Are you Sensitive to the ‘G’ Word?
How many people do you know that have stopped eating gluten? Maybe you have done this yourself.
Increasingly, when people first come in to see me they say that they have taken themselves off gluten, or sometimes that they did so in the past but are now eating gluten once more. Some saw improvement in their symptoms, others not.
The incidence of Coeliac disease is on the rise. But in addition to those diagnosed with celiac disease there are many more with a gluten sensitivity, an inability to digest the protein gluten found in some grains. One study done by the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota showed that intolerance of wheat gluten is four times more common today that it was in the 1950’s. The way for the gluten sensitive to stop the effects on their body of the undigested gluten is, as with Coeliac disease, to avoid eating the foods.
Gluten sensitivity causes inflammation and an autoimmune response where the immune system starts to attack the body. The New England Journal of Medicine lists thirty-five diseases caused by gluten sensitivity including ADHD and depression and in these days of rising concern about the incidence of disease caused by inappropriate diet it is significant that gluten sensitivity increases your risk for Type 1 Diabetes, obesity, gastrointestinal cancers, brain disorders, autism and thyroid disease. Unfortunately, your risk of developing these diseases increases dramatically when there is a delay in proper diagnosis.
Modern wheat is different to old wheat varieties, as the proportion of gluten in wheat has increased enormously due to hybridization in modern wheat grains. Also, prior to the 19th Century wheat was always mixed with other grains, legumes or nuts when it was milled – pure refined white flour has only been around for about 200 years.
The modern Western diet is extremely grain heavy and so the consumption of gluten has also increased significantly. Many people may have developed their sensitivity to gluten because of overexposure. Gluten is added purposefully to products because it increases the hunger signals in the body and so you want to eat more of that product. I have heard, although haven’t verified, that up to ten times the amount of naturally occurring gluten is added to fluffy, white packaged bread.
When foods are in their natural state the components work synergistically, they balance each other and work together. But when one component is added or removed it becomes more difficult for the body to metabolise the food properly. This is why you are constantly encouraged to eat ‘Whole Foods’ – they are balanced.
DO YOU HAVE A GLUTEN SENSITIVITY?
Here are some signs that might indicate that you do.
- The most obvious ones to look for are gastrointestinal and include bloating, wind, cramping, queasiness and nausea, constipation or diarrhea or both of them alternating.
- Headaches and migraines can be caused by gluten
- Connective tissue (tendons, ligaments) or muscle aches and pains
- Dizziness, balance problems, tingling or numbness in your fingers and toes, or pain or weakness in the extremities.
- Sudden mood shifts, chronic irritability, depression
- Tiredness and fatigue, either chronic or occurring after every meal, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
- Weight loss and weight gain
- Infertility, irregular menstrual cycles and miscarriage
- Symptoms get worse with emotional trauma and stress
The difficulty is that these symptoms are common to lots of diseases which makes it difficult to definitely attribute them to gluten sensitivity. You don’t actually need to be diagnosed with any specific disease (like CFS or Fibromyalgia) or a gluten sensitivity to test out the possibility that your symptoms are due to gluten in your diet. If you are experiencing these symptoms it is worth investigating whether gluten is behind them.
DISCOVER IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO GLUTEN
If you are trying to work out if gluten is your enemy it is really important to do things systematically. Write down every symptom that you experience. Don’t dismiss any because you make assumptions about them – such as the aches and pains are because you sit too much. Include everything and don’t try and explain them.
Then go onto a gluten free diet for a couple of months. This can be harder than it seems because it doesn’t simply mean eating gluten free bread. Gluten is found hidden in many, many foods and it could well be worth consulting a Natural Medicine practitioner who has experience with food sensitivities to guide and support you through the process.
After you have been off gluten for a couple of months check out how many of the symptoms on your list you still experience. If a number of them have improved it might be worth sticking to the GF diet for a longer time. You may find that only a few have gone but if they are symptoms that cause you significant hardship or annoyance it will be worth keeping gluten free.
If you are sensitive to gluten, it is likely that after you have been gluten free for a while you will once more show the symptoms you had before going gluten free if you eat foods with gluten again.
Wheat is only one of the grains with gluten – others are barley, rye, spelt, kamut (Khorasan), oats and triticale. Other grains including buckwheat, millet, amaranth, rice, and quinoa are gluten free and you can use them freely.
If you decide that you can’t possibly go gluten free then it’s quite likely you are gluten intolerant. The foods that we are addicted to are usually ones that we have a problem with, as a chemical reaction occurs in our brain when we eat them causing us to crave them even more.
Do you suspect you may be gluten sensitive?
Would you some great Gluten Free (and Dairy-Free) recipes? You’ll find lots of links to great recipes pinned here on my pinterest page.
All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site.