Some contemporary non gluten free processing methods of wheat and grains include:-
Switching to utilising ungerminated grain, creating a less digestible gluten network and greater proportion of immunogenic compounds.
Recombining the grain with inflammatory ingredients such as fat, sugar and salt, all of which increase immune sensitivity to gluten when consumed over time.
Removing naturally occurring beneficial compounds during the fractionation and refining process, such as fibre and fibre-bound antioxidants which protect the colonic mucosa.
Combine this with various other techniques such as higher kneading intensities for bread baking, the use of baking powder instead of leaven, increased use of high temperatures and an increase in preservatives and additives and it is not surprising the struggles people face following wheat consumption.
Finally, to add further insult there is the addition of ‘vital’ gluten a purified gluten removed from its natural source so it is no longer accompanied by protective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytochemicals. It is now so extensively utilised that consumption has tripled since the late 1970s, reflecting the same period in which we’ve seen a drastic increase in the rates of gluten sensitivity, food intolerances, leaky gut and Coeliac Disease. It does raise the question who is at fault? Is gluten the one causing harm, or is it us? It’s no coincidence that the prevalence of gluten-related disorders is significantly less in places where wheat is only minimally processed compared to countries in which wheat is highly refined and ultra-processed.
Over the years that the gluten free argument has taken place, gluten has been proposed to have various effects on our physiology, the primary of which is increasing intestinal permeability. One characteristic difference of hybridised wheat compared to wild wheat species is the presence of wheat germ agglutinins (WGAs) – a type of plant lectin. WGAs profoundly increase intestinal permeability, commonly known as ‘leaky gut syndrome’ resulting in increased translocation (movement across the gut barrier) of microbial and dietary antigens, which then interact with cells of the immune system. The intake of WGAs exacerbate gluten’s effects on gut permeability and consequent immune activity creating a variety of symptoms like bloating, gas, alternating bowel, constipation, diarrhoea, weight gain, migraines, rashes, and hives. In more chronic situations may lead to inflammatory reactions to gluten, bowel disease and other auto-immune conditions.