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Why Is Gluten The Cause Of So Many Digestive Disorders

As an Ayurvedic Practitioner, many of my clients are coming in and saying they are allergic to Gluten or have an intolerance to Gluten and they have stopped eating foods that contain gluten. Some of their symptoms consist of:

  • Gas

  • Bloating

  • IBS

  • Allergies

  • Unable to focus

  • Stomach ache

  • Headaches

  • Tiredness

Why is this happening? Could you easily digest bread and gluten when you were younger? Is taking wheat, grains and bread which contain gluten out of our diet the answer? I don't think so. Every time we cannot digest something, do we take it out of our diet? By the time we are in our thirties, forties, fifties or beyond our diet for a variety of foods have shrunk. Maybe we are down to 10 foods that we know we can digest well. Although, it makes sense to eat healthier, we have to be careful that we have not turned towards eating easier to digest foods in the name of eating healthier. If we do not digest proteins, wheat, dairy, soy or corn very well, we cannot really assume that we are digesting and absorbing the nutrients of other foods very well.

As we are all aware Gluten has become the talk of many articles. The food industry has jumped on the band wagon and has made billions of dollars by making products without gluten. And, we are told by our doctors, peers or the information we have gathered from reading an article that we have an allergy to gluten and we need to take it completely out of our diet. And we need to start taking digestive enzymes because as we age, we lose our digestive strength. I do agree slightly with the aging process, although I completely disagree that our digestive strength has to slow down just because we are at a certain age. Most of us can have the digestion of a 20 year old. Meaning, no matter what age we are at, our digestion should be healthy and strong and we should be able to eat those hard to digest foods such as gluten.

In the last twenty years or so, gluten has been accused of causing:

  • Allergies

  • Chronic Fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • Auto-Immune Conditions

  • Attention Deficit Disorder

  • Asthma

  • Memory loss

  • Focus issues

  • Headaches

  • Rashes

  • Joint Pain

  • Bloating

  • Gas

  • Malaise

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Cravings

  • Exhaustion

Gluten is a protein that has been eaten for 10,000 years all around the world and still is to this day. It is most commonly found in wheat but also found in many other grains such as:

  • Barley

  • Bulgur

  • Couscous

  • Durum

  • Kamut

  • Malt

  • Semolina

  • Spelt

  • Triticale

  • Rye

  • Wheat

  • Wheat bran

  • Wheat germ

  • Wheat starch

  • Oats – usually OK, but look for a brand that says, not contaminated with wheat

So what is the answer to help us digest gluten and eat healthy?

Weak Digestive Fire Can't Cook Gluten

Your digestive fire has to be strong. I like to give this analogy to my clients about the digestive system. It is like a wood burning stove. We put wood in the stove to fuel the fire. However, if we continually feed the fire by putting too much wood (food) in the stove, the digestion will become like sand on a fire and douse out the fire in the belly and weaken the digestion. Too little food can starve the fire in the belly and consequently will not be enough to fuel the fire and digest our food.

Gluten is a very hard to digest protein that requires a specifically strong acid in the stomach to process the gluten. Without optimal digestive fire, gluten will not be broken down in the stomach. If gluten passes through the stomach undigested, it will - if eaten in excess - cause irritation to the intestinal villi. Therefore, it creates symptoms of gas, bloating, IBS symptoms, etc. in the digestive tract.

Gluten Isn't Meant to Be Eaten Every Day of the Year

First, eat reasonable amounts in the winter. Also, wheat and most other glutinous grains are harvested in the fall and thus eaten in the winter. This heavy, warm, wet protein rich grain is the perfect antidote for the coldness and dryness of winter. Interestingly, according to Ayurveda, our digestive strength and fire is strongest in the winter. We can digest the hard to digest foods in the seasons they are harvested in.

Secondly, the other secret about gluten and wheat is that it was never meant to be eaten three times a day, every day of the year. This overwhelming amount of gluten, along with increasing stress, will bog down the digestive process (douse out the fire in the belly) and begin to let the gluten through the stomach without being properly broken down.

Undigested Gluten is the Problem - Not Gluten Itself

There are good studies that have shown that the undigested protein molecule of gluten can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome. This is a syndrome where the villi (finger-like projections of the small intestine which increase the surface area increases absorption of nutrients that assist in digestion) become damaged and begin to separate, which causes the spaces in the semi-permeable membrane of the small intestines to break down. Undigested proteins, pathogens and fat soluble toxins can sneak into the blood and lymph before they are neutralized by the digestive system. Ayurveda states that 80% of the body's immune response is located in the gut. When these villi get beaten up by undigested gluten, a whole host of symptoms begin to arise from the undigested gluten and then gives gluten a life sentence.

Ayurveda states that strengthening the digestive fire is the first step to enjoying the harder to digest foods. To learn more about enjoying gluten again go to Ayurvedic Secrets To Enjoying Gluten Again.

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