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What Are Food Allergies?: Gluten!

Is not uncommon to hear a new trending disease, a new trending way to eat and also many impactful news about certain kind of foods, however with massive information comes also the fact of what to trust,  what is real or what is just a trend!

Many people get so triggered when reading or listening to any kind of treats, moreover what has to do with food and it's sometimes totally comprehensible, however we should be careful not to become hypochondriacs and just because we listen to it, that means I will start acquiring and developing the symptoms.

Therefore by reading this article you'll be able to recognize the real symptoms and how to look for the correct biological markers in order to validate if you have a food allergy or not.

Hence, we should start defining what is a food allergy and food intolerance to start pointing out the truth about them.

According to the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, food intolerance occurs when the body lacks a particular enzyme to digest nutrients, nutrients are too abundant to be digested completely, or a particular nutrient cannot be digested properly.

Therefore, symptoms are exclusively GI and mostly secondary to sugar fermentation by the intestinal microbiota, leading to the production of gas, which causes abdominal distention, abdominal pain, and irregular bowel movements. Common examples include lactose intolerance, or intolerance to excess fermentable oligo- and disacchararides, mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) or lactulose (1).

Food sensitivities are immune-mediated reactions to some nutrients; these reactions (intestinal and extra-intestinal) do not always occur in the same way when people ingest that particular nutrient. NCGS is an example of food sensitivity. There have been reports that FODMAPs, rather than gluten, induce the abdominal symptoms attributed to NCGS. These findings indicate that NCGS might not be a separate entity from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but rather a subgroup of IBS (1).

As stated above and to put it in a simpler way to be understandable, food allergies are reactions that our body presents due to an interaction of our immune system with some chemical component of the food, that chemical piece of the food is recognized by our immune system as something strange, toxic and our defenses start to work against it by mounting an immune response, which is the responsible for your symptoms, not really the food per se.

When we are intolerant to certain foods, it means that your body is not able to process the food components of it due to a lack of enzymes, which are those marvelous helpers inside your whole body that perform and ease every kind of chemical reaction within you, then you eat some kind of food and your body doesn't have the tools to chew it and break it into little pieces, then a chunk of that food stays in your body and produces painful "stomachaches" or distention to allow it to pass through your internal freeways and pipes.

This is like trying to put inside your WC a piece of plastic that probably would be able to go with the flush but eventually inside the pipes would cause some damage and will produce probably your sewage system to be clogged and then most likely you'll start having flooding issues all over your house.

Our process of digestion is so amazing that we all shall be more familiarized with what happens in order also to understand that some type of foods will require more work to be processed than others, which in turn should allow us to be more aware of what we eat, the time we eat it and the risks that come with it.

So, let's dive in a short explanation of how we start the process to digest the foods from a biochemical standpoint which will allow you to understand what is happening inside of you when you eat.

All solid food is subjected to a bath of salivary enzymes which will start the grinding system of our gastrointestinal process, these chemical substances start working in your mouth and start breaking the first layer of chemical bonds that together with the mechanical action of chewing will produce a food bolus, which is an amorphous mass that now can be swallowed through the esophagus. Inside our whole body we have different chemical environments (such as the weather seasons) that also allow food to be processed and digested.

During that journey the food bolus was already "washed" with all the first line enzymes which gave it an alkaline pH (your pH is the measure of acid or alkalinity inside of your body) inside the esophagus this "food ball" will have to be subjected to a range of pH changes making the environment more acid and allowing with that the activation of the second line of enzymes which are now some of the gastric enzymes such as pepsin, trypsin, gastrin and some other fancy names which are more specialized into breaking and reacting with all the chemical structure of food and start detaching it from the components that will be used by your system in order to produce proteins, carbohydrates or fats depending on the needs of your body.

Along all these stripping journey of the food many of the compounds release will be able to give you energy, to allow to form muscle or proteins for repair and maintenance functions or if you are "all set" or the amount of food was too much, then of course it will be sent to the storage deposits mainly as fat which is the one that will eventually start accumulating around your organs (visceral fat) and some in the lateral deposits.

Why is this important in terms of the allergies or in particular focusing on the Gluten reactions?

Well, if you know that all of your food has to be stripped, grind and sometimes almost completely destroyed in order to occupy all the benefits of it, maybe your awareness of what type of food you chose will start changing and hence you avoid foods that you start feeling that your internal pipe system can process.

Gluten-related disorders are activated by the ingestion of gluten-containing grains by individuals with a genetic and/or immunologic predisposition to these conditions.

Wheat is the most widely grown crop worldwide, with more than 25,000 different cultivars produced by plant breeders. Its popularity results from its simplicity of cultivation in different climates, high yield, nutritional value, organoleptic characteristics, and palatability. It can be processed into many foods, such as breads, pasta, pizza, bulgur, couscous, and drinks such as beer. Furthermore, the functional properties of gluten proteins have led to their addition to many foods and cosmetics (1).

The same characteristics that make gluten so unique and desirable for human consumption also lead to diseases: the best known, wheat allergy and celiac disease, are mediated by the adaptive immune system. Each disorder is characterized by activation of T cells in the intestinal mucosa against gluten. In wheat allergy, immunoglobulin E

(IgE) is cross-linked by repeat sequences in gluten peptides (eg, Ser-Gln-Gln-Gln-[Gln-]Pro-Pro-Phe), and non-gluten proteins induce the release of immune mediators such as histamine from basophils and mast cells (1).

In contrast, celiac disease, which affects approximately 1% of most populations, has characteristics of an autoimmune disorder. It can be identified based on serologic markers such as serum antibodies against tissue transglutaminase-2 (TG2), followed by intestinal biopsy confirmation, and its link to autoimmune comorbidities (1).

As appealing as it sounds, certain high nutritional foods, such as the mentioned wheat can have a component, gluten, that will be recognized as a stranger in some people and all of the defensive immune systems will be activated such as if you were infected or injected with a pathogen.

Therefore if you really have a gluten allergy, then any of the mentioned immune markers should be reflected, first you can verify it in a blood chemistry, noticing the values of the basophils and mastocytes, which happen to be two of the immune system cells that are rich in releasing histamine which is the internal signal of an inflammatory reaction usually related to an allergy.

This substance histamine is derived from an amino acid named histidine, which in general meat, poultry, fish and of course seeds and grains have rich amounts of it.

This chemical substance is the signal that will trigger the release of an immune messenger named IgE which is the one that will give you the symptoms of the allergy, such as probably rash, colic pain, probably diarrhea, bowel distention, runny nose or a more dramatic response such as an anaphylactic shock, which is first characterized for a very noticeable inflammation of your face in addition sometimes to feel as you were drowning and lacking air, exactly like an asphyxiation reaction.

All of these cascade of responses and symptoms will definitely show that you're allergic to these kind of foods rich in gluten. However you might just present a food sensitivity to the food and symptoms might not be as "dangerous" or visible as the ones described.

The most common genetically induced food intolerance, celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune disorder affecting about 1% of the population and occurring in individuals of all ages, from infancy to the elderly, expressing the HLA- Class II haplotypes DQ2 and/or DQ8. It is triggered by the ingestion of gluten and related prolamins found in wheat, barley, and rye (2).

Schematically, four possible presentations of CD are in fact recognized: 1) typical, characterized mostly by gastro-intestinal signs and symptoms; 2) atypical or extra- intestinal, noted by minimal or absent gastrointestinal signs/symptoms; 3) various extra-intestinal, characterized by present manifestations, ranging from short stature to iron-deficient anemia, and from dermatitis Herpetiformis to female infertility; 3) silent, where the small intestinal mucosa is damaged and CD autoimmunity can be detected by serology, but there are minimal or no symptoms (silent celiac is commonly found in patients that come to be diagnosed by screening, often belonging to high-risk groups , such as relatives of celiacs or because of the coexistence of other autoimmune conditions); and 4) potential, in which mucosa morphology is normal. These individuals have genetic compatibility with CD (ie, they are HLA-Class II DQ2 and/or DQ8 positive) and also show positive autoimmune serology; they may or may not show signs and symptoms consistent with celiac disease (2).

There is recent evidence both in children and in adults that full-blown CD may ensue at a later time in a high proportion of these individuals if they continue to eat gluten, and that this outcome can be predicted on the basis of the presence of Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies-IgA (TTG) in the duodenal biopsy (2).

As we can see with all the group of symptoms, people at risk and all the test evidences, there's a clear path to know whether you're categorized as a gluten allergy person or if you're just having a reaction to these kind of foods maybe due to all the toxic ingredients mixed in certain kind of processed foods.

Many of these food allergies, have also being raised due to the stressful environments that we as adults and young adults are exposing our bodies to, which will result in the generation of the epigenetic marks that will eventually trigger one of these mechanisms at the DNA reading level, giving as a product a defective protein which of course will not be able to process food as it used to do it.

Moreover, the tendency of women to stop breastfeeding children before two years age (at least), or the lack of milk production due to stress levels has also contributed a lot to this tendencies of food intolerances and food allergies that each time are more popular even at early ages.

What is the relationship between breastfeeding and allergies?

Well, in mother's milk we have a huge amount of nutrients and among them that magical food for babies is the one that contributes to forming the immune system of all of us when we are children as well as contributing to the huge variety of antibodies and immune messengers such as IgA and IgE and many other classes of this defensive system arsenal.

Meaning that, if we're not fully equipped with all of these immune compounds we certainly have problems with many food allergens or even with the production of certain enzymes needed to breakdown all kind of food.

Therefore you have to be able to more aware of the reactions that your body is having whenever you eat certain type of foods, the more conscious you are about all of these reactions the better you're going to be to handle all the food signals that your body is giving you. In addition of being more strict and specific in terms of what are you giving your body as nutrients or if you're just worried of feeding it with whatever kind of "fuel" you have!

This kind of sensitivity and awareness towards food is now also named as interoception, which being able to recognize the "small voices" of your organs that are giving you in order to arrive to a higher consciousness of how you nurture yourself and the kind if reactions that your body has when you feed it with certain type of foods.

It's so cynical sometimes the way we treat our bodies and expect them to function with almost every kind of food we give them. When I can assure you that if you buy a car and they warn you to give it certain type of gasoline, you will follow the instructions and you mind the cost of the gas as long as you take care of your precious way of transportation.

However, how often do you stop, pause and at least are grateful with your body for all the work it does for you, without a proper health, without the proper amount of energy and moreover without the amazing agility and broad capacity of your brain you wouldn't be able to obtain anything material.

The few times that you're grateful with your body, maybe, is right after you recover from being sick, and that is just because you were feeling so bad that you pray to feel better, isn't that right?

In a new wave of wellness and wholeness, now is the time to also being more concerned and focused on the type of foods that we give to our body, and even if we're not going to be the experts in every kind of topic, we can be experts in knowing all our internal processes in terms of what it feels and in terms of understanding how it generally works.

Which is also very important in terms of the kind of medications that you allow yourself to take, not just because they were prescribed, but because you're aware of what they do internally, that probably they're just only option and you really need them.

In summary, as we reviewed what happens inside of your body when you give it a lousy kind of food, even if it has been promoted as your "best choice" we are not going to react exactly as all other people, therefore we ought be able to discern what is good for us and not let ourselves guide by social media and "healthy trends" without at least searching the facts of those products or foods advertised.


1. Fasano, A., Sapone, A., Zevallos, V., & Schuppan, D. (2015). Nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Gastroenterology, 148(6), 1195-1204.

2. Guandalini, S., & Newland, C. (2011). Differentiating Food Allergies from Food Intolerances. Current Gastroenterology Reports, 13(5), 426–434.

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