Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance
Beverly McKechnie, Certified Health Coach for the Independent
Information about gluten sensitivity or intolerance has certainly been in the forefront over the last few years. Diet plans that eliminate gluten abound. Grocery and health food stores are carrying more and more gluten-free products. Though we may be weary of the topic, many people are choosing adopt a gluten-free diet and are finding themselves feeling better for it.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye which, after ingestion, can cause a reaction in people with celiac disease for gluten intolerance. Of the two conditions, celiac disease can be the most serious. Though they can share many of the same symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation, gluten intolerance or sensitivity does not have the intestinal inflammation, flattening of the absorbing villi, or long-term damage to the small intestines that characterizes celiac disease. Those who have celiac disease often have a high degree of intestinal permeability of the mucosal layer of the digestive tract, allowing bacteria, antigens and undigested food proteins to seep through the gastro-intestinal barrier. This is sometimes called “leaky gut”.
It is estimated that most people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance go undiagnosed. Just look on the shelves of the drug and grocery stores to see the increase in medications for digestive issues and it is not hard to believe that many people are self- treating the symptoms of those disorders. Some researchers believe that more than 55 diseases or conditions have been linked to gluten ingestion: conditions such as inflammation of the joints, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, migraines headaches, depression, fatigue after ingesting gluten and keratosis pilaris or “chicken skin” on the back of the arms, to name a few.
If you suspect your discomfort may be due to celiac disease, your physician can perform tests to either confirm or rule out the disorder. Celiac disease calls for a lifelong elimination of gluten from the diet. A dietician can be helpful for diet guidelines. If gluten sensitivity is thought to be the problem, an elimination diet may be the answer. Eliminate all forms of gluten–wheat, barley, rye and cross-contaminated oats–for at least three weeks (longer is even better) and see how you feel. Then reintroduce gluten products. If you feel significantly better off of the gluten and worse when you reintroduce it, then gluten is likely a problem for you.
A personal testimony from a gluten-free household: Almost four weeks ago, my husband started a program with Complete Care Chiropractic. Weight loss and a reduction of blood pressure medication was the goal. Part of their program includes a diet that eliminates all grains, dairy, legumes, processed food and sugar. The results have been successful thus far with medication cut in half and 17 pounds lost. But some of the unforeseen benefits have been surprising: increased energy, improved eyesight, teeth that are whitening and joint pain greatly reduced. So far, we have not missed the foods that we have eliminated because our bodies are being nourished.
The typical American diet of today has not improved the health of America. Chronic disease is on the rise and much of it can be prevented by dietary changes. One thing of which I am sure, is that good health is worth whatever the price and that the sacrifice of the old family favorites is not much of a sacrifice after all.