last updated 1.15.07
Here is the botanical veiwpoint of gluten. All grains are in the same plant family: Gramineae (or Poaceae), the grass family
The grass family is very large with many subfamilies and genuses. All grass family seeds contain a 'gluten' of some type. It is just one particular type of gluten that is a problem for celiacs. Whether it is a problem for people with autism may be realted to celiacs but may not be. From a digestion point of view, all types of 'gluten' will need certain enzymes. So corn and rice glutens can be a problem for those in autism besides the wheat, rye, and barley grains.
When most people talk about 'gluten-free', they are referring to the celiac gluten problem. You can see where talk about gluten can get a little confusing.
Wheat, barley and rye are more closely related than oats. Spelt is a type of wheat. So the gluten in spelt would be more of a problem than oats would be (from a biological point of view).
Sorghum is in the grass family, but in a different subfamily than the wheat, barley and rye subfamily. As is oats. Sorghum is in the same subfamily as sugarcane and corn. So if you have a problem with corn, you might also have a problem with sorghum...but tolerate wheat just fine.
If you have a basic 'leaky gut' problem where this poor digestion, any and all of these foods can be a problem. Anything you eat can be poorly digested and turn into a problem. So keep that in mind if you have problems determining which of these items are the real problem.
Most of the commonly sold 'gluten-free' flours do contain some trace amount of gluten. Someone posted a link with some tested amount long ago but I can't find it now. What this means is that is someone is gluten-free, eating gluten-free flours, and doing well, this just shows that you can do well without eliminating all molecules of gluten. It really just depends on the person.
From an agricultural point of view, oats may be grown in the same fields as wheat, barley, or other grains. So some people avoid oats while gluten-free just in case there is any contamination. Other people who are gluten-free find this isn't a problem, or not worth eliminating oats out of the diet for.
Sorghum may also be grown in rotation with other grains...so can corn or rice or other grains. So if you are worried about field contamination, this applies to all grain crops. However, sorghum is a taller grain crop than many of the other common grains and so contamination is much less likely during harvest.
Ultimately, I would just go with what works for your son. If he eats it and there isn't an adverse reaction, that's great. If he doesn't like it or tolerate it, use something else. If you feel better using Peptizyde with whatever grain you use (wheat, oats, sorghumn, none...) that might help ease any anxiety you have when he eats.
Plant Family list
Gluten Intolerance: Celiac and Non-celiac
by Karen DeFelice from January 2007 national newsletter Developing Healthy Habits
Separating the Wheat from the Chaff
The emergence of newer digestive enzymes over recent years has uncovered many wonderful advances in digestive health care. Using digestive enzymes for gluten intolerance has received particularly intense scrutiny, and for very valid reasons! Hopefully, this discussion of some basic issues will help smooth out some of the commonly encountered confusion.
The term ‘gluten intolerance’ is a general description meaning a person has difficulty completely digesting gluten to some degree. However, it does not tell you what the underlying cause is. To what extent digestive enzymes may help with gluten intolerance will vary depending on the individual situation.
Gluten is a type of protein compound in certain cereal grains – primarily wheat, barley, and rye - the basis of breads, baked goods, and pasta. Although previously oats were suspect too, there is now considerable clinical evidence that oats do not possess this exact type of protein or activate celiac disease.
The inability to sufficiently digest gluten protein can lead to all sorts of symptoms, including skin rashes, irritability, aggression, moodiness, ‘brain fog,’ cognitive problems, cramping, bowel problems, pain, and sleep disturbances.
Consider gluten intolerance in terms of two main categories based on how it is affected by enzyme action in the gut. One type of gluten intolerance is celiac sprue. Celiac is a genetic associated inflammatory disorder of the small intestine, and is regarded as a type of autoimmune condition. Celiac is now thought to occur to some degree in 1 out of 133 Americans.
As gluten proteins are broken down during digestion, they splinter into many fragments of various sizes and shapes (protein fragments are called peptides). In celiac, one type of peptide fragment provokes an inappropriate immune system response in the small intestine. The result is the intestinal cells are damaged or destroyed.
When intestinal cells are damaged for any reason, they cannot properly absorb nutrients, which results in malabsorption. Without healthy intestinal cells, you can become malnourished, no matter how much food you eat. Many people do not realize that a second key function of intestinal cells is to produce several key digestive enzymes. In particular, these cells produce specific protein and carbohydrate degrading enzymes needed for the thorough digestion of gluten (and other similar proteins such as casein).
The second type of gluten intolerance occurs when the gut is injured for some reason other than celiac disease, such as when there is a bacteria or yeast infection. This is the scenario commonly seen with leaky gut syndrome, autism conditions, carbohydrate intolerance, and most digestive disorders.
In these cases, the damage to the intestinal cells occurs initially, reducing the amount of the key intestinal enzymes produced there. Without these enzymes, any gluten or casein consumed is poorly digested and potentially problematic. The result of this gut injury is the subsequent loss of the intestinal enzymes leading to poor gluten (and casein) digestion. As the gut heals and the intestinal cells are restored, intestinal enzyme production can return. This is consistent with a commonly reported experience. Some people find that although they cannot leave a gluten-free diet initially, after a couple months of allowing the gut to heal, they can then re-introduce gluten with gluten-targeting enzymes.
Note that using enzymes to leave a gluten-free diet is meant for gluten intolerance due to gut injury, and not for the case of celiac disease. In celiac disease, the gluten fragments actively cause the injury to the intestinal tissue due to a unique immune system reaction. Here, although supplementing with enzymes can be very beneficial, the person with celiac needs to remain gluten-free because the gluten is initiating the damage. Although recent research has demonstrated that certain digestive enzymes from microbial sources can successfully degrade gluten to eliminate the gluten immunotoxicity in celiac, more work is needed and currently underway.
With other cases of non-celiac gluten intolerance, gluten is not the initial and primary cause of the gut injury. Rather, the intestinal cells may be injured for other reasons first. In these cases, using very specific enzymes for gluten intolerance has worked quite well in reducing or eliminating the need for a gluten-free diet.
Avoiding gluten is quite challenging. Gluten is a common food additive, often used in small amounts, because it increases protein content inexpensively, as well as enhances taste and texture in food processing.
Supporting, recent research determined that the rate-limiting bond in the digestion of certain proteins found in gluten, casein (a protein in dairy), soy, and possibly other foods requires an enzyme activity known as DPP IV (dipeptidyl dipeptidase IV), an enzyme that needs to be present along with two other general types of proteases.
Gluten also contains carbohydrates. Some people have difficulty digesting the carbohydrate part of gluten, not the protein part. Research over the years has revealed the carbohydrate part of gluten is a significant source of the problem in celiac. Other research found that the complete gluten breakdown is limited by a carbohydrate enzyme in addition to DPP IV. Both the DPP IV activity as well as the carbohydrate enzyme in question are located in the cell of the small intestine.
Supplemental enzymes can greatly improve the success of a gluten-free diet as well as reduce the stress of accidental gluten exposure. The basic idea is to use digestive enzymes to break the large gluten molecules (large peptides and intact proteins) into much smaller pieces before they leave the stomach. Then, the gluten fragments are not in a form that will provoke an adverse reaction once they reach the small intestine and potentially get absorbed across a damaged gut lining.
Digestive enzymes have been used very successfully for gluten intolerance in recent years, including allowing the complete elimination of a gluten-free diet for some people. Others use enzymes for gluten and only occasionally consume gluten, such as at special gatherings or once a week. Most celiacs and non-celiacs both find adding enzymes improves the success of their diet, increases the range of foods they can eat (including dairy), and improves their quality of life. Supplemental enzymes provide a great safety net to catch unknown or unavoidable sources of gluten. Gluten-targeting enzymes often improve the success of a restricted diet when added because the enzymes catch hidden or unknown sources of contamination. Enzymes also help facilitate healing the gut tissue and improving nutrient absorption.
Some enzyme products for gluten (and casein) are only designed to assist a gluten-free diet or for trace amounts of gluten exposure. Other products are designed for the more robust use of potentially eliminating the need for a gluten-free diet. Enzyme products vary greatly. One enzyme product may give you very different results than another, even if the products appear relatively similar.
When you are looking for in a digestive enzyme product for gluten intolerance, look for something that contains DPP IV enzyme activity, and at least two other types of protease enzymes to handle the protein component. For digestion of the carbohydrates fraction, you will also need some type of carbohydrate enzymes, such as amylases and glucoamylase. Combining an enzyme product specifically for gluten digestion along with some type of general broad-spectrum enzyme product for all other foods tends to be quite effective in dealing with gluten.
There is not any one right or wrong way to manage gluten intolerance with enzymes that works for everyone. Fortunately, there are now many new options available to provide solutions where they are needed.
For more information on celiac, see www.celiac.com and www.celiac.org.
1. Byun, T. 2001. ‘Synergystic action of a X-prolyl dipeptidyl aminopeptidase and a non-specific aminopeptidase in protein hydrolysis.’
2. Marti, T. 2005. “Prolyl endopeptidase-mediated destruction of T cell epitopes in whole gluten: chemical and immunological characterization.”
3. Phelan, J.J. 1977. “Coelic disease: the abolition of gliadin toxicity by enzymes from Asergillus niger”
4. Siegel. 2006. "Rational Design of Combination Enzyme Therapy for Celiac Sprue."
5. Srinivasan, U. 2006. “Immunohistochemical analysis of coeliac mucosa following ingestion of oats.”
6. Stepniak, D. and Spaenij-Dekking, L. “Highly efficient gluten degradation with a newly identified prolyl endoprotease: implications for celiac disease.”
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