L’Accademia del Fitness-Wellness-Antiaging / october 2014
Everyone has heard of celiac disease, an intolerance of gliadin, a gluten protein which is contained in most grain-based products. Yet not everyone knows that there is also “gluten sensitivity”, a syndrome in which there are no anatomical lesions affecting the intestinal mucous membranes, or the relevant absorption problems needed to return a diagnosis of celiac disease. But there are chronic inflammation symptoms which can trigger Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Leaky Gut Syndrome. As a result, complex undigested molecules enter the blood flow and trigger the onset of auto-immune diseases (e.g. thyroid disorders). The immune reaction triggered by the gluten increases the inflammation which causes resistance to insulin and an increase in visceral fat, setting off a vicious circle which leads to individuals becoming overweight. Think about how much food made with flour we eat every day, at virtually every meal: bread, pasta, pizza, bakery foods and sugary foods. Gluten is contained in various grains such as wheat, barley, oats, rye, kamut and spelt, but without a doubt the grain most responsible for gluten sensitivity is wheat; not just owing to the fact that we eat more of it, but because modern wheat produced in the last 50 years is the result of bio-engineering techniques. These involve hybridization and treatments which have even seen the use of cobalt radiation, resulting in the production of “synthetic wheat” with a gluten content up to ten times higher than the wheat grown in the early twentieth century. Our ancestors, and even our grandparents, did not have these problems even though their diets were based on bread and grain derivatives, because the gliadin and glutenin protein fractions naturally contained in grains are altogether different to the gluten created by hydrating and mixing the flour so it can become sufficiently sticky and elastic to make foods such as bread, pizza, pasta, etc (you might recall seeing pizza chefs stretching and pulling the flour and water dough used to make pizza). Unfortunately this “stickiness” has negative effects on the gastro-intestinal system. In addition, the starch contained in wheat stimulates insulin more than white sugar, and insulin stimulates the enzyme known as delta 5 desaturase which triggers production of arachidonic acid, a fatty acid which is the precursor of inflammatory prostaglandins. This last step is further heightened by the gluten through stimulation of the COX-2 enzymes, these being the same that are inhibited by aspirin and ibuprofen. This is how eating refined wheat flours which contain gluten in large quantities is responsible for the inflammation process which causes an increase in bodily fat and excess weight which even withstands low-calorie diets. Note that cutting out bread and similar foods can be difficult, because once it is digested, gluten produces exorphins called “gluteomorphins” that have an opiate-like effect on the brain, producing a false feeling of wellbeing. For several days after cutting out gluten, people can experience something resembling withdrawal symptoms, but once it has been overcome, the general mood will be far more stable than before. Nor is it advisable to replace wheat with refined gluten-free products because in this case the gluten is replaced with starches that further raise the glycemic index of the food, thereby stimulating insulin production once again. Foods that are naturally gluten-free should instead be chosen, such as buckwheat, amaranth and brown rice.