Gluten: The Problem Protein
Interview with Nena Dockery
Interviewed by Raena Morgan
September 11, 2007
Raena Morgan: Hi, I’m Raena Morgan with iHealthTube, visiting Nena Dockery. She’s our enzyme expert. First of all, Nena, what is gluten?
Nena Dockery: Well, gluten is a storage protein—actually, really a glycoprotein. It has a sugar attached to a protein and it’s more correctly called a prolomine. This is found in—this is a protein that is found in grains, and particularly in wheat, barley and rye and perhaps even oats. It is a protein that seems to cause problems for people at an increasing rate. In the last few years, we’re hearing a lot more about it.
RM: It’s much more prevalent, isn’t it?
ND: It is much more prevalent. The problem is, we have several different degrees of what people perceive as their degree of difficulty with it. There are people that are simply gluten sensitive. In other words, when they eat certain foods—particularly wheat, products with wheat in them—they get stomach upsets or a little diarrhea, something like—
ND: Gas, maybe. Then there are people who have a true gluten intolerance and it seems that no matter what type of wheat product they eat, they are going to have a more severe condition. You know, they just don’t feel well and it could occur fairly rapidly after eating a wheat product. Then there are people who are truly allergic to wheat and that’s a totally different situation.
RM: So we’re talking about sensitivity, intolerance and being allergic.
ND: And being allergic to wheat and that means they simply—they have an allergic response. Their immune system sets up a response to the presence of wheat in their system—of any kind. It’s generally not the gluten portion; it is generally a different protein in the wheat. Actually, it’s a different protein in the wheat all together that causes a wheat allergy than what causes a gluten sensitivity. It’s really not the gluten itself, it’s usually the albumin or another prominent wheat protein. Then we go to the next stage which is celiac disease, or gluten enteropothy. That’s where you have a severe response. It gets into an immune response—it’s not really an allergic response—but it is an immune, a severe immune response to the presence of gluten in the system. This is generally a genetic disorder; it is inherited.
RM: This sounds pretty alarming.
ND: It is. It is probably the most severe—there are people who have a very strong allergic response to wheat, but other than that, people who have celiac disease have a very strong response to the presence of wheat.
RM: Well, someone who’s sensitive or intolerant, the simply can avoid products like wheat and barley and oats and rye, those kinds of products—wheat’s pretty pervasive in our society.
ND: Yes, it is. And it’s in places—particularly gluten—is in places where we would not suspect it to be, because it’s used, more or less, as processing aid in a lot of our processed foods. So when we are talking about people who have celiac disease, for instance, or who are allergic to wheat, they avoid wheat products all together. They live—for people with celiac disease—a gluten-free diet. So they have to look for foods that they know are completely devoid of gluten of any sort. Normally what we’re thinking—what we’re speaking of is usually from wheat. That is the most common one and that particular gluten is called glyodin, so many times you will see a reference to glyodin sensitivity. That is the gluten that is in wheat. There are other glutens that are in barley and rye—tridocal—or in oats that have different names. All of them are kind of grouped under this gluten—
ND: Umbrella. But they’re all just a little bit different. Normally what we’re looking at is the glyodin or the wheat fraction of that. But yes. So what people tend to do is to avoid wheat products or anything containing gluten all together which could also include barley and rye as well, and sometimes even oats. That’s very difficult to do in our society.
RM: So there’s an enzyme that we can take, right, that will help with that?
ND: Yes. For those people who have a sensitivity or a mild intolerance, there are. There are a lot of enzymes recently being studied to help—to help particularity with celiac disease because it is such a severe condition. But if we take that one out and look at, at least controlling sensitivities and intolerances, there are a lot of enzymes that are being studied at this point. One of those being an enzyme called DPP-4, or dipeptidyl peptidase, which is an enzyme that is normally found in the intestinal wall. So it is an enzyme that is in our bodies to being with. It functions along with another enzyme called DCP-1, which is a didpeptidyl carboxypeptidase that are in the intestinal wall and those break down the gluten that we consume on an ordinary basis. Now they are in the intestinal wall and sometimes they do not function quick enough to avoid a sensitivity or an intolerance response. That’s why we are helped by supplementing the DPP-4 into our system, where it has the capability of working much earlier in the digestive process.
RM: Well, that’s really good news for people who are sensitive to wheat, or intolerant, as you say, or allergic.
RM: Thank you very much, Nena.
ND: Thank you.