Around 1 in 100 people in the UK of all ages suffer from Coeliac disease. An auto-immune condition where the protein Gluten – found predominantly in Wheat, Rye and Barley causes inﬂammation in the gut and destruction of the gut lining. The result is poor absorption of food which can lead to other problems associated with nutrient deﬁciencies from anemia to osteoporosis.
Coeliac disease is easily tested, but thought to be under-diagnosed. So if you suspect it please ask your doctor for a test. It can effect children and babies too.
The problem with the test is that it will miss a ‘sub-clinical intolerance’ to gluten. It is thought that up to 15% of the population may be suffering from this. That’s 1 person in 7! These people are intolerant to gluten but do not have the auto-immune condition of coeliacs.
What is a food intolerance?
A food allergy is where an immediate acute reaction to a food is experienced, as with a peanut allergy. A food intolerance is caused by a food that has been incompletely digested – usually either a sugar like lactose (in milk) or fructose, a protein like gluten or a yeast. These food particles then reek havoc in the digestive system and the rest of the body. They cause inﬂammation, which may reduce gut motility – constipation, or increase it as the body tries to get the rid of the irritant – diarrhoea. It can cause leaky gut which can create real allergies because things are getting through to the circulatory that shouldn’t be there. Sparking an immune response.
Gluten intolerance in particular causes inﬂammation in the gut, leading to constipation and possibly eventually causing symptoms like IBS – extremes of constipation and diarrhoea.
Why are people intolerant to gluten?
This is a crucial question, because food intolerances are a symptom of the modern world and not a thing of the past. There are a number of factors:
A) we’ve messed around with our food. Wheat in particular through plant breeding has a much higher gluten content than it’s parent plant spelt. In the “old days” bread was made with natural yeasts and left to rise over night. The yeast started the digestion process for us. Now commercial bread is risen in ½ an hour.
B) our digestive ‘assistants’ have taken a heck of a battering. Having enough of the right gut ﬂora to help us with the digestion process is crucial. Without them we don’t stand a chance of digesting our food properly. They have taken a battering for a number of reasons. Firstly the over use of oral broad spectrum anti-biotics that kill bacteria good and bad indiscriminately. Secondly, we eat too much processed food, laden with sugar. This supports pathogenic bacteria and yeasts rather than the good bacteria that crucially help us digest our food. Thirdly food in our modern diet is ‘dead’. Because our digestive ﬂora are so out of balance we have become highly susceptible to infections via the gut, so we have to ‘kill’ our food to make it ‘safe’ via processes like pasteurization. But our gut ﬂora needs to be constantly replenished. In the ‘old days’ we ate living food. We used bacteria to preserve foods and we brewed our alcohol and made bread with naturally occurring beneﬁcial yeasts and bacteria.
This can be remedied in our modern lives by taking good quality live pro-biotic supplements and introducing living foods like kombucha and sauerkraut into the diet.