I was asked a couple weeks ago if there was anything we could do to prevent a gluten intolerance. This especially comes into play when the parent has problems digesting gluten and they want to prevent the same issues in their young children. Dr. Tom O’Bryan has already told us that once your body has begun producing antibodies to gluten, it always will. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast yet, I’ll rephrase an interesting point he made.
Basically……you have to think of gluten antibodies the same way you look at the antibodies that are created from vaccines. The premise of a vaccine (whether or not you agree with the issue!) is that by injecting a virus into the body, our body then learns how to protect us from it in larger amounts by making antibodies. These antibodies travel around seeking out the virus. When the virus is gone, the antibodies go dormant, just waiting for the chance to attack again. When we’re exposed to the virus, these antibodies activate again (supposedly) to destroy the virus before it makes us sick. It’s the same with gluten. Once the proteins get into our system and antibodies are created against it, it starts to attack our system. One of the biggest issues with this, is that the structure of these proteins look very similar to the structure of some of our own cells, so the gluten antibodies also attack our own cells. This is also known as auto-immune. Anyways….even if/when we cut out gluten entirely, we still carry around these antibodies, ready to attack at a moments notice. In this train of thought, one can never get over gluten intolerance.
But how does Gluten get into the Bloodstream?
When we are born, our intestines are actually porous. Colostrum from mothers, along with the healthy bacteria they pass on to baby, helps to fill these holes. When circumstance are not what we want them to be, these holes can be left open, leaving a damaged or ‘leaky’ gut. This can even happen beyond infancy with the very common junk food diets, consumption of antibiotics, and the over pasteurization of foods.
Is Prevention Possible?
I’m not an expert, and I don’t really know how much we can do/should do to prevent gluten intolerance, but I do know there are a few things that can help.
- It begins before and during pregnancy with the mother following a nourishing, whole foods diet that is low in sugar and high in cultured or fermented foods. Doing so will help to make sure the mother is able to pass on a wonderful array of beneficial bacteria to her baby. Antibiotics should also be avoided as much as possible!! (not only does this cause the death of all beneficial bacteria, but it also causes the proliferation of yeast which can lead to many different health issues)
- Exclusively breastfeeding a baby helps to fill all of those little holes in the immature gut, thus lessening the risk of dealing with a leaky gut from a young age. Any exposure to another food source, especially within the first few months, can drastically change the final formations of the baby’s digestive system as well as how the baby absorbs nutrients. During this phase, mothers need to make sure they follow the same diet as during pregnancy to make sure the baby is constantly supplied with a balanced bacterial system. If the mother or someone else in the direct family has celiac or issues with gluten, it would also be best for mother to abstain from gluten until the baby is older, to allow that barrier to form without the presence of gluten in the body.
- Practice baby-led feeding and allow babies to eat naturally and when they are ready. Using baby foods is a fairly new invention, especially the practice of using grains (rice cereal, oatmeal, etc) as first foods. Allowing babies to begin to eat at a stage when they are ready is important because baby’s follow their bodies signals, and if we follow those signals along with baby, they’ll be eating what they need, when they need it. Serve the foods you eat (minus grains and sugars), when baby seems to want them. Avoid hard to digest foods like grains until the baby is at least a year old, and keep them on a low grain, low gluten diet. Introduce gluten only when you know the baby is healthy! If they show any signs of lowered immune response, I personally would not feel comfortable allowing it into the diet when say a direct family member had celiac or gluten intolerance. (lowered immune response can include chronic illness, ear infections, eczema, rash,
- Stay away from antibiotics whenever possible. Often over prescribed for ailments that would heal themselves naturally, or respond to other treatment, they destroy the beneficial bacteria within the gut, allowing for more damage. If you do have to take a round of antibiotics, make sure to boost your probiotic supply with supplements.
- Consume a diet high in cultured and probiotic foods (yogurt, kefir, etc) along with wonderfully nourishing foods like bone broth. Making sure to eat only grains (wheat, oats, rice, etc) that have been properly soaked and prepared is also important as they are much easier for the body to digest and this may help prevent damage to the gut.
- Avoid foods treated with pesticides and preservatives, food colorings, chemicals, and flavors along with diets high in sweets. The modern diet destroys our guts and allows the open passageways for gluten, and other very small food particles, to pass through.
Above all else, I feel it’s beneficial to do something rather than nothing if only to have a chance for prevention. In fact, this is the very situation I am in with my family, as my husband has a gluten intolerance (has not been tested for celiac, but he is sick when he eats gluten, fine when he doesn’t) and my son shows symptoms, but my daughter does not. She currently is on a gluten free diet along with the rest of us, if not for anything more than to try our best at prevention.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject! Can we prevent gluten intolerance or even celiac?
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