Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gluten? Like One of the Seven Deadly Sins?

Hello everyone!

I hope yall are enjoying your August so far. Here in San Diego summer weather has finally arrived, just in time for me to head back east to humidity bleh. I'll be doing some longer runs before I head back where the humidity and heat make it a lot tougher to get through those 10 milers, especially considering how hilly Charlottesville is.

I realized that I have gone on and on about my gluten-free diet, but haven't explain what it is exactly and why it affects the digestive systems of so many people.

First off, gluten is not the same as gluttony!! Believe me I am still indulging with this new diet. An iced jasmine green tea and a seriously delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookie from Claire's on Cedros:

When I think of gluten, I immediately think of "glue." And that is basically what gluten is. It is a composite of two proteins that can be found in wheat, barley, rye, etc. Actually 80% of wheat is composed of the proteins that make up gluten. When mixed with yeast, gluten allows for bread to "rise." In bread products that are made of wheat, the gluten is what allows for the elasticity and texture.

Here is what uncooked gluten looks like:

Gluten has also become a very common additive. Because it is protein, it can be added to low-protein foods for nutritional purposes. It is also added to foods (like ketchup and ice-cream) as a stabilizing agent. So for people that are intolerant of gluten or have Celiac disease it can be very hard to detect what products may or may not contain the gluten additive.

For people with Celiac disease, gluten causes harm to the small intestine. For those with gluten intolerance, it is hard to determine how much damage is done to the small intestine but it definitely affects everyones digestive system. I personally believe that everyone is gluten intolerant, but there is a sliding scale of intolerance. If anyone eats a ton of bread at one time, it's pretty likely you will leave the dinner table feeling bloated. If I ate bread, I would have an adverse reaction that would cause even worse symptoms. And for someone with Celiac disease, the amount of damage to the small inestine from that much gluten could be fatal.

Also, intolerances show up at every age. Celiac disease isn't necessarily determined at a young age. Many people discover they are Celiac positive later in life. This is also true for gluten intolerance.

I have also learned that there are many false negatives with Celiac disease. I was tested a few years ago when I was positive for H. Pilori, and it came out to be negative. This test is a biopsy of a tiny little piece of the small intestine. This organ, if laid out flat, would be about 6 meters long. So it is possible that another part of the intestine has been affected to prove positive for Celiac disease.

Personally, I'd rather be safe than sorry. I have noticed improvements with my digestive system already by taking gluten out of my diet, and I am considering taking out dairy as well to help with digestion (as well as other things, look out for a post about this!). A healthier digestive system leads to a stronger immune system. I'm hoping if I keep all of this up I won't get sick this upcoming school year!

That's all for now! Please comment or e-mail me at if you have any more questions about this. Have an awesome day!


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