Today’s article is the second article dedicated to the gut and sensitivities, this week will focus on gliadin a protein found in many gluten containing foods.
Gluten has become an “inflammatory” subject with many people believing that they have a gluten intolerance. The food industry has jumped on the bandwagon labelling many food products as gluten free, even when there has never been gluten in the product. It is no wonder that consumers are confused and as soon as we feel bloated or uncomfortable - gluten gets the blame. However many people that think they have a gluten intolerance may have a completely different issue altogether.
Gliadin is a protein molecule found in most (but not all) gluten-containing foods – primarily the grains of wheat, rye, barley, kamut, spelt, teff and couscous – with wheat being the biggest gliadin containing culprit, wheat is also more commonly used in our western culture. An inflammatory reaction to gliadin can take place in the small intestines of many individuals who do not have Celiac disease or a full-blown gluten intolerance, but who instead have what is called a “subclinical” sensitivity to gliadin.
If you feel as though you have an uneasiness in the gut after consuming gliadin rich foods you may have this sensitivity. If you are an athlete or have an important event coming up you would be best to avoid foods high in gliadin which may exacerbate gut issues, so take care when eating out and preparing foods. This is when you would be best to order “gluten free,” however make sure it is not an overly processed alternative.
What happens when we consume Gliadin?
When gliadin is consumed, there is an inflammatory reaction in the gastrointestinal tract that involves heat, redness, swelling, and a change or interruption in the normal function of the small intestine. As your body attempts to fight off a foreign, indigestible substance, blood vessels in the gut enlarge and become more permeable. This brings more white blood cells and other immune system cells to the site of injury to provide protection.
In addition, fluids exudates (leaks) from these blood vessels into surrounding tissues, bringing more white blood cells into those tissues for enhanced immune protection. A thin filament called fibrin (the same substance used for blood clotting) also forms in the site to aid in the intestinal wall’s physical repair process.
Within 12-15 hours after the gliadin-containing meal has hit the gut and the inflammatory response has occurred, the body’s reaction diminishes and the gut is able to slowly heal, assuming there is no further gluten exposure. But if you eat a gluten-containing food again, the entire inflammatory response and damage to the intestinal wall is repeated and a vicious cycle sets in.
And this entire scenario can create some serious issues.
First, there can be a loss of nutrient absorption. Your small intestine is lined with tiny, fingerlike projections called “villi”, which stick out from the wall of the intestine and increase the surface area for absorption by up to 1000 times (which means the absorptive area of your small intestine can be roughly the size of an entire basketball court!). The presence of these villi allows you to efficiently absorb significant quantities of nutrients from your food.
However, any substance like gliadin that irritates the lining of the small intestine can destroy the villi and significantly reduce the total area available for absorption. This not only affects your ability to absorb vital nutrients from the food that you’re eating to support your training and racing (and normal functioning), but also results in indigestion as less food is absorbed in your intestine. Typically, this manifests in gut bloating, feelings of tiredness, a hyperactive bowel, and very sizeable or uncomfortable bathroom stops – especially during exercise.
Next, there can actually be an increase in the permeability of your gut. Your gut permeability already increases a bit as soon as you begin exercising, especially if you’re exercising in the heat, but what we’re talking about now goes way above and beyond that permeability. Your small intestine also has mucosal lining – which is the same type of tissue that lines your sinus passages, your lungs, your urinary tract, your mouth and your throat. The reason these areas are lined with mucosae is to defend your body from infection. Under the chronic inflammatory stress you experience with repeated gliadin exposure, the mucosal tissue breaks down and your gut becomes extremely permeable, resulting in an uncomfortable condition you may have heard of called “leaky gut syndrome”.
Leaky gut syndrome is like having a water filter installed on your house that has big holes in it everywhere. Anything you don’t want to be drinking suddenly ends up inside you because it hasn’t been filtered. In the case of leaky gut, this means that undigested food particles, particularly proteins, pass through the intestinal barrier and into the bloodstream, resulting in an immune response in the blood and an enormous amount of immune stress as your body tries to fight off these foreign invaders that aren’t supposed to be in your bloodstream.
As I mentioned earlier, gut permeability is already increased with exposure to heat and during intense exercise. When combined with a leaky gut from gliadin exposure, you vastly increase your chances of getting sick, feeling “brain fog”, having a hard time sleeping, and feeling much less than adequate.
But nutrient malabsorption and leaky gut aren’t the only issues. Regular consumption of gluten foods can also cause fat malabsorption and lactose intolerance – even if you weren’t prone to those annoying and embarrassing issues in the first place.
For example, in the tips of those villi that can be destroyed by inflammation are “lacteals”, which are responsible for breaking fat down into tiny, absorbable droplets. When these lacteals are compromised, you lose the ability to properly absorb fat, which is crucial for hormone formation and cell membrane building. You also miss out on absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A and Vitamin E, as well as essential fatty acids. And yes, this means you may not be getting any benefit from that expensive fish oil pill you’re popping.
We are learning more about the importance of fat, so as you can probably imagine, fat deficiencies can also result in poor blood sugar control, inability to repair central nervous system damage, poor nerve cell function, low hormone production, low antioxidant levels, and many other issues.
Then there’s the issue with lactose intolerance, which is also aggravated by gluten. As you probably know, milk products contain lactose sugars, which are normally digested by lactase, an enzyme that breaks down the milk sugars to a digestible and absorbable form.
However, because a damaged intestinal wall cannot properly produce lactase enzymes, lactose intolerance often accompanies gluten intolerance – and people who can normally eat foods like cheese, yogurt or ice cream simply cannot do it when gliadin is present in their diets, and this is why it is necessary to avoid milk products for several months after going “gluten free”.
In summary gliadin exposure from consumption of gluten-containing foods can cause inflammation, nutrient loss, leaky gut, fat malabsorption and lactose intolerance. The consequence of these problems can be gut discomfort, poor food absorption (especially while exercising in the heat), lots of bathroom stops, feeling of extreme tiredness, and trouble focusing or getting motivated.
Below is a basic list of easy-to-find foods that will give you ample calories and essential nutrients without exposing you to the chain-reaction of inflammation from gliadin.
- Beef, pork, lamb, game meats
- Chicken, turkey, duck
- Tuna, salmon, trout, other locally caught fish, prawns, clams, mussels, crab or lobster
- Any vegetables
- Any beans
- Wild rice, basmati rice, brown rice, black rice, white rice, rice flour
- Rice bread
- Rice crackers
- Potato, sweet potato, and yam
- Nuts and seeds
- Amaranth, buckwheat, chia, millet, quinoa, sorghum, kamut, einkorn, spelt and teff (which are sometimes called “ancient grains” because each was an important food source for ancient civilizations, and although not 100% gluten-free, are much lower or non-existent in gliadin content compared to modified, high-yield wheat crops). Most of these grains you can get at health food stores.
- Wheatgrass and barley grass (has no gliadin protein)
- There are also supplements which help heal the gut, it is best to speak to a professional about what is best for you so you can get a formulation specific to your individual needs.
If you would like further information on healing the gut, supplementation or testing for sensitivities then I’d love to help you out and get you back on track to happy, healthy digestion. You can contact me on 0402309997 or via www.delina.com.au or booking through http://www.bubbasbikelab.com/consultant-nutritionist.html
This article has been adapted from an article by Ben Greenfield and all reference are available on request.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON OF THE WEEK
Dave Coombs is a running coach, physiotherapist and an incredible athlete, not to mention a proud dad of 3 beautiful boys and husband to his very lovely (and also inspirational) wife Amanda. Dave is someone that has achieved success in many sports such as mountain biking, rock climbing, ultra-trail running, marathon, road cycling and more recently winning the Spartan UltraBeast (42.2km with obstacles almost every km!). Dave has been my inspiration for running ultra-distance marathons and I have been extremely lucky to have been able to learn from the best! Dave coaches’ beginners to elite level runners is varying distances and types of races. Dave combines his scientific knowledge of the body, run coaching qualifications and personal experience to create safe and effective training programs to meet his client’s needs. If you need inspiration and a program designed by a qualified coach and physio then you can contact him via his website http://www.therunphysio.com/
Dave is not only very fit but always looks in perfect shape, here are his answers to a few questions regarding his diet and health.
How do you maintain your current weight/body composition?
It just stays the same! I have been the same weight since I was 16 give or take a few kgs. If I increase my running training without doing any weights then I may drop a few kgs but I like to try and maintain some semblance of strength as I get older, so do some weight training a couple of times a week.
Do you diarise, journal, count calories or use an app to track your daily diet/exercise?
I use a training diary but not a dietary diary. Also use Strava to stalk other runners and riders!
Do you follow a particular diet plan or set of principles? Such as Paleo, low carb high fat, no processed, whole foods, vegan etc.
I have an autoimmune condition (psoriasis) and have tinkered a lot with my diet over the years. The main principle I have now settled on is to try and eat as much of a whole food diet as possible, avoiding processed food completely if practical. I also watch my danger foods, sugar and alcohol. Autoimmunity is a fascinating area for diet. Some common triggers for psoriasis are sugar, alcohol, nightshade vegetables, and dairy.
If you overindulge how do you get back on track?
Chocolate is my big weakness and red wine used to be. With alcohol I found that drinking in moderation didn't really work for me and I have been better off cutting it out completely. Not sure I could give up chocolate 100% though.
I try not to reward myself with food. The 'treats', such as chocolate tend to creep in when I am stressed, tired, overtrained etc. Learning to spot these triggers and not reaching for the sugar is the biggest challenge.
What is the most important thing for you about staying healthy?
Feeling good. Having clear skin and pain free joints. Being a positive role model for my kids.
If you exercise are there any particular strategies that you have found work best for your body?
Don't stop exercising. As a physio, this is the single best piece of advice I can give. Your exercise regime does not need to be drastic but it does need to be consistent. Try and do something every day, preferably outside. Find exercise that you enjoy and don't be afraid to mix it up and keep things interesting with a mixture of flexibility, strength and endurance type exercise. Also make sure you get plenty of sleep.