As discussed in the earlier post, Gluten is a protein composed of gliadin and glutenin and is found in cereal grains like wheat, barley, rye and triticale. This gluten can play havoc in the intestines of individuals who lack certain enzymes (tissue transglutaminase- tTG) necessary for breaking down gluten into its constituent proteins i.e gliadin and glutenin.
As the food passes through the digestive tract, the gastrointestinal immune system of susceptible individuals identifies gliadin as a foreign substance and starts producing antibodies against it. These antibodies not only attack gliadin but they also attack tissue transglutaminase enzyme and cause damage to the microvilli of the small intestine which eventually atrophies and erodes.
The main function of microvilli in our body is to absorb nutrients through the intestinal wall. However, in gluten-sensitive or intolerant individuals, their this ability of absorbing nutrients is highly decreased. This results in a host of problems like malnutrition, diarrhea, constipation, etc. This flattening of microvilli is a distinctive feature of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder.
Unfortunately, the action of these antibodies is not restricted to tTG alone, they may also attack any other organ or system in the body like head, skin, pancreas, thyroid etc. leading to a host of other autoimmune disorders.