Monday, December 14, 2009
Health & Wellness
Understanding Gluten Sensitivity
Gluten sensitivity is a condition that results from a person's body being unable to properly digest the gliadin protein. People without gluten sensitivity can digest and break down gliadin into very small particles and those small particles can then be easily absorbed by the small intestine and used by the body as a nutritional source.
Those people who are gluten sensitive cannot break down the gliadin protein molecule in to small enough particles. The undigested gluten protein gets absorbed into the first layer of the membranes of the small intestine. But because the food is not fully digested the body's immune systems sees these protein particles as something it needs to attack and destroy, in very much the same way the immune system would attack an invading organism such as a virus, bacteria or parasite. The attack by the immune system is what causes the problems because the surrounding tissue of the small intestine can become severely damaged. It results in two significant problems in the small intestine:
1.The surface area of the small intestine is reduced and the tissue becomes very unhealthy. This results in a condition called malabsorption, which means that the small intestine can no longer properly absorb foods and essential vitamins and minerals.
2.The attack of the immune system directly affects the surface membrane of the small intestine and essentially creates large gaps in the membranes resulting in the membranes becoming permeable to large size proteins. These proteins would not be passing through a healthy small intestine. One of the biggest problems for gluten sensitive individuals is that this permeable membrane will allow the large undigested gluten molecules to enter the blood stream. These gluten molecules can then travel through the bloodstream and adhere to tissues distant from the small intestine and create damage to those tissues. This occurs because the immune system is actively fighting gluten molecules wherever it finds them. This phenomenon explains why gluten sensitivity can create problems throughout the body and may in fact create many symptoms in other parts of the body in addition to or other than the small intestine.
* Information by Dr. Rick Petersen, D.C., C.C.N.)
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