Walking through the supermarket aisles, you may have noticed an increasing
number of products labeled “gluten-free.” What is gluten and
why would you want to cut it out of your diet?
“Gluten is a protein found in cereal grains, especially wheat, that
gives dough its elastic texture. People with intolerances to gluten can
develop headaches, tingling, fatigue, muscle pain, skin rashes, joint
pain and other symptoms, because the autoimmune attack at the root of
the disease gradually erodes the wall of the intestine,” notes Carl
Gauthier, MD, of North Oaks Rheumatology Clinic. “This leads to
poor absorption of iron, folate and other nutrients that affect everything
from energy to brain function.”
Growing awareness of gluten sensitivity has led some who struggle with
intestinal problems to try a gluten-free diet.
Gluten intolerance of any kind, including Celiac Disease, is often difficult
to diagnose because it manifests itself in murky ways. People with gluten
sensitivities and intolerances usually have stomachaches, gas and diarrhea—as
do people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Patients with gluten sensitivities exhibit the classic symptoms of intolerances
but have no detectable intestinal damage.
If you suspect your body may have trouble processing gluten, talk to your
primary health care provider about being tested for Celiac Disease. If
the test comes back negative, try a gluten-free diet for a week to see
if you feel better. Cutting out gluten is the most reliable way to determine
if you are sensitive to the protein. It’s also the best treatment
for sensitivities and intolerances alike.
For a personal testimonial about gluten sensitivity, read Brandi's story
Facts About Gluten
Gluten is the elastic protein in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. It
is the “glue” that holds together breads, pasta and most baked goods.
A person with an adverse reaction to gluten may experience a combination
of gastrointestinal symptoms, such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Acid reflux
- Gas and flatulence
- Weight loss or gain
Gluten sensitivity or intolerance can affect the gut, but many symptoms
do not. Some of the 250+ symptoms not centered in the digestive tract include:
- Vitamin/mineral deficiencies
- Bone/joint pain
- Inability to concentrate
- Bruising easily
- Skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, rashes, acne and rosacea
In the most severe cases of intolerance, gluten consumption damages the
small intestine and affects the body’s absorption of nutrients.
This harmful intolerance is referred to as Celiac Disease.
An estimated 3 million Americans (1% of the population) suffer from Celiac
Disease. As many as 10 percent are estimated to have gluten sensitivity.
Unfortunately, most people remain undiagnosed.
In all forms of gluten sensitivity and intolerance, eliminating gluten
from your diet is necessary. This causes symptoms to lessen dramatically,
and allows the small intestine to heal. In most cases, medication is not
There are a few surprising non-food places gluten can hide, like make-up,
lipstick and shampoo. Gluten is sometimes used as a filler in medications
and in adhesives on envelopes.
The following items should be avoided unless labeled “gluten-free”:
- BBQ Sauces
- Ice cream
- Imitation crab
- Malt vinegar
- Processed luncheon meats
- Salad dressings
- Sauces, including soy sauce
- Seasoned rice mixes
- Seasoned snack foods
- Seasoning packets
- Soups and soup bases
- Vegetables in sauce