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Why Gluten Free?

By Dr. Michelle Lim, D.C.

“Gluten sensitivity is more than just a digestive issue.”

In LA, it’s hard to miss signs of a gluten sensitive culture. In this day and age, this awareness for gluten is evident at most places; from a sports bar in Hollywood to a franchise burger joint. I’ve noticed most menus now place a GF symbol to indicate items free of this particular wheat protein. Most recently, at a Pizza Rev in Studio City, when I asked for “gluten free, please,” the pizza artist interrogated me: “Allergy or preference?”

I had no idea what to say that. By strict definition, allergy is a clear IgE-mediated response to an offender and may create anaphylaxis. Gluten sensitivity, on the other hand is an IgA, IgM, or IgG response to gluten and does not fit in the category of allergy and is not typically involved with anaphylaxis.

As Dr. Mark Hyman states in his book, Blood Sugar Solution:10 Day Detox: Gluten sensitivity is not a true allergy like a peanut or shellfish allergy that makes your tongue swell, closes off your throat, creates hives and can kill you in minutes. It’s a more subtle reaction from everyday foods. This occurs because of small changes in the intestinal tract from multiple insults (such as too many antibiotics, aspirin, acid blocking drugs, ibuprofen, stress, infections, or even toxins) that allow food particles to enter our bloodstream and get exposed to our immune system, creating a condition called leaky gut.

This then causes [systemic] inflammation in reaction to these foreign food particles, which can in turn create many problems:

  • fatigue

  • brain fog

  • headaches

  • depression

  • allergies

  • sinus

  • problems

  • irritable bowel syndrome

  • reflux

  • joint pain

  • skin diseases, such as acne and eczema

  • autoimmune diseases


(Summarized from the book, Why Isn’t My Brain Working? by Dr. Datis Kharrazian)

1. The immune system mistakes nervous tissue for gluten. The protein structure of gluten is similar to the protein structures of the nervous system.

When you are sensitive to gluten, the immune system produces gluten antibodies to tag it for destruction, however, because the gluten is similar in structure to the nervous tissue, the immune system may produce antibodies to nervous tissue when gluten is ingested. This can lead to an immune attack against the brain or other parts of the nervous system due to *cross-reactivity.

*Cross Reactivity: a concept in immunology when the immune system mistakes one protein for another.

2. Gluten triggers nervous system transglutaminase autoimmunity. Transglutaminases are enzymes that help bind proteins together and are also involved in the digestion of wheat.

Transglutaminase-2 (TG2)-found in the intestinal lining. Autoimmunity to TG2 causes damage to the intestinal lining, causing inflammation and poor absorption of nutrients.

Transglutaminase-3 (TG3)-found in skin. A gluten-triggered auto-immune reaction to TG3 may lead to skin disorders that may present as itchy red blisters frequently found on knees, elbows, buttocks, and back.

Transglutaminase-6 (TG6)-found through the central nervous system. This can lead to autoimmune destruction of brain and nervous tissue.

Transglutaminase is also used by the food processing industry to tenderize meat and as a meat glue to hold hold processed meats together in distinct shapes, so people with positive transglutaminase antibodies may react to this food additive.

3. Gluten can cause a leaky blood-brain barrier. The brain plays a major role in gastrointestinal function, including controlling the movement of food through the intestines, releasing enzymes to chemically break down food, and regulating blood flow that carries vital nutrients and chemicals to support gut health and repair.

Poor brain function, poor gut health, and vice versa. Leaky gut, leaky brain. A healthy blood-brain barrier prevents pathogens from getting into the brain but allows in necessary compounds, such as precursors for neurotransmitters. A leaky brain can allow pathogens that increase the risk of autoimmune reactions in the brain and nervous system.

Leaky gut has also been shown to play a role in severe depression by allowing harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. Chronic systemic inflammation can ultimately change brain chemistry.

One of the earliest signs of a poorly functioning brain is poor digestion; not specifically full-blown neurological or gastrointestinal disease, but rather general poor brain function, such as: poor memory, inability to find words, or difficulty learning new things. The current health care model overlooks these symptoms because they are not associated with disease or blames these symptoms on aging.


The gluten you eat today is not the same gluten you ate as a child, or your parents or grandparents ate. Although not technically genetically modified, gluten has nevertheless been significantly been significantly hybridized and deamidated over the years, processes that have rendered it inflammatory to humans. -Dr. Datis Kharrazian

• Wheat • Barley • Rye • Spelt • Kamut • Oats • Processed condiments (ketchup, mustard, salad dressing) • Deli Meats • Beer • Soy Sauce • Imitation Crab Meats • Seitan • Vegetarian/Vegan meet substitutes • Modified food starch • Food Emulsifiers • Food Stabilizers • Artificial Food Coloring • Malt Extract • Dextrins • Clarifying agents in some Red Wines FOODS THAT MAY CROSS-REACT WITH GLUTEN: • Casein (milk protein) • Corn • Oats (incl. gluten free) • Some brands of instant coffee


Gluten is composed of GLUTENIN and GLIADIN.

GLIADIN is then further broken down into alpha, omega, and gamma fractions.

Most labs only run an isolated alpha gliadian test, rendering an incomplete gluten sensitivity test. This accounts for improper diagnosis.

So a complete gluten antibody screen should include:

• alpha gliadin

• omega gliadin

• gamma gliadin

• wheat germ agglutinin

• gluteomorphin

• prodynorphin

• TG2

• TG3

• TG6

A Chiropractor, Naturopath, Acupuncturist or any professionally licensed physician who practices functional medicine is able to order this for you. Ask for the Cyrex Array 4 Food Sensitivity Panel, or Gluten Associated Sensitivity and Cross Reactive Foods Array 4.


Gluten sensitivity is not quite an allergy, but the effects can be equally devastating. Different people experience different kinds of reactions to this wheat protein. Some people may experience neurological effects right away, while others may have symptoms that are not as obvious, but are health damaging in the long run. The wheat we eat today is not the same wheat our ancestors ate. With a faster pace of life and the need for instant gratification, the foods we eat today are either processed, genetically modified or tainted in some way in order to satisfy more people in a shorter amount of time. Whether or not you are sensitive to gluten, one must do his or her best to eat whole, clean foods in order to receive the health benefits that foods are meant to supply. Eating to sustain wellness and eliminate inflammation are our best guards against disease and feeling good.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” -Hippocrates


1. Hyman, Mark. The blood sugar solution 10-day detox diet: activate your body’s natural ability to burn fat and lose weight fast. New York, NY: Little Brown and Company, [2014], 2014. Print.

2. Kharrazian, Datis. Why isn’t my brain working?: a revolutionary understanding of brain decline and effective strategies to recover your brain’s health. Carlsbad: Elephant Press, 2014. Print.

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