Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, rye and barley. For individuals suffering from an intolerance to gluten, including both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, the gluten protein is attacked by the immune system as a toxin. This “attack” can result in extensive damage to the body, creating symptoms that affect digestion, mood, heart, liver, thyroid, reproduction, brain function, muscles and joints. All told there are hundreds of symptoms and diseases associated with gluten.
Is Gluten Creating Your Health Problems?
Are you one of those suffering? If so, you’re in very good company. Gluten intolerance is extremely common, affecting conservatively 20% of our population. Yet only 5% of the millions suffering know that their health problems are caused by gluten.
Over 300 Diseases & Symptoms are Caused by Gluten
Some diseases and symptoms caused by gluten intolerance are:
|Brain fog/Poor memory||Stunted growth|
Unfortunately the list goes on and on, but above is a small sampling.
What’s the Difference Between Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease?
Celiac is an autoimmune disease affecting about 1% of the population (although that figure rises to 4% with increased age). There is a genetic component to celiac disease and while most people with the disease have a specific gene, research is finding more and more genes associated with celiac.
Celiac destroys the lining of the small intestine causing digestive problems in many. However there are many more celiacs with no digestive complaints who suffer symptoms from other parts of their body, chief amongst them the nervous system.
Gluten sensitivity is a condition that is estimated to affect anywhere from 10% to 40% of the population. Figures vary widely but increasing research should give us more precise numbers in the coming years. Until recently gluten sensitivity was questioned as a condition. But it is now clear that it is a very valid condition affecting a great number of individuals.
Similar to celiac disease, the immune system of the gluten sensitive individual reacts to the ingestion of gluten. The biggest difference between the two conditions is that the gluten sensitive individual doesn’t suffer the destruction of the small intestine as the celiac patient does. However, the damage that does occur to the body is no less severe to the health of the person suffering.
While lab tests exist to test for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, there is a lack of sensitivity that results in many false negatives, meaning that patients are told they are fine when they are not.
Newer lab tests have been released and time will tell if they are better than their predecessors. The first step is to get a blood and/or saliva test that evaluates for both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Simply receiving a negative test result for celiac disease does not rule out the presence of gluten sensitivity, so it is recommended to test for both. If the tests are negative but your symptoms suggest that gluten could be a problem (Take the Self Test on the “Am I Gluten Sensitive” page), do a 30-day trial of a gluten-free diet and see how you feel. Noticing an improvement of symptoms on a gluten-free diet is a valid test in and of itself, irrespective of any others.
What Should You Do if You’re Sensitive?
If you discover that gluten is a problem for you, the first step in treatment is to completely eliminate all gluten from your diet. While that may seem a daunting task, we are committed to supporting you through the transition. We have many sections of this website dedicated to just that, including a Gluten Blog and a section entitled “Am I Gluten Sensitive”. It isn’t easy, but the results are more than worth the effort.
What if All Your Symptoms Don’t Improve on a Gluten-free Diet?
As mentioned above, eliminating gluten is often just the first part of treatment. Some individuals improve dramatically with just that step, but more often the improvement, while good, is not enough to restore one to the status of feeling good again.
Due to gluten’s affect on the immune system, several problems can occur.
• One can develop infections in the intestine that, while “silent” symptom–wise, are preventing the intestine from completely healing.
• In addition, gluten creates a “leakiness” of the intestine that compromises absorption of nutrients, inflames the immune system, and allows problems to develop in many other systems of the body. It is this “leaky gut” that is thought to be a major contributor to the long list of problems that can occur secondary to gluten.
• Due to the stress put on the immune system, your body can react to other foods as if they were gluten – these are called cross-reactive foods and a specialized lab test can determine if such reactions are occurring.
Accurately diagnosing gluten as a problem and handling the secondary effects correctly is one of the specialties of the doctors at HealthNOW, two of whom have authored a book on the subject, the bestselling “The Gluten Effect” and who are nationally acclaimed public speakers on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.
There are too many people needlessly suffering from the effects of gluten. We are committed to raising awareness and increasing the rate of diagnosis, thereby improving the health of affected individuals one by one, family by family.
People travel to see us at our Destination Clinic from across the country and internationally due to our highly effective treatment protocols. Regardless of where you live, consider the first step of a free phone consultation.
We are here to help!