Thursday, July 7, 2011

Could YOU Be Gluten Intolerant?

We have gone over what the heck gluten actually is... but how do you know if it is affecting you? Research shows that gluten sensitivity in some form, including celiac disease and mild gluten intolerance, affects approximately 15% of the US population. (These statistics are likely to be similar in Western countries with similar health issues and dietary patterns.) 

There IS a difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an immune reaction, a severe sudden onset allergic reaction, to the protein called gluten. This is commonly found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats. While celiac disease is initially an auto-immune disorder, it is also a disease of malabsorbtion, because essential nutrients are not absorbed. Therefore one of the most devastating symptoms of long-term undiagnosed celiac disease is malnutrition.

Gluten intolerance often has a slower onset than celiac disease, and may be hard to diagnose due to the broad range of symptoms and causes. This is what I am diagnosed with, and had a broad range of symptoms that took 3 years to diagnose.

So what are the specific symptoms of gluten intolerance and celiac disease? Check out the laundry list of symptoms below. This is why it's so difficult to diagnosis, and takes people an average of 10 years to get an final diagnosis.

  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorbtion e.g. low iron levels
  • Gastro-intestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Fat in the stools (due to poor digestion)
  • Aching joints
  • Depression
  • Eczema
  • Head aches
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability and behavioural changes
  • Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage
  • Cramps, tingling and numbness
  • Slow infant and child growth
  • Decline in dental health
  • Abdominal Distention
  • Abdominal Pain and Cramping
  • Alternating Bouts of Diarrhea and Constipation
  • Anemia
  • Arthritis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Autism
  • Bloating
  • Bone Density Loss
  • Borborygmi (stomach rumbling)
  • Constipation
  • Stunted Growth and Failure to Thrive
  • Depression, Anxiety and Irritability
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis (skin rash)
  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Malodorous Flatulence
  • Malodorous Stools
  • Gluten Ataxia
  • Grayish Stools
  • Hair Loss (Alopecia)
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Infertility
  • Joint pain
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Mouth sores or mouth ulcers
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling in the patient’s hands and feet
  • Osteoporosis
  • Peripheral Neuropathy (including either a tingling or sensation of swelling your toes and fingers)
  • Sjogren’s Disease
  • Steatorrhea (high lipids in the stool, which may cause the stool to float)
  • Teeth and Gum Problems
  • Turner Syndrome
  • Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies
  • Vomiting
  • Unexplained Weight loss
> Undiagnosed for long periods of time, food intolerances have been found to contribute to diabetes, bowel cancer, anemia and osteoporosis.

Why are gluten intolerance symptoms so varied? It is still a bit of a mystery; gluten intolerance and allergies affect adults and children in a variety of ways, but we do know that the less stress the better. Anecdotal evidence suggests emotional trauma and stress play a large role in worsening of symptoms

How to diagnose celiac disease and gluten intolerance? Until recently it was challenging to diagnose celiac disease because the symptoms are varied and similar to other diseases. For example, Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue, iron deficiency, irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal infections can all have similar symptoms. In fact there may be a cross over between gluten intolerance and some of these illnesses; an individual may have a combination of issues worsened by unsuitable food choices.

Now doctors test for raised levels of certain auto-antibodies in their blood. These antibodies are produced when the body senses a dangerous intruder allergen, like gluten. If the results indicate an allergy to gluten the doctor may perform a small intestine biopsy. This will reveal the damage to the villi in the small intestine. It is important to eat an ordinary diet including gluten, before being tested.

If you suspect that food may be playing a role in any of your symptoms - try a week test and cut out gluten and see how you feel after 7 days. Then maybe bring gluten back in and cut out dairy and see you how feel. You will definitely notice a difference in 7 days and it will give you a good idea of what your body needs or doesn't need.

Health is the most important thing you have. Take care of yourself. Find a great doctor and fight for your health if you are not feeling well.

- Stephanie

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