The Trouble with Wheat Part II, or “How You Got Fat Silently”

October 04, 2010

The Trouble with Wheat Part II, or “How You Got Fat Silently” 

Reference: Your Hidden Food Allergies are Making You Fat, Rudy Rivera  2002 Date:  Oct 3th, 2010 

 Last week we learned about long latency diseases that take decades to show up.   The core problem is inflammation.  We have talked about inflammation since the Romans and Greeks, Hindus and Chinese, who have all had various descriptions for “hot, painful, swollen and limited”.  Like a sunburn, inflammation is the swelling, tenderness and redness that surrounds acute injury, be it thermal, chemical, infectious or intrinsic.  We understand it when it hurts.  Pain makes us go to the doctor.  

But what is the connection to long latency disease? Here’s the connection.  Your body has several ways of protecting us from the outside world.  Our skin is almost impervious with 20 layers of dry skin cells that shed themselves at 300,000 an hour, leaving behind anything left on the surface.  What gets in our mouths is a different matter.  Food in our stomach isn’t just all churned up and digested into fuel.  In fact, our guts are incredibly complicated arenas in which there is a constant interplay between what we have eaten and what our bodies are doing with it.  

It comes down to a very thin barrier called the “tight junction” between gut cells that is the fence between the outside world, and the inside world.  We have a one cell layer barrier between our intestines and our blood stream.  One cell layer is it.  And it is held together by “tight junctions”.  And those tight junctions can get loosened up when they are exposed to certain chemicals or stimulants, at which point whole foreign proteins, germs, chemicals can leak in and get into our blood supply. It’s no wonder our bodies pack 70% of the immune system around our intestines.  Every inch of the way from our tonsils to our rectums, we have patches of white blood cells, sampling cells, sensing cells, antibody secreting cells, all watching what’s going by, constantly signaling to the “interior” and the waiting reserve cells behind them.  “This is friend.  This is foe.”  

We secrete enzymes to digest what’s food, what’s edible, what’s nutritious.  And with thousands of different kinds of foods, we have to figure out what’s nutritious and valuable, and what’s dangerous and invasive.  Now, all proteins are made from 20 amino acids and every protein can be broken down to those amino acids.  Or can they? 

 This is where wheat comes in.  Turns out that wheat, and other grains like oats and rye have gluten in them.  Gluten helps make dough sticky and stick together when you are making bread.  But it’s a tough one to digest.  It takes 11 separate enzymatic steps to break it down to digestible components.  One of those components is gliadin.  Gliadin is a potent stimulator of an internal signaling compound called zonulin.  Zonulin goes to our tight junctions, and loosens them.  Suddenly, the barrier between the inside world and safety and the dangerous outside world is opened up, and in comes the foreigner invaders unchecked.  Our immune system has to reply with frantic abandon, not the ordered and safe methods of before. 

 WWW. What Will Work for me?  The future of medicine is in education.  We all have to learn new ideas.  I’m learning this stuff.  You need to as well.  As many as 40% of us are wheat intolerant because of zonulin, gliadin and gluten, and the disruption they cause in our guts.  So, if you are that proverbial forty, and want to stay healthy and looking 29 …    One of the most successful strategies to reduce long term, internal, silent inflammation is to figure out this wheat connection for you and for me.  So, next week, another step in the story in part 3.  In the meantime, think about everywhere you find wheat every day.  Vegan restaurant?  You get French bread with olive oil as a snack.

Column written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI 53045 (262-784-5300)