Gluten

In an interesting “Health Report” on radio National the other day, Normal Swan interview a specialist in Coeliac Disease (pronounce it Seely-ac).

It turns out that Gluten causes the bowel to become more permeable:

Norman Swan: And what have you discovered that goes on in the surface of the bowel with coeliac disease? What is it about gluten for example that triggers this problem?

Alessio Fasano: Well gluten is a one of a kind protein. We were not built to deal with gluten, thatís the reality of the story because you know if you -

Norman Swan: Thereís nothing in the natural environment, so gluten is an invention of modern cookery?

Alessio Fasano: Well actually itís an invention of agriculture. Nature didnít plan for it. The nature of grains like maize, ryes they donít have gluten in there. When we develop our agriculture 7000 years ago, then we started to mess around with grains and developed wheat then we created a problem. Because of that gluten has a very peculiar effect on the GI tract making the intestine leakier.

Norman Swan: This is in normal people, I mean you and I when we take gluten it has that effect on us as well?

Alessio Fasano: Everybody. The difference between me and you we donít have coeliac disease and an individual with coeliac disease is that when we are exposed to gluten we have a transient short lived increase of permeability. Very short. While for coeliacs this is a sustained long increase of permeability.

Now reading between the lines and adding a large dose of guesswork:

Perhaps one of the reasons that people on low-carb diets seem (anecdotally) to be generally healthy (and they claim, healthier than before such a diet) is because if the bowel is “leaky” due to gluten being present, surely that means the immune system is working harder.

Reduce the leakiness – the immune system can go an do useful things like fighting off viruses instead of protecting you from the food you have eaten.

Maybe one day some researchers will look at this kind of big-picture idea instead of their narrow specialities, and figure out if there is any credence to this or not. To me it logically stacks up.

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