Five Reasons for the Explosive Increase in Gluten Reactions (and Buttermilk Buckwheat Pecan Pancakes)

Like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, Gluten-Reactive people are showing us the problems with highly processed foods, especially wheat, rye, and barley.

“Auto-immune inflammatory damage, villous atrophy of the small intestine” test results is currently considered the diagnostic criteria for celiac disease.

What are villi?  The tiny absorptive fingers of our gastrointestinal (GI) tract, that become damaged and broken off without regrowth. This is the diagnostic criteria for celiac disease. Autoimmune damage has been escalating in people since the 1950s.

Gluten reactivity: Any change in function due to gluten ingestion that isn’t demonstrated by villous atrophy. Some typical symptom include gas, bloating, migraines, menstrual irregularities, and brain fog.

Why the rapid rise in Gluten intolerance? Our bodies haven’t changed genetically as quickly as our environment has changed.

1. The SAD Diet

We have moved from a grazing diet of plants with some meat protein, fruits, and nuts in season to a Standard American Diet (SAD) of primarily highly processed wheat, multiple times per day. Lacking the fiber or nutrition of whole grain, we combine it with other highly processed starches, highly processed meat, and vast quantities of sugar.

2. Sugar

Our bodies are genetically able to handle a certain amount of concentrated sugar, a larger amount of fats, an even larger amount of fiber. Our current diet turns the concentrations topsy-turvy. Every bit of that excess sugar is damaging our intestinal tract through inflammatory changes. Even the “natural” food companies use highly concentrated syrups of grains to balloon the sugar content.

3. Chemical Exposure

Environmentally, exposure to so many chemicals daily that didn’t even exist two generations back has escalated the damage to our bodies. Chemical irritants like BPA (bisphenol A) in cans and plastics, inorganic Arsenic compounds from insecticides used in the 1950s, pesticides, herbicides, sodium lauryl sulfate (a foaming agent contained in most shampoos), toothpastes and soaps, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Aspirin all increase the likelihood of intestinal irritation.

Each of these exposures create inflammatory changes in our mucosa, allowing intact proteins to be absorbed into our bloodstreams. Intact proteins in the bloodstream provoke high-level reactivity within the bloodstream. Our immune system goes into overdrive to rid itself of these intruders. Over time, this pattern of reactivity can lead to an autoimmune response, breaking down our own tissue instead of the intruder.

4. Genetic Manipulation

Wheat has morphed from kernels of 14 genes to 42 genes count with many genetic variations in morphology. No longer a tall, low-carbohydrate/high-fiber grain, now it is a short, high-carbohydrate, lower-fiber weak plant that is easily harvested.People don’t genetically change that quickly.

It takes thousands of years for genetic changes to adapt to external environmental changes. The variation in fiber content especially changes our gut bacteria.

5. Bacteria

We’ve lost our happy, beneficial commensal bacteria in part because we’ve lost the fiber that fed them over time, lost some of the microbiome that create vitamin B-12 from foods we ingest, and decreased those bacteria that are protective in the ongoing fight for our health. When the bacteria inside our bodies are so different from the ideal conditions, our gut changes, and inflammation occurs. Studies have shown that the bacterial colonization of the typical gluten-reactive person is vastly different from a non-reactor.

What to do to keep ourselves healthy?

Avoid Gluten. Yes, all of us would do well to avoid highly processed wheat, rye, and barley.  Even for the non-gluten-sensitive, eating grains multiple times per day is just not healthy.

Repair the gut, using real foods high in glutamine.  Feel free to use tasty ones like sauerkraut, meat, and dairy. If possible use only organically grown to avoid the chemical additions.

Increase beneficial bacteria using live foods. Yogurt is not the only source of terrific bacteria, consider miso, kimchi and other pickles. By increasing your diversity of internal bacteria, you will strengthen your immunity.

Gluten-Free Buttermilk Buckwheat Pecan Pancakes

Gluten-Free Buttermilk Buckwheat Pecan Pancakes
5 from 4 votes

Buttermilk Buckwheat Pecan Pancakes

Gluten-Free, Corn-Free, Soy-Free, Gum-Free, Rice-Free, and optionally Egg-Free
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Calories 411 kcal
Author Dr. Jean Layton


For the Pancakes:

  • 4 tablespoons Butter
  • ¼ cup pecans chopped fine
  • 2 eggs egg-free alternative: 2 teaspoons golden flax seeds, ground and 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons honey preferably raw
  • ¾ cup raw buckwheat flour Grind your own green groats in a coffee grinder for this flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

For the Pear Sauce:

  • 1 ripe pear diced
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter


For the Pancakes:

  1. Melt butter in pan.
  2. Add pecans and cook for one minute till the pecans are lightly browned and fragrant.
  3. Allow to cool while you mix the rest of the batter.
  4. Beat eggs in a mixing bowl till well scrambled.
  5. Add the buttermilk, honey and the pecan mixture.
  6. Stir well to combine.
  7. Add the flours, salt and baking powder
  8. Beat well for one minute.
  9. Preheat your griddle or pan till a drop of water dropped upon it sizzles away.
  10. Grease lightly with butter or oil
  11. Pour ¼ cup sized circles onto the griddle.
  12. Allow them to cook till bubbles rise to the surface, pop and the holes remain open.
  13. Flip
  14. cook on the second side for a minute.
  15. Serve with pear honey sauce

Pear Honey Sauce:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small pan.
  2. Heat till honey and butter melts.
  3. Feel free to add a bit of cinnamon or ginger to this sauce - both improve it.

Villi from the small intestine” © 2011 S. Schuller, Wellcome Images, used under Creative Commons license.

About the Author

gluten-free-baking-for-dummiesDr. Jean Layton, is the Gluten-Free Doctor. Her background as a chef in New York combines with her medical knowledge to teach her patients how to thrive gluten-free.

As co-author of Gluten-Free Baking for Dummies, she simplifies the challenges of baking in a whole new way.

Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Google Plus.

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October 14, 2012 11:43 pm

I am in the midst of listening to a book on tape called ‘Wheat Belly’ and the doctor who wrote it refers to the current wheat we eat today as ‘genetically modified’. This did shock me as I try to keep abreast of the current gm crops and thought wheat had not been oked. He claims that this was done 40-50 years ago as an answer to the problem of world hunger and that all of our wheat today is very short dwarf wheat-easier to harvest and grows far more plentifully than original, ancient einkorn wheat, higher in gluten and has more kinds of proteins in it(that seem to cause more problems for many people)-and the man responsible for designing it, Norman Borlaug, won a nobel peace prize for it. At any rate it is scary to hear about the way that the current wheat can cause unexpected symptoms, like… Read more »

LaRae Wilson
October 14, 2012 11:00 pm

I really appreciated such a quick reference to the many facets of gluten intolerance. I had questions about the rapid rise of intolerance and this addressed them so well. Thank you!
I have ground my own wheat and made my own whole wheat bread from hard reds for years. Can you recommend a variety that would be less inclined to cause problems, or should I just head for the alternative grains you suggested?

Jean Layton
Jean Layton
October 18, 2012 1:59 pm
Reply to  LaRae Wilson

Hi LaRae,
If you haven’t had a problem with wheat so far, I would suggest using the alternative grains in rotation with your organically grown wheat. Most folks I know that grind their own don’t eat bread every day anyway

Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator
October 14, 2012 4:30 pm

Thanks Jean, this is very interesting and helpful and I’m sure I’ll refer people to it regularly. As you know, I didn’t test positive but am still sensitive.

I am a big fan of pickled fermented foods. One tiny suggestion might be to clarify that refrigerator pickles or store-bought jarred pickles are not probiotic. I have a great sauerkraut recipe on my blog if people are interested, and I plan on providing a fermented pickle how-to soon. Kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, yogurt, and tempeh are all natural probiotics, but if they are heated it kills the good bacteria.

Jean Layton
Jean Layton
October 18, 2012 2:02 pm

Hi Stephanie,
You are correct, any saurkraut or pickles in a can or heat pasturized jar is not full of good bacteria. The good bugs get killed off in the processing.
I tend to search out the non pasturized ones, and Ed (hubby) is making sauerkraut in the garage now.

Rachel Bradley
Rachel Bradley
October 14, 2012 2:33 pm

I think you should add another most likely suspect: modern baking yeast. Not only could the new yeast be an allergen, but the massively shortened rise times prevent a lot of problematic issues with grain from being taken care of by the function of natural yeast/bacterial cultures.

Nicole M
Nicole M
October 14, 2012 1:25 pm

The hexaploid (42 chromosome) wheat is a natural hybrid that occurred shortly after wheat cultivation began several thousand years ago. It’s possible that the Japanese variation of common hexaploid wheat, from which most of the modern varieties are bred, might be different enough from the European and West Asian varieties to cause problems. Last time I checked, GMO wheat was not commercially available, so that would not be an issue yet.

I’m very sorry if I am being overly science nerdy. But I think people tend to mix up our increased understanding of hybridization with genetic modification.

October 14, 2012 1:07 pm

I’m not gluten-intolerant but I find myself bloated if I eat too much wheat products. I had a tough time after quitting smoking nothing tasted goo just cherries lol (read somewhere that they are flavoring tobacco with things like that maybe that was the reason) so I found I was less bloated and gassy the days I eat just fruit and veggies. I have already cut back on amount of meat… So I lost weight after the 5 weeks on patch… AND feel much better.. so maybe it’s both but I will keep it that way!! So pizza and pastas are a special dinner only once in a while.

Jean Layton
Jean Layton
October 14, 2012 2:30 pm
Reply to  Star

Sounds like a healthy choice for you.

October 14, 2012 10:40 am

I have one scientific thought and one not-so-scientific one. Scientifically, I have Immunoglobulin A deficiency. It’s the most common type of Immunoglobulin deficiency and is a risk factor to Celiac disease. Testing just for “allergies” won’t indicate it. You have to be tested specifically for the presence of IgA in your blood (among a few other immunoglobulins). I was 34 when I was finally diagnosed and was only diagnosed because my son has it an had extensive allergy tests done and his doctor recommended I get checked too. IgA deficiency is genetic and there’s no scientific evidence it’s related to diet yet it can cause Celiac disease. I’d assume someone who is actually tested enough to be diagnosed with Celiac they also would have been tested for IgA deficiency, but it’s worth it to ask your doctor about it specifically as IgA deficiency also makes you more susceptible to infections… Read more »

Jean Layton
Jean Layton
October 14, 2012 2:29 pm
Reply to  EmmieJ

Hi Emmie, Most blood panels for celiac disease include IgA, IgG, anti endomysial antibodies and tissue trans glutaminase. The IgA is crucial for exactly the reason you describe, an immunoglobulin deficiency. It is one possible indicator of celiac, but not a causative one. I refer to this citation frequently when folks ask about the frequency of diagnosis. [PDF] Current approaches to diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease: an evolving spectrum A Fasano, C Catassi – GASTROENTEROLOGY- …, 2001 – Celiac disease (CD) is a syndrome characterized by damage of the small intestinal mucosa caused by the gliadin fraction of wheat gluten and similar alcohol-soluble proteins (prolamines) of barley and rye in genetically susceptible subjects. The presence of gluten … Cited by 885 Related articles View as HTML BL Direct All 28 versions Sorry it isn’t a live link but the url leads to a pdf. Ah Technology. You are… Read more »

Lentil Breakdown
October 14, 2012 8:47 am

I just had a blood allergy test that said I’m allergic to wheat and corn, but not gluten. What do you make of that, and how accurate do you think these tests are?

Jean Layton
Jean Layton
October 14, 2012 2:10 pm

Hi Lentil Breakdown.
Love the name.
Which blood test was run? IgG? IgA? a panel?
each test has benefits and negatives.
Frequently they just can’t measure finely enough to be definitive.
I tend to use these as one tool in diagnostics, with an elimination and challenge diet as the final answer.

October 14, 2012 8:41 am

Just a note – you mean chromosomes not genes. And pretty much all crop plants are polyploid.

Jean Layton
Jean Layton
October 14, 2012 2:01 pm
Reply to  S.

Hi S.
Actually I was going to use Alleles but thought it wasn’t a common enough term for most folks.
I drew from this citation,
Thanks for reading.

October 14, 2012 8:07 am

Thanks, Jean for the information. I’m not gluten-intolerant, but nothing makes me gain weight faster than eating bread, so I tend to avoid it. I’d like to experiment with baking my own. What about using whole wheat? Is all wheat genetically modified? Any recommendations for healthy grains that I can use? Thanks!

Jean Layton
Jean Layton
October 14, 2012 2:08 pm
Reply to  Cheryl

Hi Cheryl,
Making your own bread would be the best.
All of the commercially available wheat has been bred to increase the starch volume and decrease the fiber. If you have ancient wheats available to you, I’d suggest you try them.
One big benefit of baking your own bread, you tend to not bake daily creating a rate limiting step for eating it. 🙂
I make lots of bread for my family of four, using brown rice flour, sorghum flour, gluten free oat flour, millet flour, cassava flour, teff flour, quinoa flour and many more.
If the gluten doesn’t cause you problems, try spelt, tricale, rye and barley flours.
Feel free to start from a great bread recipe you like and play!
If you don’t already have a favorite one, look to Peter Rinehart books. He is brilliant in wheat.