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What is Gluten and How Do I Avoid It?

What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in the seeds (grains) of wheat,
barley, rye and oats. Like all seed matter, designed to
nourish the sprouting plant, gluten is of high nutritional
value – which explains why so many people worldwide rely
on these three grains for their staple diet. If the word gluten
reminds you of the word glue, it is because both come from
the same Latin source, meaning sticky, which accounts
for gluten’s property of giving kneaded bread dough it’s
stickiness and bread its chewy texture.
Why does gluten cause all those problems for glutensensitive
people?
To answer this question, let’s have a look inside our intestines
– that’s the place where our food is digested. The inner
lining of our small intestines is covered in small, finger-like
projections called villi, which are responsible for moving the
food through the gut and absorbing the nutrients from the
food and then delivering them into our blood stream to be
used in our body.
In a person with gluten intolerance or celiac disease,
ingestion of gluten causes an auto-immune reaction, where
the body’s antibodies mistakenly attack the villi, causing
damage, and if not treated, destroying them. The villi
cannot do their job of absorbing all those vitamins, minerals
and other nutritional essentials that our body needs to get
on with its daily business. In addition, damaged villi will let
toxins, harmful bacteria, viruses and other nasties leak into
the system from your intestines and cause a whole lot of
health problems.
Imagine a thick, absorbent terry cloth towel – that can be
likened to a healthy intestine lining. Now think of an old,
worn-out towel, the small loops all thin and broken down
– that’s what the inner lining of a person with advanced
celiac disease looks like. This abnormal reaction to gluten
can be genetically inherited, or developed through eating
food containing gluten, but once you have it, it’s there to
stay.
The good news is, that if you stop eating food that contains
gluten, you will stop having these reactions and life will
gradually return to normal. In most cases, adhering to a
strict gluten-free diet will allow you to return to 100% good
health. However, if you think you are cured and start
eating gluten again, you will be inviting all your old health
problems back. There’s no two ways about it: A gluten-free
diet is for life.

 

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