The Truth about Gluten Sensitivities

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve tried to completely eliminate wheat from my diet. And I won’t lie, it hasn’t been easy at all.

I never thought I would have a difficult time or even “miss” wheat at all. But now I truly understand the power that it can have on both the mind AND the body.

Why am I doing this? I’m trying to rule out a gluten sensitivity, which is an issue that’s becoming more common today. And for those of you who are in doubt — it definitely is a real issue.

Gluten sensitivities can cause uncomfortable symptoms, and can even make some of us feel downright miserable.

But before you give up wheat or other gluten containing foods for good, do a little investigative work. Why? Because giving it up isn’t necessarily right for everybody.

What is a Gluten Sensitivity?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains such as rye, barley, and spelt. It’s also an additive used in many processed foods.

A gluten sensitivity is believed to be an immune related-reaction. One suspected culprit is gliadin,1 which is a component of gluten.

Normally your immune system produces antibodies to fight viruses or bacteria, but in a gluten-sensitivity reaction, antibodies may be produced against gluten.

Should We All Get On the Anti-Gluten Bandwagon?

Does everyone have to give up gluten? No. Simply put, most people don’t have gluten sensitivities. However, if you’re suffering from strange symptoms with an unknown cause, you may want to give it a shot.

Some of the symptoms frequently reported and linked to gluten sensitivities include the following: abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, fogginess, headaches, tiredness, rashes, joint and muscle pain, leg numbness, and depression.1

If this sounds like you, please read on!

Removing Gluten May Help You Feel Better

What are the benefits of going gluten-free? For one, you might feel healthier — if you have a real sensitivity.

Some of the conditions shown to improve include IBS, autism, dermatitis,2 and headaches.3

Not only that but, research shows that certain diseases are associated with anti-gliadin antibodies, showing there may be a link between them and gluten sensitivities. This doesn’t mean that gluten causes these diseases, but only that it warrants further investigation.

Here are some diseases that have been associated with anti-gliadin antibodies:

  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis4
  • Psoriasis4
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease4
  • Liver disorders4
  • Bipolar disorder5
  • Schizophrenia5
  • Multiple sclerosis6
How does this apply to you? If you have any of these conditions, perhaps you should find out if you’re gluten sensitive. After all, it can’t really hurt to experiment with your diet a bit.

Testing for Gluten Sensitivities

There’s no “standard” way to diagnose a gluten sensitivity, but one common approach is to perform a food sensitivity test. This screens a sample of blood for IgG antibodies, which may be produced in response to gluten.1

Another way to test is to eliminate wheat and other gluten-containing foods from your diet for at least two weeks. This is probably the best way, since certain cases of gluten sensitivities are idiopathic, meaning the true cause can’t be determined.

After your trial, evaluate your health. If you feel better then you may want to say goodbye to gluten, or if you don’t want to go that drastic, eat it sparingly.

A Life Without Gluten …

A life without gluten isn’t that bad. It may be hard, but it’s doable.

Many people object to this diet because it seems very limiting. However, there are plenty of things that can be eaten. You just have to be a little creative.

Here are some gluten-free foods that are worth a shot:

  • Almond crackers
  • Flax crackers
  • Millet bread
  • Buckwheat pancakes (No wheat here! Buckwheat is actually a fruit)
  • Rice flour muffins - for the occasional indulgence ;)
  • Mung bean noodles
Don’t forget — there are a variety of gluten-free products in the market too! Be on the lookout for them.

Do you have gluten sensitivity yourself? How has your life changed since removing it from your diet? Please share your experiences in the comments!

References:

  1. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012 Sep;46(8):680-5.
  2. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2012 Jan;36(1 Suppl):68S-75S.
  3. Neurology. 2001 Feb 13;56(3):385-8.
  4. Klin Med (Mosk). 1998;76(2):33-5.
  5. Psychiatry Res. 2012 Mar 30;196(1):68-71. 6. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Sep;1173:343-9.

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18 comments:

Roberta Johnson, Health & Wellness Consultant said...

My life has changed tremendously after removing gluten. I was shown to have gluten sensitivity through a saliva test I was doing for hormones. Not only did I suffer from these symptoms: abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, fogginess, headaches, tiredness, joint and muscle pain and leg numbness, but I found that when I didn't eat gluten, it completely eliminated my heartburn! I used to rely heavily on and off Nexium and always chewing antacids but no longer! Do I miss gluten? Yes, but in the end I choose feeling better over the food indulgences. All I have to do to remind myself is to cheat like I did on Christmas day and it took my two days to feel good again. I blame it on the GMO wheat we're fed in this country. When I traveled to Europe last year, I ate the bread in France and the Netherlands and it didn't bother me at all. Go figure!

LifeExtension said...

Roberta Johnson, Health & Wellness Consultant - Thanks for sharing your experience.

LifeExtension said...

Daniel Alexandra - Thanks!

Pawel said...

It's been a year since I started to get gluten sensitivity symptoms. It went to a point when I wasn't able to move, all joints in my body were hurting, I had literally problems laying down, sleeping was a nightmare. It all happened unexpected as I thought then. It didn't first occur it was gluten so it took couple of months after I was diagnosed. Now, gluten free I'm getting better and better.

Now that I learned more I can say I had some symptoms before it all happened - I was often tired, had head aches, didn't like to go out and play sports because I was getting tired easily and had to rest, etc. It's obvious when you know it, but there's a lot of people that think it's just the way they are built or it's just a lack of exercise not knowing that food has a lot of influence on their bodies.

LifeExtension said...

Pawel - Your story is amazing. It's a perfect example of how removing gluten from the diet (in a gluten sensitive person) can improve lives. We're glad you're doing better. Thanks for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

I started having "noticeable" symptoms about a year and a half ago' these were bloating, gas, and severe pain on my right side under my ribcage; the pain was particularly worse when I lay down at night. My Gynecologist's PA thought maybe I had fractured a rib; we took xrays, blood work (for Celiac disease) and abdominal sonograms, everything seemed to check out fine. I was referred to a Gastroenterologist who said I had IBS, she told me to stop eating salads for lunch and just eat a lean turkey sandwich on wheat bread; she also prescribed Dicyclomine for the bloating and pain. When I started having nausea on top of the pain a few months later, I decided to do some of my own research; I starting reading about gluten sensitivity. After eliminating all wheat, barley, rye, and pre-packaged foods, I noticed the pain going away. I have been gluten free for over a year now and the results are amazing! I have lost around 12 pounds and just feel lighter. I do miss bread but not the pain. I keep rice crackers on hand when I need something crunchy and salty, or I bake kale with a little sea salt and olive oil. My suggestion to anyone who is having digestive issues; go back to a vegetable and lean meat diet, start a food diary, and slowly add back foods every 48 hours.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Yet another successful story! Thanks for sharing your experience. It may help others pinpoint their own sensitivities.

Dr Charles Parker said...

Much appreciate this excellent piece! My take on gluten from hundreds of IgG tests in my office, attempting to delineate causal factors in refractory response to psych meds, is that it lives in a slow third place after casein and eggs. Yes, it's anecdotal, but I've seen these presentations so often I now call them the New Jersey Trifecta in this order of most common presentation: Mild/Casein, Eggs and Wheat/Gluten. I quite agree: Neuroscience evidence changes thinking.
cp
Dr Charles Parker
Author: New ADHD Medication Rules

LifeExtension said...

Dr Charles Parker- Thanks for reading and for your professional input! We appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

http://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/gluten-free-diet-veiled-eating-disorder-205600433.html

Cara Mengobati Psoriasis said...

yes all that's needed process, because there can not be direct if you want to get the best results.

hzeman said...

If I eat gluten or dairy I have problems with coordination. With large amounts I can actually fall down. Sometimes I get mood changes and can become very nasty. I am on a strict gluten and dairy free diet now, and these symptoms are gone. I never had any blood tests, but my dietary experience are conclusive.

Anonymous said...

Having a gluten sensitivity and a gluten allergy (such as Celiac Disease) are different. When testing for food sensitivity, a rise in Immunoglobulin G presents in persons with gluten ALLERGY. One can be sensitive to gluten without an IgG spike in the blood. Just food for thought...pun intended.

Anonymous said...

I have many of the symptoms mentioned including mild psoriasis, some limb numbness, stomache aches and frequent diarrhea, body aches. I have been off of gluten for over a year and it hasn't made much difference except I no longer have brain fog. What about oats and corn? What about grains in general? Isn't gluten found in places you wouldn't expect to find it? Or do I have other sensitivities. When I am tested for allergies, they say I am not allergic to ANYTHING!

LifeExtension said...

hzeman - It's amazing what gluten can do to some people! Sometimes a little bit of diet experimentation goes a long way- especially in your case. Thanks for sharing your experience!

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - The best way to know if gluten doesn't agree with your body is to avoid it. Sometimes the blood tests don't show anything but a person could still have a problem.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - It can be frustrating when you can't find the source of your health problems, especially when blood tests come back negative. Hang in there. :-)

Grains can cause problems for certain people as can nuts, oats, corn, dairy, eggs, soy, yeast, seafood, and so forth. The best thing is to do an elimination diet for a period of 7-10 days to determine if certain foods are causing your health issues. More info here:

http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2010/sep2010_Whats-Really-Making-You-Sick_01.htm

http://www.fammed.wisc.edu/sites/default/files//webfm-uploads/documents/outreach/im/handout_elimination_diet_patient.pdf

Also, feel free to call our advisor line for further suggestions (1-800-226-2370). We hope this helps!

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