HOW DOES GLUTEN AFFECT YOUR DIGESTION AND HORMONE BALANCE FOR WOMEN OVER 40?
WHAT IS GLUTEN?
I think a lot of people are aware of gluten and that its found in wheat, barley, spelt, semolina and rye, being the most common on
Gluten is a protein that makes bread light and fluffy and dough a sticky texture.
It is used in many processed foods, sauces, cakes, biscuits and gravy. It is also found in beauty products and supplements.
I have been aware that celiac and gluten intolerance is on the rise and more and more people are having negative effects from eating gluten.
The wheat today is not the same as the wheat that was eaten 50 years ago. The wheat today is called “hybridized wheat”. This enables the wheat to be fast growing, drought resistant and bug resistant. There are some new proteins in the hybridized wheat that were not found in the original wheat. These new proteins are part of the problem that is causing inflammation in your body and creating a gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
The hybridized wheat is also water soluble to enable it to be used by manufacturers or supermarkets to use in their packaged foods.
In our modern world today, there are so many packaged foods available and if you are not careful, you could be over eating gluten without you realising it. We are eating more wheat than ever before.
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR DIGESTION WHEN YOU EAT GLUTEN?
When you eat some food containing gluten, it goes through your stomach and into your intestines. Once there, an enzyme is produced that breaks down the gluten into a building block of the protein called gliadin.
This protein then makes its way through your digestive tract and your immune system. Your digestive system then looks at it for anything that may harm your body. If you don’t have a sensitivity to gluten then you will have no issues and the protein will be absorbed by your body. If you do have a sensitivity to gluten then your digestive tract will identify it as a foreign invader and will produce an antibody to attack it.
The problem now is that your microvillli is going to start to become damaged. If this continues over time, your microvilli will begin to break down and the tight junctions will begin to open up and the walls of your intestine are now leaking food particles into your bloodstream.
Your microvilli is what is separating your bloodstream and your digestive tract. This looks like a carpet pile and has little finger like tentacles that are close together to form tight junctions to enable the broken down food you have eaten, to be absorbed in your body.
The symptoms that you can be experiencing now will be bloating, constipation, diarrhea, fat malabsorption, weight loss, malnutrition. You can also go on to develop celiac disease and an auto immune disease.
The term used for food leaking into your bloodstream is “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability.
When you are sensitive to gluten, the gut cells release a protein called zonulin which is responsible for breaking open the tight junctions of your microvillii.
When your body’s immune system has seen this invasion of food leaking into your bloodstream and has created antibodies against it, unfortunately some of your other organs may get in the way and your body will mistakenly create an antibody against it as well. This could be your skin, thyroid or your brain for example.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE GLUTEN INTOLERANT?
The best way is to take it out of your diet completely for at least 30 days. After this time, begin to re-introduce it again and keep a check on your symptoms and how you are feeling when you eat it. You can then identify if you feel worse when you eat it or not. You could also ask your doctor for a gluten sensitivity test as well.
You don’t have to have celiac disease to be sensitive to gluten and for it to cause problems.
You could also be sensitive to other proteins such as FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols). These are dairy foods containing lactose, fructose from certain fruit, coconut products and sweeteners, fructans from fibrous vegetables and polyols from fruit and sugar alcohols. They can cause similar symptoms to gluten sensitivity such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
You may also need to take out some of these foods from your diet too. A full list of high and low FODMAP foods can be found at the link below.
This list is a guide only on what foods to eliminate and what foods to carry on eating. Everyone is different and so you will need to take out the high FODMAP foods first while continuing eating low FODMAP foods and then try each high FODMAP food to find your triggers.
HOW DOES GLUTEN AFFECT YOUR HORMONES OVER THE AGE OF 40?
If you have gluten sensitivity, it can affect the hormones progesterone and estrogen.
In your 40’s during perimenopause, your ovaries are starting to wind down and get ready to stop altogether in post menopause.
Your ovaries can behave unpredictably, one minute they will work and the next they won’t work. Its like going through puberty all over again. This results in a rollercoaster ride with estrogen and progesterone mainly and if you over consume gluten, it can make your symptoms worse.
Why is that?
If you have a gluten sensitivity, you may have an adrenal hormonal imbalance. Your adrenal glands pick up on your stress levels. Unstable sugar balance and inflammation in your digestive tract caused by gluten sensitivity will cause the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol (the stress hormone).
This will then go on to cause increased body fat, fatigue and unstable moods.
When you are sensitive to gluten and continue to eat gluten containing foods, you will be unable to absorb all the nutrients your body needs. Over time and with continued release of cortisol, this will eventually result in a drop of cortisol and also your adrenal glands will get very tired and so will you.
For women over the age of 40 and going through perimenopause, I would strongly suggest that you eliminate gluten containing foods from your diet if you are experiencing extreme symptoms. This can make a massive difference to your symptoms and you can begin to heal your body and feed your body what it needs for a healthy hormone balance.