You Are What You Wheat

October 05, 2010

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

 Reference: Your Hidden Food Allergies are Making You Fat, Rudy Rivera 2002 Date:  Oct 5th, 2010 

 Our last letter was about how wheat has a protein called gliadin in it that is hard to digest (11 steps) and can sneak into your gut.  How exactly it gets through your intestinal wall is a bit of a mystery, but get through it does, in part because you have sampling cells that are constantly nibbling at what’s out in the gut to see if it’s “friend or foe”.  But the gliadin sets up a brisk response, and loosens the tight junctions.  Now, you have “leaky gut” syndrome.  More gliadin floods in and your body starts to make antibodies against any more gluten/gliadin that might show up. 

 Remember, you have 70% of your immune system around your intestines.  Think about having a sensitivity reaction to a very common food, like wheat.  What percentage of your immune output is going to be directed to battling wheat?  It’s meant to be good for you, and instead, you are finding that it’s something against which you react and do battle.  What symptoms do you have?  Inflammation, on your skin, looks like a sunburn with redness, pain and swelling,  In your gut it takes on other forms. To set off inflammation, you have to first release a lot of inflammatory eicosinoids made from omega six fatty acids.  We get those from vegetable oils which we have been eating in abundance for the last hundred years.  So, we have lots of them floating around.  

The strongest inflammatory eicosinoid is arachadonic acid, and it’s a doozer.  It’s so toxic, your body fires of the PPAR gamma gene and turns on the genesis of new fat cells.   And because of the inflammation, you surge with a bit of insulin too because inflammation and metabolism are cross covered through the JNK 1 gene.  Oh this gets messy and confusing. Wait a minute.  What just happened there?  We were talking about a bit of wheat coming on down our guts after chomping on the hot bread with garlic butter we got at the restaurant.  The gluten in the wheat fired up our immune cells in our guts that were all hyped up from prior wheat exposures, like the Total Cereal we had for breakfast that day and the sub sandwich we had at lunch.  But then what happened was a cascade of inflammation that ended up turning on the production of insulin and new fat cells. 

What does insulin do, besides show up because of the inflammation? Insulin is your storage hormone.  It pushes calories into fat cells.  But in this hypothesis, the inflammation came first, the fat cells came second and the calories came last.  You got inflamed first, put out insulin second, and gained weight, third.  That’s backwards! I thought you gained weight because you were slothful, lazy, over-indulgent and ate too much.  You ate food like a maniac and it piled on.  Your fault!   But this explanation is the other way around.  You ate a food to which you have an immune response.   You developed inflammation as a means to control the foreign invader (bread on a sub sandwich).  Arachadonic acid forced you to grow fat cells to protect the rest of the body from the runaway inflammation.  The macrophages infiltrated into the fat tissue and made you insulin resistant.  Presto, chango: diabetes.  The inflammation came first.  Then, the other food you ate got forced into the new fat cells by insulin and you were hungry.  So you ate a little more.  And gained weight. 

 WWW.  What will work for me?  This suggests we may have had it backwards.  Inflammation may be the first step to getting fat, not the last.  That leaves the premise dangling that if we figure out your inflammation, and reduce it, you might lose weight naturally.  Perhaps you are maintaining your weight because you continue to be inflamed, regardless of how much you eat.  Tune in….I love double, double, double-crosses in good mystery stories.  Next week.  The GI Closer.  CSI Intestinal Tract makes its seasonal debut.

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