What’s the deal with gluten?

By Doc Don Davis            ………………

Why is it so controversial? It’s clearly part of the modern nutritional landscape that results in a lot distress, both nutritionally and politically.  I’m not only talking about standard medicine vs alternative therapies even though that’s part of it.  I’m referring to the severe and widespread damage of undiagnosed gluten sensitivity vs the psychological reluctance to give up what we consider one of the most emotionally attractive and satisfying foods of all time.

Gluten containing foods like cookies and breads, stimulate the addiction areas of the brain raising dopamine levels promoting carbohydrate seeking behavior, binging, and food habits that are not consistent with human health.  I don’t think I have witnessed a more passive-aggressive food option.

And the “political correctness” of being gluten free discourages rational discussion about bagels and beer. Let’s face it, if you aren’t gluten-free you aren’t hip. You might as well watch TV, or let your son play with a plastic sword, give your daughter a Barbie, or de-claw your cat!

I’ll get further into the science of gluten in a minute along with how to find out if is an issue with you personally, but first let’s look into the past and see how this all came about. In other words “What’s The Deal With Gluten?”

Recently information about gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) seems to be everywhere and in just a short time wheat has gone from being a revered basic of nutrition and culture to the bane of western existence.  Celebrities are chiming in with their own personal gluten horror stories and of course followed up with cookbooks.  Even Dr. Oz thinks it’s a bad idea.

Until the 1800’s wheat was usually mixed with other grains and nuts. In fact, wheat flour has only been milled into refined white flour during the last 200 years.  And it wasn’t until the 1950’s that celiac disease – the severe intestinal disease, was found to be an autoimmune disorder caused by gluten.  That discovery saved millions of people from malnutrition, neurological damage, cancer, stunted growth and even death.

Unfortunately, until the present, medicine has looked at the wheat sensitivity issue as either black or white.  Either have it, and you can’t eat any gluten whatsoever, or you don’t, and breakfast donuts look like a fun nutritious option. Most doctors tell people that gluten sensitivity is in their head if they don’t have a positive blood test and a positive intestinal biopsy. They think that people on a Gluten-free diet are just following the latest fad.  Or as one doctor put it: “These people are trying to find a physical explanation for their emotional problems.” But are they wrong?  Well, t answer that question, we’ll have to review a little biochemistry.

Grains are made up of carbohydrates, phytonutrients and protein.  When a person reacts to gluten, it’s those proteins that cause the problem.

The gluten portion contains five proteins that are stretchy and sticky causing the dough to rise.

When wheat is eaten, enzymes in the GI tract called tissue transglutaminases (tTG) break it down and in the process other proteins are formed, like deaminated gliadin and gliadorphins

Here’s the thing. When someone has celiac disease – the autoimmune disorder, they have an immune response to one protein (alpha gliadin) associated with one enzyme.  But people react to all the other protein components I listed along with other enzymes that directly affect the skin and brain.  This is a big problem because in conventional testing (the one many of you have received) only one protein is tested and you will be told that you are not gluten sensitive regardless of how severe your wheat reaction. So, the science of gluten says that the doctors are wrong! There are 50 shades of gluten sensitivity that are now called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), a very common condition, affecting 1 person in 20.  This is a particular, “special” kind of allergy called a Non-IgE food allergy.

We didn’t evolve to eat gluten.  In fact, humans had no gluten in their diet for millions of years before wheat cultivation. Because of this, we don’t have the digestive enzymes to break down glutamine and proline in gluten

This image is a depiction of the gluten protein.


I’ve highlighted the different parts that cause differentreactions in different people.The upper green area makes chemicals (cytokines) that send neutrophils, or white blood cells to the area that sets the stage for inflammation. The blue section communicates with bacterial cells to make zonulin, that causes leaky gut.  Leading to even more inflammation. And the worst, the red segment at the bottom left, actually causes cell death.

Your body reacts to gluten as if it was infected, and your immune system deals with it. Sometimes effectively, sometimes not. But this fight against invaders and foreign compounds happens all day long.  But making a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity is difficult, in fact, half the people with gluten sensitivity don’t have any intestinal symptoms at all!  They will have problems in areas distant from the GI tract like the brain, stomach, skin, liver, endocrine system, blood vessels and smooth muscle.  That’s why gluten is related to a vast variety of diseases including: diabetes, dermatitis, Hashimoto’s disease of the thyroid, neuropathy and even schizophrenia.

Some unlucky people have enzymes that break down gluteomorphin and dynorphin into opioids like heroin and morphine. That’s right, your body can make addictive drugs out of gluten. So you can imagine, getting these people off of gluten is going to be very difficult because of glutens addictive properties.

In the most severe gluten reaction, problems can develop in the white matter of the brain causing degeneration and calcification.

Here is the scan of a 44 year old man with a progressive 5 year history of spastic paralysis and inability to walk. The lighter shade of gray at the top section indicates brain degeneration and calcification. The scan 2 month later shows even more extensive changes of the white matter of the brain.

Finally, after seven months of tests, he was started on a gluten free diet and in the bottom section “C” you can see how the white matter is beginning to clear, and this went along with his resolution of symptoms.

Many people now days see that gluten seems to be causing more and more problems.

Is gluten stronger now than in the past?

The answer is yes.  In a study 50 years ago with Air Force recruits it was found that gluten intolerance (celiac disease) was 25% of what it is today. The amount of gluten in wheat has increased enormously from hybridization and will further increased due to the GMO process.  It’s just not that great that we can give people what they want rather than what is healthy.  This is why apples are sweeter, bigger, prettier and have 1/3 of the nutritional value they had in the 1800’s.

Also, there is the issue of the altered structure of the gluten/gliadin proteins.  The glia alpha-9 sequence for example that is associated with triggering the changes of celiac disease has been enriched in modern wheat, though nearly absent from the wheat of 1960 and earlier.

There has also been changes in the structure of the wheat germ agglutinin-the indigestible protein in wheat that exerts direct toxic affects on the small intestine and may also block leptin, a hormone that makes you feel full, so you want to eat more and more wheat.

Finally there is the issue of hybridization.  Wheat in Greek-Roman times had a total of 50,000 genes.  But through hybrid breading, wheat in the Middle Ages increased to 100,000 genes.  These gene embellishments increased the yield of production.  For the sake of comparison, a grape has about 30,000 genes, and humans only have 20,000 genes.  By the time of the renaissance, 400 years ago, wheat had 150,000 genes.

All these factors contribute to the fact that gluten intolerance is 400% greater today than 50 years ago.

Older forms of wheat such as spelt and amaranth don’t contain the high levels of gluten that modern hybrids do.  This is why European breads don’t seem to have as strong effect as American.   Sourdough breads, made properly with longer periods of fermentation, are reasonable with those people that are only slightly sensitive.

So how do we as individuals stand with gluten?  One way is to test the HLA-DQ2 and DQ8 genes.  A positive result, suggests a celiac diagnosis. But this only tests for celiac disease, not gluten sensitivity-the problem you might have.

Another way is to go gluten free for two months and then add it back in.  If your gluten symptoms improve, and then worsen when gluten is re-introduced, you are very likely gluten sensitive.  However sometimes this isn’t enough because of the problem of cross-reactive foods. Or foods that are so similar to gluten biochemically that you will react as if you had gluten sensitivity. Corn, oats and rice are very similar to gluten, along with eggs and unfortunately coffee. Not only that 50% of the people with gluten sensitivity are intolerant to casein, the protein in milk.

The most sensitive test is by a lab called Cyrex, that measure all 12 epitopes in whea, or proteins and enzymes in the wheat germ that can cause sensitivity.

What do we do if we know if we are gluten sensitive?

First, it’s important to realize that sensitivities are much worse when inflammation is rampant, like when there are gut problems from good/bad bacterial imbalance, or in the presence of other autoimmune problems.

A workup with a professional knowledgeable in this area can determine if this is the right direction for you to go. But at some point if you have tested positive with any of the above tests, it’s time to get off gluten. It’s best to be gluten free for about 2 months, and then you can try to re-introduce gluten products back into the diet ever so slowly.

Let’s make one thing clear, gluten is not an essential nutrient.  That being said, when you take gluten out of your diet, something else has to go back in the diet like vegetables and fruits.

I have one last thought.  There are a lot of bad food options out there from French Fries to, in this case, pasta.  But with the knowledge you have now, and the testing we have at our fingertips, we can more certain than ever that the path we take toward health will actually make us healthy.

If you are interested in additional information about natural ways to solve your gluten issues please visit our site and make sure that you are getting all our updates and new videos as they come online. If you’d like to work with me personally, you can let me know there too.  So we can get that set up as soon as possible.

Help is on the way


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