Gluten is simply a protein found in grain-products, namely wheat, barley and rye, oats and other cereal products. It facilitates the elasticity of bread dough and the nice, fluffy rise we like in our bread products. It also helps bread hold its shape and absorb liquids. Apart from bread, gluten is often found in pastries, pasta, pizza base, bagels, cookies, muffins, sauces, gravy, beer and a lot of other spirits and alcoholic beverages. Other grains such as corn and rice have similar, but less problematic proteins.
The grains mentioned above are a few of the many domesticated grasses found in our food supply today. They are descendants from wild grasses that have been managed and bred for 2000-5000 years since the agricultural revolution. Nowadays, most of our grains have been cross bred many times in order to increase the gluten content.
Why are Grains and Gluten now a problem ?
There’s an argument that we were never meant to eat grains: A wild grain is distributed by being blown in the wind. This is how most grains reproduce. Some plants like blueberries or similar plants which have juicy, sweet fruits want to be eaten by animals in order for their seeds to be transported to new places where they can continue to reproduce and grow, guaranteeing the next generation. However, other plants which do not bear fruits and prefer to reproduce and spread by using the wind take a different approach and attempt to discourage their consumption by coating themselves in substances which irritate or poison any potential predators. Read the full article on our blog.
Grains try to discourage being eaten by creatures in the wild by using chemicals that irritate the hungry animal’s digestive system and trigger their immune system.
Recent research suggests that the proteins found in grains, namely lectins, are difficult, if not impossible, for the human digestive system to break down. To cut a long story short, when your digestive system is not functioning optimally (for example, if you suffer from whats commonly called a ‘leaky gut’) undigested proteins manage to gain access to the bloodstream through the intestinal wall. These large protein molecules are easily mistaken by the body as alien invaders like bacteria, viruses and parasites and they’re greeted by our immune system which lies in wait, primed and waiting to pounce on any invading pathogens.
Our immune system’s response is to make antibodies against the foreign proteins and attack them, which can cause inflammation manifesting itself in symptoms such as bloating, irritation, gas, distension, unusual bowel movement and stomach cramps. It can even affect our core muscles function and potentially switch them off to avoid contraction against an already distended and inflamed gut ! From an exercise point of view, this can essentially leave your spine ‘naked’, unprotected by the shield that is your core musculature and exposed to damage caused by sudden forces exerted on the spinal column etc…
If we eat processed grains (unfortunately most store-bought grain products nowadays are heavily processed and no longer resemble their ancestors) on a regular basis for breakfast (toast, porridge or cereal), lunch (sandwich, bagel, pastry or muffin) and dinner (a meal based around pasta or rice, bread or pizza) and do so repeatedly for an extended period of time this can become a serious problem in some individuals as the chronic inflammation becomes systemic, affecting other systems in the body other than just the digestive system.
Inflammation is often at the root of many modern disease and something we should all be aware of and avoid…