Gluten-Free Diet: Beneficial or Just a Trend? – Part 2

Written by Anil Bajnath, MD
Posted July 22, 2021

Dear Longevity Insider,

Celiac disease is not the only issue with gluten. Many individuals suffer from gluten sensitivity or allergies. One gluten-related condition is a wheat allergy. Wheat allergic reactions occur when someone allergic to wheat eats anything with wheat (or even when inhaling wheat flour). Unlike celiac disease, wheat allergy occurs when you produce antibodies to proteins found in wheat. This is a different reaction than that of celiac disease. Symptoms usually occur within minutes of consuming anything with wheat and may include swelling of the throat, hives, nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, cramps, nausea, and in some cases, a life-threating reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Another type of gluten reaction is non-celiac gluten sensitivities. Gastrointestinal symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Extraintestinal symptoms vary but include joint pain, brain fog, anemia, depression, eczema, and more. Gluten sensitivities are commonly due to an intolerance to eating FODMAPs. FODMAPs stands for "Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, & Polyols," which together are a group of sugars that your body is unable to digest or absorb in our intestines. This means that when FODMAPs are consumed, they move very slowly, attracting water as they go, and ultimately gut bacteria ferments undigested carbohydrates, resulting in gas and abdominal discomfort. Let’s look at common foods that make up FODMAPs:

  • Oligosaccharides: These include fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). The human body cannot produce the enzymes needed to break the sugars down into single sugars, so these foods move through the gut unabsorbed. In irritable bowel syndrom patients, these foods result in bloating, altered motility, and abdominal discomfort. They're found in foods such as wheat, rye, garlic, legumes, and onions.

  • Disaccharides: The three major disaccharides are sucrose, lactose, and maltose. Sucrose is found in table sugar. That includes manufactured foods such as cakes and cookies. Lactose is found in dairy products such as milk, yogurt, sour cream, and other milk products such as frozen yogurts, ice cream, and more. Maltose is found in malt extract, molasses, beer, breads, bagels, cereals, and more.

  • Monosaccharides: These are found in foods with fructose such as dried fruits, fruit jams, cereals with fruits, canned fruits, honey, and more.

  • Polyols: These are sugar alcohols that naturally occur in certain fruits but most commonly found in sugar-free sweeteners or products.

How Wheat Is Cultivated Today

Earliest archeological findings of wheat date back to over 12,000 years ago. If wheat has been around so long, then why is this such an issue today? Quite frankly, wheat is just not grown and harvested the same way. Traditionally, farmers would harvest wheat through the process of winnowing. Winnowing involves harvesting wheat by hand using an instrument known as a sickle.  After, stalks would undergo “trashing," which loosens the grains from the stalks by beating the stalks. Grain is then thrown in the wind to blow the chaff dividing it from the grain. Modern wheat found today is not the same wheat that was found 60 years ago due to processes such as bleaching, stripping, and more. 

Conclusion

Diagnosed gluten-related diseases are rare conditions, affecting less than 1% of the population in the United States. Yet the consumption and availability of gluten-free foods has significantly increased. I recall a time when most people had never heard of “gluten,” let alone “celiac disease."  Gluten-free bread usually has about 20 ingredients and a complex production method. When you compare $2 regular, sliced bread to the common $6-a-loaf GF brands, patients wonder if a GF diet is worth the high price.

It’s important to note that you do not need to rely on heavily processed foods to stay gluten free. A diet made up of whole foods will usually be gluten free as these are foods that are not processed. I can't overemphasize how important it is to monitor what you put in your body. In fact, at times I like to flush my body out completely... I love a great detox.

To your longevity,

Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Officer, Longevity Insider HQ