so, what exactly is it?
let’s start with the basics,
Gluten is a protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley & rye. Common foods where gluten sneaks into:
Corn (including corn starch and corn meal)
Food starches, emulsifiers and stabilizers
Artificial coloring and flavoring
Malt extract, flavor or syrup
Vegetable broth, gum and protein
However, gluten is not found just in food.
Toothpaste and Mouthwash
OTC Medications (gluten is often used as a binding agent)
All contain gluten. Always check the nutritional label when buying items in store.
An estimated 1 in 100 people have an autoimmune disease called Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease is hereditary, meaning that it runs in the family(ies). To develop the disease, a person must inherit the genetic tendency, already be consuming gluten & have the disease “activated” which is usually done so by stress, trauma &/or viral infections. When those with the disease ingest gluten, their body has an immune response that attacks their small intestine. This attack leads to damage on the villi that lines their small intestine – which are like small hair combs that help to pass things along the intestine. But when the villi are damaged, nutrients cannot be properly absorbed. Common symptoms include pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, fatigue, bloating, gas and in some cases, a skin rash.
Celiac Disease is diagnosed in two parts. First, a blood test is performed to screen for celiac disease antibodies. If that test comes back positive, a biopsy of the small intestine is performed to confirm the diagnosis.
GLUTEN SENSITIVITY + WHEAT ALLERGY:
Gluten sensitivity is a non-Celiac wheat sensitivity (or NCWS) and wheat allergy is an immune reaction to any of the hundreds of proteins in wheat. This reaction can happen instantaneously – within minutes to hours of consumption. Symptoms range from nausea, abdominal pain, itching, headache, light-headedness or trouble breathing.
This allergy is usually identified through RAST (radio allergo sorbent blood testing) or skin prick testing, which is completed by an allergist.
It is possible for a person to have both Gluten Sensitivity & Wheat Allergy.
All three of these medical conditions can be controlled with the appropriate diet & regular visits with a doctor and RDN.
So, why and how did gluten become such a “thing?”
I’m sure you’ve noticed that over the past few years, the words “gluten free” have been all over menus & grocery stores items. Well, when did this all happen & why the sudden need for it?
There are a number of factors that have influenced the rise in gluten intolerances.
- Wheat grain has & is being altered to provide crops that are more resistant to drought and bake easily.
- Collectively, people are beginning to have more damaged gut flora (the environment in your stomach) which is a cause of high use of antibiotics &/or consuming foods that we cannot easily digest.
- Society’s constant use of diets has led to vitamin deficiency, which interferes with the body’s ability to suppress immune cells.
If you’re still confused, don’t fret. I am here to be a source of support and act as a platform for those of you who may be struggling with any of these conditions.
I hope to encourage each of you to take charge of your health & continue to be inspired by the bounty of food. Don’t ever feel limited by food, it has a lot more to offer than what you’d expect.
Food is the best medicine and tool for healing. With a little tweak here & substitution there, we all can learn to bask in its delicious glory.
Celiac Disease Foundation
Gluten Intolerance Group