What is GLUTEN?
It’s Probably in Your Products & Yes You Should Care
I started Kudarat 2 years ago as a solution for a major problem that I had. That “problem” is controversial; it gets people all fired up. Even sweet grandmas might come at you with a sawed-off shotgun or a shovel. My own family has argued with me and called BS. But, it is very real, very serious, and chances are, you are one of the 1 in 7 (probably more—they just haven’t been “recognized” yet) people in the US that have this problem or you’re headed there.
So, what am I talking about? Gluten. Yes, that. NO doubt you’ve been given an incomplete and to be blunt, wrong definition of what gluten is. You’ve also probably read somewhere (everywhere) that you never have to even give it a second thought when it comes to your skincare and other personal products because you’ve been told that gluten proteins are too large to be absorbed by the skin. I’m here to tell you that not only is gluten likely hiding in plain sight in your personal care products, but it is also something you do not want to come into contact with. Ever.
This is the first in what will be a series of articles about this topic. We have to change the paradigms revolving around this subject. I don’t want you to ever have to go through the hell I’ve been through. So, let’s get started!
WHAT the heck IS GLUTEN?
We have to start here. Exactly what is gluten? Most of us think wheat along with barley and rye when we hear the word gluten. Actually, there’s a LOT more to it than that.
So, what is it?! It’s actually a family of nasty proteins found in all grains. NOT just wheat, barley and rye. I repeat, it’s in all grains. There are literally thousands of known gluten proteins. For real. That’s not a typo. Here’s the bad news—almost no research has been done on most of the members of this horrible family. The vast majority of the research has focused on the specific gluten protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Most of that work is tied to celiac disease. This is definitely part of the problem and we’re here to dispel some of the misinformation that’s out there. After reading this, I really hope you’ll kick gluten to the curb.
You’re probably thinking, “Hey, I’m not celiac, so this really isn’t relevant to me.” News flash. Everyone with celiac disease is gluten sensitive. But not everyone with gluten sensitivity will develop celiac disease. Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are not the same thing. In fact, gluten sensitivity is a state of genetics. If you’re carrying those genes around, your body sees gluten as the enemy and will wage an immune war that can come in many different forms. According to Dr. Tom O’Bryan, Dr. Peter Osborne and others, gluten is the true cause of autoimmune disease, which celiac is only one of about 100.
Because the prevalent definition of gluten is so limited, there are a lot of people out there suffering and neither they nor their doctors are able to get to the root cause. Instead, many of us are given a pill to help control symptoms, don’t get better, and are basically the walking dead. Did you know that there are over 200 conditions linked to gluten sensitivity, including autoimmune disease, which is collectively the number one disease condition in the United States? Autoimmune diseases are the leading cause of death for women under 65. It kills more of us than cancer and heart disease combined. And, once you develop one autoimmune disease, on average, you’ll develop 6 more.
Several studies have linked gluten exposure to brain and neurological conditions that manifest as migraines, seizures, ADD/ADHD, depression, MS, schizophrenia, and others. Hormonal and organ dysfunction can take place as well and include things like miscarriage and unexplained infertility, liver disease, thyroid issues, and the list goes on and on.
I was really sick for many years. I didn’t know why. Conventional medicine failed me. I was dying. I dealt with ovarian cancer and endometriosis in my 20s followed by fibromyalgia, thyroid issues (Hashimoto’s and then Graves Disease), acute autoimmune liver disease, migraines, toxic weight gain, depression, arthiritis, GI issues, IBS, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and many of the symptoms of lupus and MS. I didn’t bother to get a formal “diagnosis” of the latter two. What was the point?! My allergies were so bad that everyone thought I was constantly crying. I was a train wreck of epic proportions. But, here am I now, healthy, happy and on a mission to keep you from ever having to go there.
The only common connection to all of this was gluten. Cut out the gluten from my diet, get better, right?
Well… it wasn’t that simple. Here’s the thing about repeated exposure to gluten. It’s the silent killer. It’s cumulative. And it’s hiding in your skincare. It takes about 5 years before you start showing any signs and symptoms. Then, on average, it will take 6 to 10 years before you get a diagnosis.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that three times as many women as men are affected by gluten-related diseases. As a whole, we girls slather on a lot more stuff than the guys do.
GLUTEN IN BEAUTY PRODUCTS
This leads me to talking about gluten in our beauty products. It’s in many of them, hidden in plain sight. Yes, even ones that claim to be gluten-free really aren’t. I’ll have separate article just on this subject with loads of information.
There is a lot “out there” on this subject and like I mentioned above, most sources will claim that gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin and hence doesn’t cause a problem. If you do a search on this the very first link that pops up is from the Mayo clinic who emphatically states that that we don’t absorb gluten through our skin. Hmm…Funny thing is I haven’t been able to find research that actually supports this very strong statement.
I went on a truly gluten-free (grain-free) diet for two years. And I didn’t get better. Even my doctor, a world-renowned gluten expert, couldn’t explain it. As a scientist, I decided it was up to me to do the research and figure it out. Long story short, I wasn’t getting better because I was still being exposed to a ton of gluten along with a bunch of other toxic ingredients in my products. When I removed the exposure, I healed. It was a miracle but also a huge discovery.
I also found several published articles about skin absorption and how what we absorb can affect the entire body system. Is this proof that gluten can be absorbed through the skin? No, but those studies haven’t been done. Stating that gluten can’t be absorbed because it is a large protein or that it has to be eaten to cause an issue doesn’t have scientific backing. And, I know when I stopped being exposed to it via beauty products, I got better. That’s enough anecdotal evidence for me.
I can also play a little bit of devil’s advocate here. Say we can’t absorb gluten directly through the skin. The body has a lot of mucous membranes other than our guts. Gluten has been proven to be absorbed by the mucous membranes (there are tons of scientific and medical articles out there related to celiac disease that back this up). Mucous membranes line our mouths, noses, eyes, rectum, urethra, and vaginal tissues. When we use topicals like skin care, lotions, and makeup, we can and do come into frequent contact with those membranes. If we’re someone that already has autoimmunity issues (or is headed there) it takes very little to keep us sick or make us sicker. It’s that cumulative effect.
Really quick, one more statement about this. We all know about transdermal patches being used as a way to introduce hormones and drugs into our systems. Many hormones are large molecules. Manufacturers use lipids (fatty acids) to help this carry those “too large” molecules through the skin. Well…in the beauty industry, the same thing is done. Whether it’s a natural or synthetic carrier, products are absolutely formulated with lipids to help carry ingredients into the skin tissues. One of the best natural carriers I know of is meadowfoam seed oil. We use it in our formulations for lots of yummy reasons (we’ll do an ingredient spotlight in an upcoming blog), but this is one of them.
So, I hope that after reading this, you’ll start thinking about what’s in your skincare products and whether you want to risk continuing putting anything on your skin that contains any grain-derived ingredients.
Next up, we’ll talk about how to identify those ingredients and give you some tools that will turn you into the warrior I know you are!