What really happens to your body when you go gluten free
Gluten-free. It hurts. It heals. It's harmless. It's horribly confusing.
This protein made up of the peptides gliadin and glutenin is found in grains such as wheat, semolina, rye and barley. It's known for giving bread its airy and fluffy substance and dough its sticky texture. But it's notorious for sending dieters, restaurateurs and the medical community into a tailspin.
Every time you eat a Cronut (or a turkey sandwich for that matter), an enzyme produced in your intestinal wall (tissue transglutaminase, tTG for short) breaks down gluten into its protein building blocks. As the proteins travel through your digestive system, they get reviewed for potentially harmful substances by the gut's immune system – much like TSA at the airport. If the body isn't sensitive or intolerant to gluten, the proteins are absorbed, and you get through the metal detector free and clear.
If the body is sensitive to gluten, the security system identifies the protein as a dangerous substance and produces antibodies to attack it. Bloating, constipation, and malnutrition ensue – again, much like at the airport. It is pretty widely accepted that Celiac disease patients (and to a lesser extent, non-celiac gluten sensitive patients) should strictly avoid gluten. It is, as of now, the only known treatment to help heal the small intestine.
For those of us who are self-diagnosed gluten-sensitive, or voluntarily gluten-free, what really happens to the body when you give up gluten? Because the jury is still out on the legitimacy of a gluten-free diet for better health, there are a lot of polarizing answers to this question. Here are some possibilities.