So many people today are living and eating gluten-free. What started as a way of life only for those with celiac disease or a severe allergy to wheat has recently become the norm. With stronger awareness and testing, more people are being diagnosed with celiac disease who must avoid the inflammation in the small intestines caused by gluten. Yet others are also embracing a gluten-free diet for additional reasons. Many parents of kids with spectrum disorders have discovered better results with eating gluten-free while others have found less bloating and joint pain without gluten in their diets.
In fact, according to Natural News, “there are 35 diseases that can be caused by eating gluten listed in a review in the New England Journal of Medicine. Some of these symptoms are: arthritis, ADHD, depression, anxiety, IBS, lupus, frequent headaches, fatigue, eczema, loss of muscle coordination, osteoporosis, a weakened immune system, fungal overgrowth, organ inflammation, weight loss/weight gain, and malnutrition.” Additionally, “Gluten sensitivity increases your risk for type 1 diabetes, obesity, gastrointestinal cancers, brain disorders, autism and thyroid disease.”
For those who suspect that (or wonder if) gluten is causing symptoms or making symptoms worse, consider trying an elimination diet. I have found the single best ways to determine if you have an issue with gluten is to do an elimination diet. Remove all gluten from your diet for a month or more to see if symptoms lessen or if they persist.
The good news is that with a larger percentage of the population going gluten-free, there are more great food options, better labeling and more recipes available for those living gluten-free. The down-side of so many people avoiding gluten is that it may diminish the importance of strict adherence in public places such as restaurants for those who could get extremely ill from accidental exposure. For people with celiac disease or a gluten allergy, maintaining a strictly gluten-free diet must be taken very seriously.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that involves the intestinal tract, particularly the small intestine. For people with celiac disease the lining of the small intestine has been damaged by the effects of ingesting gluten, thus preventing the system from properly absorbing other foods. Symptoms of celiac disease can vary from “failure to thrive” to exhaustion to vomiting and severe stomach bloating. It is estimated that one out of 133 people in the United States has celiac disease and has strong hereditary connections.
An allergy is when the immune system overreacts to gluten and immediately produces antibodies known as IgE, signaling to the body that the food is harmful. These antibodies are produced as the immune system attempts protect itself from the harmful food. These antibodies set in motion a histamine reaction that can be seen on the skin (hives), in the airway (wheezing or anaphylaxis) and the stomach (vomiting). An intolerance to a food does not involve the immune system.
So what exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that works as a binding agent in common grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Many doctors talk of gluten as the “glue” that holds the grain together. Some grains, such as oats, can be also contaminated with wheat during processing so oats are generally avoided unless they are specifically labeled gluten-free. Yet gluten can be found in everything from soy sauce to food additives to Play Dough to licorice. Therefore it is very important for those who live gluten-free to read labels carefully and to avoid foods that are not clearly labeled as gluten-free. For a great guideline of what is and is not allowed on a gluten-free diet, go to: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gluten-free-diet/my01140.
Having a son with severe food allergies (including an allergy to gluten) as well several friends with celiac disease has made me extremely aware and educated on the effects of gluten on our bodies.
This post has been written in honor of Celiac Awareness Month. To learn more about celiac disease and Celiac Awareness Month, visit the Celiac Disease Foundation’s website at http://celiac.org/. Thank you to Udi’s Gluten Free for sponsoring this post and for sending me a fabulous box of Udi’s breads, muffins brownies and cookies as a thank you. Needless to say, I am one happy (and full) lady!
Have you gone gluten-free? Have you done an elimination diet? If so, why did you make this lifestyle change? How do you feel now?