By Diane Irving
Millions of Americans have gluten sensitivity or suffer from full-fledged Celiac Disease, which can conjure up severe health problems. Simple food indulgences could be harmless in moderation, but it could also have substantial impacts on the body. Symptoms from Celiac or gluten sensitivity can start out with headaches or less serious reactions, then autoimmune diseases, organ or brain dysfunction may occur over time. A warning to consumers: allergy awareness is crucial to health. Avoid consuming gluten contents and you could lessen the severity of symptoms or prevent serious illness.
Knowing the difference between a sensitivity and Celiac Disease can be tricky. According to the Celiac Center, the disease affects 1 percent of the population, and 18 million suffer from sensitivity. Celiac Disease can evoke harmful problems including intense stomach pain, bloating, brain fog, headaches, and a multitude of other symptoms. Sensitivity may also induce brain fog, tiredness, stomach issues, joint pain, and more. BeyondCeliac.Org claims Celiac is mostly genetic, and the disease “damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.” According to the site, about 5-22% of diagnosed Celiac sufferers have a relative who also experiences symptoms of the disease. They claim that other possible outcomes from a diagnosis are reduced bone density and possibly even some cancers!
The Body’s Internal Reaction to Gluten
Dr. Amy Myers, a respected functional medicine practitioner has done extensive research on the impact gluten has on the body’s food process: “In sensitive people, gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break apart the tight junctions holding your intestines together.” She calls this process leaky gut, which allows harmful bodily byproducts including toxins, microbes, food particles and anti-bodies to spread throughout the body by the blood. From her studies, she believes leaky gut is a pre-condition of autoimmune diseases. The body’s response leads to inflammation, which causes the body to start attacking itself.
Besides foods that can cause a reaction, there are some bodily tissues that have a similar molecular make-up as gluten. The protein in gluten (gliadin) has similar properties as the thyroid. Once gluten is identified as a harmful substance in the body, the immune system begins to attack anything comparable. Other foods that could be confused as gluten by the body are: dairy, corn, millet, oats, rice, and yeast for their similar properties. Dr. Myers has identified this as, “molecular mimicry, when you eat dairy your body can get confused and think you just ate a bowl of pasta and trigger an immune reaction.”
Attack of the Antibodies
Surprisingly, gluten is found everywhere. Not just in foods, but in hair and body products as well. With consumption coming from all directions, cells can get overloaded and overworked. Year after year of an overfilled body could overwhelm the system. Dr. Myers explains that about one in thirty people have gluten sensitivity, and eating it consistently generates constant inflammation. Inflammation, if not controlled, can eventually turn into a full blown autoimmune disease. The connection of gluten and inflammation/autoimmune diseases is that gliadin antibodies get confused and attack organs, nervous systems, and other important systems. Dr. Myers reveals that approximately 55 diseases are associated with gluten sensitivity. Sensitive consumers may experience autoimmune diseases (Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and more), neurological issues (depression, ADD, MS, bi-polar, etc), infertility, diabetes, arthritis, skin disorders, IBS, acid reflux, muscle pain, and other serious medical problems.
Gluten must be removed from the diet completely. Dr. Myers suggests, “recent research has shown that eating gluten can elevate your gluten antibodies for up to three months, meaning that even if you only ate gluten four times a year, you would be in a state of inflammation year-round.” Dr. Myers warns that 99% of people with gluten intolerance have never been diagnosed! There is hope though; Dr. Myers believes that healing the gut with a special diet program can reverse most autoimmune diseases.
Gluten is labeled on ingredient lists as wheat, rye, malt and barley. It is described as a protein, gives food its consistency, and is used as a filler in many foods. Anyone who suffers from this intolerance should stay away from breads, pastas, and desserts, and even soy sauce! However, there are gluten-free alternatives for those who still want to enjoy carb indulgences or sauces. Most grocery stores offer gluten-free breads, pastas, dessert mixes, and soy sauces for anyone who wishes to follow the diet. Tastes may be slightly or exponentially different, but the benefits may be worth it.
Studies have shown that gluten can negatively impact those who are sensitive to it. The best proactive approach is to get tested for Celiac or gluten sensitivity. Dr. Marone can provide tests to help decipher individual allergy causes. In the meantime, forgo gluten-filled food indulgences and check the contents of each product. Label readers could not only enjoy positive health benefits, but could avoid serious debilitating illnesses.
*The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition and does not substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional. Please consult your chiropractor or physician to determine whether these self-care tips are appropriate for you.