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The Trouble With Gluten

The Trouble With Gluten

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 here.

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
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas and flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Vomiting.

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:

  • Fatigue
  • Vitamin/mineral deficiencies
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Bone/joint pain
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • 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 necessary.

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
  • Beverages
  • Broths
  • Candies
  • Beer
  • Breads
  • Cakes/pies
  • Cereals
  • Cookies
  • Croutons
  • Ice cream
  • Chocolate
  • Crackers
  • Gravies
  • Imitation crab
  • Licorice
  • Malt vinegar
  • Matzo
  • Oats
  • Pastas
  • Processed luncheon meats
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces, including soy sauce
  • Seasoned rice mixes
  • Seasoned snack foods
  • Seasoning packets
  • Soups and soup bases
  • Vegetables in sauce