gluten can irritate the digestive tract.

Gluten is a protein that will be found in certain grains such as oats, barley, rye and more in wheat. This protein will make the pasta elastic when it is hydrated. Gluten is therefore important in culinary preparations such as bread or pastry. The ancestral varieties of wheat were much less rich in gluten than modern wheats. In order to increase yields and feed the world’s population, wheat genes have been altered through numerous crosses between different varieties to increase the gluten concentration of wheat varieties and thus make the pasta more elastic. Our body therefore finds itself having to assimilate a greater amount of gluten today.

To understand its impact on our health, we must understand the difference between an allergy and a food intolerance. A food allergy involves the immune system with the release of immunoglobulins or antibodies, while a food intolerance is enzymatic. The most common of food intolerances is lactose intolerance caused by a deficiency in lactase, the enzyme that allows lactose to be hydrolyzed so that it is digested. Celiac disease is an autoimmune pathology that affects 1% of the population, it is a rare disease diagnosed early and severe if not treated by complete avoidance of gluten.

As you can see, a food allergy or intolerance are very specific cases. But what about gluten? We are talking about gluten hypersensitivity. Indeed, too much gluten can attack the intestinal mucosa. But be careful, eating a simple piece of bread doesn’t attack the intestinal lining in most people. Such an exacerbated reaction of the body is above all the result of a set of factors, and in particular:

  • Genetic predisposition: some people are more tolerant of gluten while others will trigger reactions more easily.

  • The disruption of the intestinal microbiota.

  • The presence of other factors that interfere with intestinal permeability. Gluten is not the only one that disturbs its functioning, other elements come into play: excessive consumption of carbohydrates or proteins, insufficient chewing, repeated intake of antibiotics, heavy consumption of cow’s milk, etc.

Thus, gluten can contribute to attacking the intestinal mucosa, but the response may vary depending on the individual: a majority will not suffer from anything, while the others may trigger one of the inflammatory reactions, headaches, intestinal problems, etc. etc. Unless you are hypersensitive to gluten, there is no reason to eliminate gluten from your diet. For big bread lovers, eat small spelled bread which is a variety of wheat that contains much less gluten and is better tolerated.

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