The Negative Effects of Gluten on your Health

With the growing popularity of gluten-free diets on the rise, Ana Horta, nutritionist at Longevity in Portugal, shares with us the potential harm gluten could be doing to your health.

With the growing popularity of gluten-free diets on the rise, Ana Horta, nutritionist at Longevity in Portugal, shares with us the potential harm gluten could be doing to your health.

Gluten - The Cereal Killer

They say, “we are what we eat” – which is only partially true. You are also what you absorb, and separating the nutrients from the food you eat and from the waste products that leave your body, involves numerous physiological functions. Food is more than simply calories, food is information for your cells, but remember that they will answer back one day, and you may not like the answers…

Most of the nutrients are absorbed through the small intestine. So, step by step we are reaching the main question…

Problems occur when your small intestine starts to absorb more than just nutrients, such as intact proteins and other large molecules that can cross the intestinal lining to just about anyone, even in healthy individuals. And what about gluten? …There is absolutely no problem with foods rich in gluten, if you don’t eat them! Why? Because gluten increases your intestinal permeability leading to serious health problems even in those individuals that are not gluten intolerant.

The importance of a healthy gut has been increasing during the last years, because it’s scientifically proven that the production of a high range of immune-inflammatory symptoms comes from here. This syndrome, also called “leaky gut”, describes how “big molecules” that shouldn’t be absorbed, residing in the interior (lumen) of the intestine are absorbed through the intestinal mucosal cells and released into the general circulation. Our body, receiving those molecules starts to feel “confused” and as a response, attacks those undesirable toxins, developing anti-bodies against them, and several systemic disorders can be developed.

Ana horta longevity

Longevity's nutritionist shares her thoughts on the harm gluten could be having on your health

This syndrome is generally caused by exposition of substances that damage the integrity of the intestinal mucosa, such as gluten, present in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Numerous events alter the permeability of the intestine including: gastrointestinal infections (virus, parasites), intestinal dysbiose, alcohol & caffeine, unbalance diet rich in gluten and food additives, corticoids anti-inflammatory pills, stress, over fasting, premature labour and early feeding before 4 - 6 months of age.

Having a gluten-free diet is not a trend, it’s scientifically proven that is better for our health even if you don’t have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, which is becoming increasingly common in last decades, with symptoms including: bloating, abdominal pain, foggy mind, depression, obstipation, intercalate with diarrhea, tiredness among other symptoms.

It has been increasingly common to hear of people complaining about their health despite the absence of diseases such as gastro and extra-gastro intestinal symptoms. This is increasing with our consumption of wheat, due the high availability and low cost factors involved. The real problem started some decades ago within the baking industry, when wheat had become more productive and more pest resistant. These changes altered the nutrient profile, in particular peptides, proteins and immunogenic increased wheat flour processing speed, eliminating the need for fermentation before baking, creating a highly allergenic cereal. It is believed that these changes have contributed to the increased prevalence of celiac disease and potentially also hypersensitivity to gluten.

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Other reasons can be related to changes in our intestinal flora and immunity leading to a heightened degree of allergicinity to all the foods. The increase of intestinal permeability induced by gluten reduces an important molecule Interleukin 10 (IL-10), a cytokine with potent anti-inflammatory properties that plays a central role in limiting host immune response to pathogens, preventing damage to the host and maintaining normal tissue homeostasis. For this reason, gluten leads to the depletion of our immune system.

Last but not least, gluten is useless, it’s not an essential nutrient, and for that reason there is no need to add it to our diet. There is no necessity, only risks, so think twice before consuming it.


This is a guest blog post by Ana Horta, nutritionist at Longevity Medical Spa in Portugal. If you would like to book a holiday at Longevity, enquire online here, talk to one of our Travel Specialists on 0203 397 8891 or email us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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