It is estimated that up to 40 percent of the United States population suffers from gluten intolerance, and that number doesn’t appear to be shrinking. For this unfortunate minority, consuming foods that contain this notorious protein composite, such as wheat, rye, and barley, can lead to countless health issues ranging from bloating and fatigue to constipation and gastrointestinal distress. For the much smaller minority that suffer from the more serious autoimmune disorder, celiac disease, health issues can be much worse.
However, evidence continues to suggest that gluten consumption is bad for everyone, including those of us that don’t suffer from an overt sensitivity. This article contains a list of four ways in which gluten consumption negatively affects our health.
Damages Our Intestine
According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, an expert on celiac disease and gluten intolerance, gluten contains a protein called zonulin that can diminish the seal between our intestinal cells. This activity causes spaces to open between the cells, allowing bigger protein molecules to enter the bloodstream and trigger an immune response. It can also cause a leakage of intestinal contents, such as harmful bacteria, which can overwork the liver and lead to a toxicity crisis. This condition, which is called leaky gut syndrome and accounts for an estimated 50 percent of all chronic complaints in the United States, has also been linked to chronic tissue inflammation, which can lead to digestive issues, fatigue, excess fluid retention, and elevated cortisol levels.
Prevents Nutrient Absorption
Gluten is rich in phytic acid, an indigestible compound that is often considered an “anti-nutrient” since it binds itself to essential minerals in our bodies, such as magnesium, iron, calcium, and zinc, and renders them bio-unavailable. This issue, coupled with the fact that most gluten-containing foods seldom contain that many nutrients in the first place, makes gluten one of the worst substances to consume for those suffering from existing nutrient deficiencies.
Triggers Insulin Resistance
Most, if not all, foods containing gluten contain high glycemic loads. In fact, the glycemic index shows that wheat bread contains a higher glycemic load than a Snickers bar! Consequently, eating these foods can overload our cells with the peptide hormone insulin, which can eventually result in insulin resistance, a condition in which the body can no longer utilize the hormone effectively. Insulin resistance often precedes the development of type 2 diabetes and can make weight loss difficult, even among physically active people.
Triggers Leptin Resistance
A study published in BMC Endocrine Disorders in December 2005 found that cereal-based diets (which are high in gluten) can contribute towards a leptin resistance in pigs. Leptin is a hormone that regulates hunger and feelings of satiety, and is directly tied to insulin levels. When our leptin levels are disrupted, our brain can become “deaf” to the hormone’s signals to stop eating, and we gain weight from overeating.
Ultimately, there are no drawbacks to embracing a gluten-free diet. Gluten-containing foods are almost always poor sources of nutrition, and their negative affects on our blood sugar levels are undeniable. Unlike far healthier foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, and meat, grains aren’t even a food that most of us evolved to consume. So, what do we have to lose?