Happy bowels are central to overall health, aren’t they?
Eliminate the gliadin protein of wheat and it can no longer trigger activation of inflammatory T-lymphocytes in the intestinal lining. Eliminate the lectin of wheat, wheat germ agglutinin, and this direct intestinal toxin can no longer destroy intestinal villi, increase intestinal permeability to foreign substances, and enter the bloodstream itself (and generate wheat germ agglutinin antibodies). (Interestingly, in experimental models, administration of wheat lectin alone is sufficient to generate celiac disease-like destructive changes.)
The majority of people who eliminate wheat therefore experience relief from symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn, relief from the gas, cramps, and diarrhea of irritable bowel syndrome, and marked reduction–occasionally cure–of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
But not everybody.
What about the relatively smaller number of people who eliminate wheat and feel a bit better . . . but don’t return to normal, happy intestinal health? Putting aside the odd possibility that an entirely separate condition is simultaneously present, such as gallstones or duodenal ulcer, why would someone experience, say, 70% relief from acid reflux or irritable bowel symptoms, but not 100%?
Here are some possibilities:
–Wheat-eaters have different bowel flora (bacteria) compared to non-wheat consumers. When a wheat-consuming individual does away with all wheat, there is a necessary shift in the numbers and species of bowel bacteria. (Dysbiosis, or bacterial overgrowth, i.e., marked increases in the numbers of bacteria, a shift in composition away from normal and favoring some uncommon species, and greater numbers ascending higher in the intestinal tract into the ileum, jejunum, and duodenum, is common in wheat-eating individuals.) But, for unclear reasons, some people struggle with the shift back to a more normal bacterial profile. After eliminating wheat, they may be left (most typically) with constipation or excessive gas.
Some people therefore experience a smoother transition in bowel habits by supplementing with a probiotic preparation, e.g., 50 billion CFUs, preferably containing species of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. Most people experience relief within days to weeks to initiating a probiotic regimen. (Incidentally, yogurt preparations do not work for this purpose, no matter how long you consume them.)
–Impaired pancreatic enzyme release–The pancreas produces enzymes required for digestion. Also for unclear reasons, some people develop less than optimal release of pancreatic enzymes and, while enjoying partial relief with wheat elimination, are left with some residual cramping, gas, and diarrhea. Some people describe (and this can be assessed formally) remnants of partially-digested food in their bowel movements (e.g., meat fragments, oil droplets). Perhaps it’s from low-grade repetitive pancreatic injury/inflammation from gliadin/lectin. Or maybe it’s from glucotoxicity and lipotoxicity from the metabolic derangements so common in the wheat-eating individual (e.g., high blood sugar, high triglycerides, postprandial lipoproteins). Or maybe it’s from the small intestinal lymphocytic infiltration or villous atrophy (destruction of the intestinal lining) of the wheat-eater.
While this is an undoubted oversimplification, some of these people simply respond to a several month course of pancreatic enzymes, especially one that contains the fat-digesting enzyme, lipase.
The wheat eliminating experience for us non-celiac people is growing rapidly and widely. Should you be among those who struggle with full recovery of bowel health after elimination of all things wheat, please speak up and report your experience!