What is Gluten?
Gluten is part of the tough, elastic protein found in wheat, oats, rye, spelt, barley and many other grains. Gluten binds the dough in baking and prevents crumbling – don’t let this fool you, gluten free bread is getting better year-by-year! Despite just about 90% of the good stuff on this earth containing gluten, beer, croissants, the world is becoming more educated around the understanding of gluten sensitivity/intolerance.
Unlike celiac disease, gluten sensitivity/intolerance does not yet have any diagnostic medical testing. Gluten Sensitivity or gluten intolerance is a condition that causes an individual to react (in any forms – trust me) after consuming gluten. This term is used to describe those who are unable to tolerate gluten and experience very similar symptoms to those of celiac disease, yet lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage. Gluten sensitivity should only be diagnosed after first ruling out wheat allergies, celiac disease and gluten ataxia (autoimmune condition where antibodies attack the cerebellum).
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
Many friends and family members have been tested for Celiac Disease to find out they have gluten sensitivity/intolerance. There are more than 200 symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity/intolerance including:
- Feeling sluggish, lethargy, poor concentration
- Abdominal pain
- Swollen body parts and joints
- Joint pain and/or blood in stool
- Migraine or headaches
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Irritable bowl syndrome (IBS)
These symptoms are also associated with celiac disease; this is why it is so important to get the correct diagnosis. Cutting out gluten may seem like a difficult and limited task. Fortunately, there are so many healthy and delicious new products on the market and the world becoming educated that being gluten free is easier than you think!
Gluten sensitivity is clinically recognised as less severe than celiac disease. It cannot test positive for celiac disease on blood tests nor do individuals have the same type of intestinal damage or inflammation, though some may experience minimal intestinal damage. Gluten sensitivity is a bona fide condition, distinct from celiac disease but with its own intestinal response to gluten.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
While eating gluten is the most common cause of persistent symptoms, a dual diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is also very common. IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine causing it to be abnormal while there is no physical disease present. Symptoms of IBS include constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, abdominal pains, and fatigue and mood alterations.
Researchers have found an overlap in a low-FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) diet. This diet was developed to control gastrointestinal symptoms associated with IBS, poorly absorbed in the small intestine that proceeds to the large intestine and fermented by bacteria.
Some evidence indicates that following the FODMAP diet can provide relief to approximately 75% of individuals experiencing IBS-like symptoms. This diet is maintained for a period of two to six weeks followed by the reintroduction of some foods to determine the most problematic FODMAP sources for the individual.
Always reach out to your practitioner and explore the options for treatment available. I found recording my daily intake most beneficial so I can pin point exactly what foods my body (despite my mind enjoying) does not tolerate. Google is also amazing for finding gluten free tips and restaurants but look no further than articles posted on this blog on just how easy travelling being gluten free is.
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