Do you avoid gluten? Perhaps you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, or maybe you are one of the many who are sensitive to gluten. How do you cope with an unintended gluten exposure?
What is Gluten and Where is it Found?
Gluten is a storage protein found in the mature seed of certain cereal grasses. Gluten is Latin for “glue” because gluten acts as an adhesive material. It’s what makes dough stretchy, rollable and twistable.(See the previous post The Gluten-Free Diet – Is It Just a Fad?) Gluten is found in these grains:
Gluten can also show up in unexpected places. Hidden or overlooked sources of gluten include:
- Modified food starch
- Food emulsifiers
- Food stabilizers
- Artificial food coloring
- Malt extract
- Clarifying agents in some red wines
- Processed condiments
- Deli meats
- Soy sauce
- Imitation crab meat
(This list is not comprehensive. Not all of the above necessarily contain gluten as some companies may derive their products from gluten-free sources.)
Before we get to the solution for an accidental gluten exposure, it’s also important to take note of gluten cross-reactivity. When the body is sensitive to gluten, it may mount a similar immune response to certain foods. These include:
- Casein (milk protein)
- Oats (including gluten-free)
- Some brands of instant coffee
For more on the issue of cross-reactivity see the study “Cross-reaction between Gliadin and Different Food and Tissue Antigens”.
Strategies for Accidental Gluten Exposure
Because of cross-contamination as well as hidden gluten sources, it is possible to unintentionally consume gluten.
It’s also possible to avoid gluten for a period and try it again only to have a seriously adverse reaction. According to Datis Kharrazian, author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, one small bite of gluten can trigger old symptoms.
I have a patient with an inner ear autoimmune disorder called Meneiere’s disease. If she accidentally ingests gluten she develops dizziness and ringing in her ear. She can literally take a bite of food with gluten and immediately develop symptoms that last for several days. Some people will notice mild abdominal bloating and brain fog. Others may have a subtle mental slowness or headaches.
Kharrazian suggests the following to reduce the intensity and duration of the immune response.
This digestive enzyme is available in supplement form. DPP-IV (dipeptidyl peptidase IV ) assists in the breakdown of allergenic proteins such as gluten and casein. DPP-IV belongs to the exopeptidase class of proteolytic enzymes and is one of the few enzymes able to facilitate the digestion of proline-rich proteins and polypeptides.
Sources of DPP-IV include:
Flavonoids are found in plants and are responsible for producing the colors needed to attack pollinating insects. They serve other functions as well, but can help dampen inflammation from a gluten exposure. Four flavonoids, in particular, can prove helpful:
Lycopene and quercetin have a direct impact on the immune activation from the gluten. Quercetin has the added effect of working against intestinal histamine secretion in response to an antigen. (Which is why I keep quercetin on hand at all times. It works great for seasonal allergies or other allergic responses.)
Apigenin has been shown to inhibit gut microflora from triggering inflammation and luteolin can inhibit LPS (Lipopolysaccharides) induced inflammation in the gut lining. All may be purchased as an individual supplement and are readily available in many plant foods:
Lycopene – tomatoes
Apigenin – parsley, thyme, and peppermint
Quercetin – capers and onions
Luteolin – thyme, peppermint, parsley, and peppers
Other suggestions for countering a gluten exposure include:
- activated charcoal
- lots of water
- herbal teas
An encounter with gluten can be devastating for those who are sensitive, but dampening the gut inflammation with these suggestions can help restore your health and vitality more quickly.