Gluten intolerance or sensitivity is a condition that causes an individual to react after consumption of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. According to the Celiac Center, about 6% of the US population, or around 18 million people, have gluten intolerance, compared to 1% that has celiac disease 1 2 .
Could you be one of them?
Up to 55 diseases have been associated with gluten. It’s estimated that about 99% of the people who have either celiac disease or gluten intolerance are never diagnosed. 3
Gluten sensitivity can affect almost every system, tissue, and cell in the human’s body since the bacteria that inhabit the gut aid control everything from hormone production and nutrient absorption to cognitive processes and metabolic function.
According to the professionals, gluten intolerance should only be spotted after 4 :
- ruling out wheat allergies, gluten ataxia, and celiac disease, using blood and some other tests which can pinpoint those predictable disorders;
- diagnosis need to include testing for AGA antibodies in the blood, although these are not all the time present, and
- there must be an improvement in symptoms on a gluten-free diet.
At this time, the only treatment for gluten sensitivity is following a gluten-free diet that excludes all barley, wheat, cross-contaminated oats, and rye.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance can vary and may include joint pain, gastrointestinal problems, joint pain, depression, and fatigue. The same symptoms are linked with celiac disease, thus, it is important to get the right diagnosis.
Recent research suggests that gluten sensitivity symptoms indicate in almost every system in the body: the endocrine system, central nervous system (as well as the brain), reproductive system, skeletal system, and cardiovascular system (including the health of the heart and blood vessels).
Because gluten intolerance can lead to increased levels of inflammation (which is the root of most conditions) and autoimmune reactions, it’s associated with a great number of diseases. However, the main issue is that many persons fail to attribute this kind of symptoms to an undiagnosed food intolerance.
Gluten intolerance symptoms (of NCGS) can include:
- Frequent headaches
- Trouble remembering information and difficulty concentration (“brain fog”)
- Joint and muscle pains
- IBS and digestive symptoms, including cramping, diarrhea, bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, and constipation.
- Skin problems, including eczema, skin rashes, dermatitis, rosacea
- Chronic fatigue syndrome and ongoing low energy levels
- Infertility and reproductive problems
- Tingling and numbness in the legs and arms
- Nutrient deficiencies, including iron deficiency (anemia)
- Possibly a higher risk for psychiatric and neurological disease, including dementia, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Higher risk for learning disabilities, including ADHD and autism
How can gluten cause problems? In spite of what many people think, gluten sensitivity (as well as celiac disease) is more than just a digestive issue. That is because research submits that gluten could actually cause major changes in the gut microbiota – a huge problem considering that person’s well-being depends heavily on the health of the gut.
How to Test for Gluten Intolerance?
I think that the best way to determine if you have a problem with gluten is to do an elimination diet and remove it from your diet for about 2-3 weeks and then restore it.
Remember that gluten is really large protein and it may take months and sometimes even years to eliminate from your system. Therefore, the longer you can remove it from your diet before restoring it – the better.
The best advice that I usually give my patients is that if they feel considerably better off of gluten or feel worse when they restore it, then this protein is likely an issue for them. So that you get correct results from this gluten intolerance test you need to eliminate 100% of this protein from your diet.
How to Treat Gluten Intolerance?
Removing gluten 100 percent from the diet – means 100 percent. Even some trace amounts of gluten from medications, supplement, or cross contamination supplements could be enough to cause an immune reaction in the body.
Remember, “we don’t eat it in our house, only when we eat out” or the 80/20 rule is a complete misconception. A study from 2001 claims that for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, consuming gluten just once a month enlarged the relative risk of death by 600 percent.
The Best Natural Gluten Intolerance Treatments
Gluten sensitivity can be successfully treated with the following 3 methods:
- Elimination Diet
Many doctors are doubtful to attribute a patient’s symptoms to gluten sensitivity when they could be caused by some other disorders, therefore, sometimes the patients should take the matter into their own hands. Including an elimination diet in your eating plan is certainly the greatest way to test your own reaction to this protein. The result of an elimination diet aid determines which of the symptoms could be attributed to gluten and confirm you whether or not you should go gluten-free.
An elimination diet involves eliminating gluten from your diet completely for a period of at least one month (but preferably longer – as 3 months) and then restoring it again. If your symptoms improve during the elimination diet time and then return once gluten is consumed again, that is a clear sign that this protein was contributing to your symptoms. Though, it is truly important to test only one mutable at a time (gluten) and not several (such as sugar, gluten, and dairy) because this may cause you to incorrectly attribute symptoms.
- Gluten-Free Diet
After you do an elimination diet, you will be able to regulate if, and how severely, you are intolerant to consuming gluten-containing food, you’ll know how significant it’s for you to follow a gluten-free diet. In case you have a severe reaction to gluten when you restore it into your diet after the elimination time, you may want to get tested for celiac disease, in order to know whether you should avoid 100% of gluten forever. If you’re sure you do not have celiac disease, you should still avoid this protein as much as possible so you can prevent further digestive issues, gut irritation, and many other ongoing symptoms.
As we mentioned before, a gluten-free diet doesn’t include wheat, barley, and rye. This means you need to avoid most baked products found in supermarkets, the greatest part of packaged foods (cereals, bread, cookies, cakes, pasta etc.), flour-containing foods (like pasta or pizza at restaurants), and some sorts of alcohol, as well as beer.
You must check ingredient labels very carefully as gluten is hiding in numerous packaged foods.
In case you do not have celiac disease, it is likely that occasionally consuming gluten-containing foods won’t cause serious health issues or long-term damage, but you will feel much better and get more adapted to a gluten-free diet the longer you practice it. When you eliminate gluten, you should focus on including more anti-inflammatory foods in your diet in order to heal potential nutrient deficiencies and repair your digestive system. These include raw dairy products, organic animal products, fruits, vegetables, probiotic foods, seeds, and nuts.
Furthermore, when it comes to baking, you could try these naturally gluten-free substitutes for wheat flour:
- Black rice and brown rice
- Sweet potato
- Chickpea flour
- Coconut flour
- Almond flour
What if your symptoms don’t get better when you eliminate all gluten sources?
Remember that gluten is not the only thing that could cause digestive problems. Eggs, shellfish, conventional dairy products, and nuts may also cause intolerance or be a source of some food allergies. More about how to deal with food allergies naturally: LINK
- Tests to do
Experts believe that people who test negative for 2 main genes which are linked to celiac disease (HLA-DQ8 and HLA-DQ2) are also significantly less likely to experience NCGS or gluten intolerance. In case gluten intolerance or celiac disease runs in your family, you should speak to your GP about testing for the genes, along with antibodies, which can find out how active your immune system actually is.
Other tests that you can include is an IgG food allergy test and zolulin test (also known as lactulose test). These kinds of leaky gut methods can indicate if gluten (or candida yeast, parasites, and “bad” bacteria) is a reason for gut permeability. The size of the openings between the gut lining and the bloodstream is controlled by zolulin, thus, high levels indicate permeability.
With time, in case the gut lining remains to become permeable, small cellular membranes that streak the intestines and absorb nutrients from food – known as “microvilli” can become damaged. Therefore, knowing the severity of this condition can be crucial for stopping the issue from getting even worse.
Are Gluten-Containing Whole Grains (as well as Whole Wheat) Healthy?
There has been a growing prominence on whole grains in the standard American diet for decades. We have always been told that they are full of nutrients, fiber and should be eaten many times every day. According to Dr. Axe, there are a few reasons why this is actually true: they are shelf-stable, cheap to produce, can easily be stored and shipped, and are used to make many processed products that have a great profit margin.
All things having in consideration, the nutrient density of grains is quite low, particularly when you think through the bioavailability of their nutrients. A great number of the minerals and vitamins that are present in grains can’t actually be used by the body due to the presence of anti-nutrients, together with gluten, stated earlier.
While whole grains belong to some of the healthiest diets in the world (including the Mediterranean diet), they are also usually balanced by many nutrient-dense foods, such as protein, healthy fats (like extra-virgin olive oil), fruit, and vegetables. Grains can truly play an important role in a balanced diet, but in general, they are some sort of a suboptimal food source compared to more nutrient-dense foods as seeds, nuts, grass-fed animal products, fruits, vegetables, and fish. So, having them less often than some other sources of carbohydrates (as fruit or starchy veggies, for instance) it would be a smart idea.
Even grains that don’t contain gluten — as oats, rice, and corn – do have proteins that are related to gluten. Hence, even these could cause an immune response in some people. Most people feel better without any grains, legumes, or gluten in their regular diets, but they are not even aware of this because they have never had an extended period of time without consuming these foods.
If you are mostly healthy and do choose to consume any grains, you should try to focus on consuming gluten-free grains like gluten-free oats, rice, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. It’s also a great idea to appropriately prepare grains (particularly types that have gluten).
The Difference between Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease
Experts from the Center for Celiac Research have found that gluten intolerance is a bona fide condition, different from celiac disease, with specific intestinal response to gluten. Even though gluten-sensitive people have the abdominal pain, diarrhea, and some other symptoms experienced by those with celiac disease, they don’t have the flattening of the absorbing villi, intestinal inflammation, long-term damage, or serious harm to the small intestine, which describes the untreated celiac disease.
Experts found dissimilarities between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease in genes regulating the immune response in the gut and intestinal permeability. (Intestinal permeability is the capability of the mucosal layer of the digestive tract to prevent undigested food proteins, antigens, and bacteria from seeping over the gastrointestinal barrier. People who suffer from celiac disease usually have a high degree of permeability, called a leaky gut, but the research found that was not the case in people who are sensitive to gluten.)
Though scientists are looking for biomarkers, which would ultimately diagnose gluten intolerance, they haven’t yet come up with a precise test. Yet, gluten intolerance has been acknowledged as a real condition, after decades of being ignored by the medical communities. Actually, gluten intolerance has its own category in a list of gluten-related conditions recently made by a team of international celiac disease professionals.