Gluten, this mysterious protein

Although thousands of people suffer from it, gluten-related disorders have long been a mysterious and unrecognized ailment. About 10,000 years ago, humans changed from a diet consisting mainly of hunting, fishing and gathering to a diet based on the cultivation of cereals. Overnight, the human body had to adapt to this change in diet. Could it be that this radical adaptation is at the root of the intestinal discomforts caused by gluten? In addition, during industrialization in the 1950s, cereals were processed in order to increase gluten to obtain an agronomically better variety than the existing one. The presence of gluten in foods is gaining ground these days, but fortunately recent scientific advances are giving hope to many people.

What is gluten?

Gluten is made up of several types of proteins, including gliadins and glutenins. They are found in wheat, oats (not treated against gluten contamination), rye, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye) and barley. These proteins contribute to the proper development of cereals during germination and play an essential role in their texture and structure. Gluten itself is not present in cereals, it is formed during dough making when flour is mixed with water. Gliadin is a part of the protein in wheat that reacts in the intestine by causing inflammation. But where do we find gluten? The answer can be summed up in one word: everywhere! One of the properties of gluten is the elasticity it gives to doughs made from the aforementioned flours. It is therefore present in a sly way in products of all kinds, including processed foods and prepared products. Here is a non-exhaustive list of products that contain it: cookies and energy bars, ice cream, pancakes, chocolate, toothpaste, vanilla extract with alcohol, chewing gum, almond, rice and soy milk, muffins, noodles, pizza, certain cosmetics, cough syrup, yogurts, etc.

According to Health Canada, gluten-related disorders refer to all of the health disorders associated with the consumption of gluten. Between allergies, sensitivities and celiac disease, it can be difficult to navigate.

Wheat allergy

In some, an allergic reaction immediately follows the consumption of wheat or gluten. This wheat allergy is seen more frequently in infants and toddlers. Allergy in children can manifest itself in a number of ways including skin reactions, gastrointestinal manifestations, or stress-induced anaphylaxis. In adults, the allergy can be expressed in the same forms as in children and also as an allergy associated with pollen.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is characterized by intestinal and extra-intestinal problems that are often similar to symptoms seen in celiac disease and irritable bowel disease. According to the Canadian Celiac Association, individuals may experience non-intestinal symptoms such as general discomfort, fatigue, headache, confused mind, numbness, joint pain or rash. Because the symptoms are very similar, it is difficult to distinguish an individual with celiac disease from one with NCBS on the basis of symptoms alone. The best solution is to ban all sources from the diet that may contain gluten.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a chronic, autoimmune disease. For people who are genetically predisposed to it, the consumption of gluten leads to disproportionate reactions of their immune system. Symptoms manifest themselves in different forms in celiacs. In particular, this disease can cause stunted growth, rickets, irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, canker sores in the mouth and irregularities in the teeth. In adults, the symptoms listed are varied and include, but are not limited to, gastrointestinal disorders, iron deficiency anemia, fertility disorders, rheumatic pathologies, musculoskeletal deficiencies and others. There are only two ways to diagnose celiac disease, a duodenal biopsy or a digestive endoscopy. According to the Cœliaque Quebec website, it is estimated that approximately 360,000 Canadians have it, including more than 82,000 Quebecers. And, according to some studies, 9 out of 10 people who have it do not know. Whether you are allergic to wheat, sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease, one thing is certain, as soon as you succumb to a food that contains gluten, war is declared, the digestive system reacts and the body is in one hell of a state.