It seems to be the buzz word these days – gluten. It also seems to be in every product we purchase at the grocery store, lurking somewhere in the ingredients. When we hear the word gluten, it may have a negative connotation to us. We may know someone who suffers from celiac disease and all the food restrictions associated with it. Approximately 1 in every 141 people in the United States have celiac disease according to the National Institutes of Health; however, there is a newer condition associated with gluten intolerance – nonceliac gluten sensitivity. People who suffer from this form of sensitivity have many of the same symptoms as celiac but without the intestinal damage or loss of nutrient absorption. But what is gluten? Where is it found? And how do we know if we suffer from a sensitivity to it?
Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. The gluten serves two purposes to the plant:
- Nourishes the plant embryo during germination.
- Allows the dough to have elasticity which gives it chewiness once baked.
Gluten isn’t necessarily bad for us if we don’t suffer an intolerance to it. In fact, gluten-free diets can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber that our body needs to thrive. For those who have celiac disease, these nutrients are not absorbed because the body reacts with an abnormal immune response that actually damages the intestines. The allergic reaction causes the microvilli to eventually atrophy and erode over time, which causes the poor nutrient absorption and leaky gut. This, in turn, creates the symptoms all too familiar with celiac and nonceliac gluten sensitivity:
- weight loss
- fat malabsorption
- malnutrition: i.e. iron deficiency, anemia
When there is an actual diagnosis or a suspicion of an intolerance, doctors recommend a diet free of gluten. This includes bread, beer, french fries, pasta, salad dressing, soy sauce, gravies, certain candy, and even some soups. For a complete list you can visit the Celiac Disease Foundation at https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/sources-of-gluten/.
A simple test can determine whether or not you have a sensitivity to gluten. Educating yourself when it comes to maintaining optimal health is key. Otherwise you needlessly suffer the consequences of the symptoms. If you suspect a food allergy of any kind, talk with your Chiropractor and get the answers you deserve.