Should we eat gluten-free?

Particularly publicized in recent years, gluten-free diet is in vogue, including in the sports world. His interest has been highlighted for over 30 years by Dr. Kousmine. The reasons for the adoption of this regime, not to say a way of life, remain unclear to many. We practice the gluten-free diet because we suffer from digestive disorders, allergies, tendonitis, because dietetic brands claim the “gluten free” or on the advice of his friend. But what is it really?

Let’s take a moment to look at our gut, or more precisely its ecosystem. Each of us has an “intestinal tripod” consisting of the intestinal mucosa (300m 2 of surface), intestinal flora (100 000 billion bacteria, 10 times more than cells that we have in the organism) and the immune system (more than 70% of the immune system undergoes a phase of maturity in the intestine)  : any alteration of the integrity of one of these three elements causes a disturbance of the whole system, which can induce hyperpermeability of the intestine. This is the beginning of the cacophony.

Seat of the assimilation of nutrients, the intestinal mucosa also plays a role of protection of the body against the passage of foreign molecules in the internal environment (pathogens, food peptides): a residual amount of these molecules passes daily the intestinal barrier without generating an immune response.However, when the hyperpermeability becomes too great, when there is a disturbance of the balance of the immune system due to a genetic predisposition or an imbalance of the intestinal flora, it may follow an exacerbated reaction against some dietary peptides, resulting in disorders of immunity (infections, food intolerances, allergies, autoimmune diseases) or inflammation (tendinopathies, osteo-articular disorders, etc.).The proteins of cow’s milk and gluten, present in wheat, rye, barley, oats and in all derived products, are particularly involved in this mechanism because of their antigenic structure. But be careful not to fall into a dogmatic approach, consisting of incriminating dairy products and gluten as the cause of all ills. Such an exacerbated reaction of the organism is above all the resultant of a set of factors: intestinal hyperpermeability, genetic predisposition, disturbance of the flora.  It is therefore the response to the protein, more than the protein, that is problematic.These proteins have also been incorporated late in the human diet, while the current human genotype is more than 40,000 years old. Gluten derived from modern wheat has been structurally altered as a result of many genetic crosses and is therefore little or not recognized by digestive enzymes.

Gluten also has the specificity to favor the constitution of an elastic mesh when it is hydrated: it is for example thus that we manufacture bread. By kneading the flour with water, the mesh created traps the bubbles of carbon dioxide produced by the yeasts during fermentation. The bread swells when cooked, the crumb is elastic and airy. Try to make a bread made with gluten-free flour …

This is why bread, particularly fresh, can be slow to digest in people with intestinal or enzymatic sensitivity: the use of gluten-free products in the race can be justified in these people in a perspective of digestive comfort .

But, and I insist voluntarily on this point, the reaction of the organism against the gluten is multifactorial and reactionary. Systematizing its eviction when there is no disturbance, digestive, immune or inflammatory, is therefore more of a fashion phenomenon than a physiological justification. Given that the use of a diet low in gluten can only optimize the overall health, given the gap between our genome and the genetic structure of modern wheat abundantly present in our diet. But this is more of a choice integrated into a global food hygiene than a specific performance factor.

People with functional disorders related to hypersensitivity to gluten have an interest in limiting or even excluding depending on the situation, foods containing it and this over a variable period, during the effort or daily. However, the establishment of a protocol to restore the integrity of the intestinal mucosa, and more generally the balance of this intestinal tripod, will represent the priority and necessary approach. It’s like when you use an anti-inflammatory: inflammation is reduced or even stopped, but the source of inflammation is not treated.