How To Avoid Gluten Intolerance (if you don’t have it)

Gluten intolerance is gaining notoriety lately, not just because it’s a hot fad, but because it actually appears to be increasing [10]. However, even the best current testing for the condition shows that majority of people are gluten tolerant. This does not mean there aren’t reasons to avoid wheat, but for most people gluten is probably not such a reason. Still, anyone can develop gluten intolerance (0.2% of the population not withstanding) so for those people who want to keep eating gluten but want to avoid getting gluten intolerance, here are my tips:

1. For gluten to cause problems, the gliadin peptide must be undigested. This isn’t hard as human enzymes typically suck at digesting it [1]. So some people supplement with enzymes that improve digestion of gluten. (none of these should be considered 100% effective and celiacs shouldn’t view these as an alternative to complete gluten avoidance).

2. Immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies are produced (among other mucosal linings) in the intestines and stomach. IgA seems to mop up antigens, potentially preventing them from causing damage. So IgA might be helpful when you consume gluten. IgA levels can be lowered due to infections, stress, and poor nutrition.

3. Probiotic bacteria may have a huge role in preventing negative effects from gluten. There are some studies discussing the direct effects [2][3]. The very awesome Lucas Tafur discussed a study[4] which suggested two strains of gut colonizing Rothia bacteria may have a role in improving gluten digestion (going along with #1). In the long term, bacteria may also have a role in teaching our immune system to respond to gluten in a more relaxed way. Chris Kresser’s recent post on dirt [5] discussed the hygeine hypothesis, and a quote from the post: “our general avoidance of dirt, bacteria, and other infectious agents may be causing our under-stimulated immune system to become overreactive to benign antigen”. There’s a lot of information there, so chex it out. A lot of recommendations to be taken from this, but one is to avoid unnecessary antibiotics!

4. Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-b) is a complicated protein which some have suggested may prevent an inappropriate immune response to things like gluten. I found this article [6] which cites Chris Masterjohn as saying TGF-b is upregulated by vitamin A. Also (again I’m citing Masterjohn) TGF-b2 is found in milk [7], especially when raw.

5. Inflammation of the gut may increases the chances of developing celiac disease or gluten intolerance. This is of course a huge issue with numerous suggestions (as far as prevention and cause), but it sounds like glucosamine might be especially good [8].

6. Avoid a leaky gut. A permeable intestinal tract might allow gliadin peptides to get into the blood and potentially cause havoc on more parts of our body than just our intestines. Get that gut biofilm in order (so says Dr. Art Ayers [9]). If your gut is already a bit damaged, I’ve read interesting things about zinc, pantothenic acid, glutamine, and vitamin C are good for repair of the mucosal lining. There’s probably a lot more than it out there on that issue. A number of things increase permeability, like NSAID drugs [11-13] and possibly linoleic acid [14].

While this isn’t a comprehensive list, here is a summary of my suggestions to avoid developing gluten intolerance: take enzymes, keep your IgA levels high, eat your probiotics (and don’t avoid dirt exposure), avoid antibiotics unnecessarily, keep TGF-b levels high, avoid inflammation, especially of the gut, and avoid or heal a leaky gut. You can of course get really technical with all this, but I think you get a lot of these eating a healthy diet (with plenty of liver, fermented foods, and possibly raw milk if you tolerate it) and living an active stress, free life!



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