GLUTEN-FREE DIET

WHAT IS GLUTEN ANYWAY?

Gluten is a protein found in many different grains. On a gluten-free diet you must eliminate wheat, rye, oats and barley from your diet. There are two types of people who will need to follow a gluten-free diet. Individuals that have been diagnosed with either celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity will have to avoid gluten. For these individuals, the body doesn’t recognize the substance as safe, so the brain tells the immune system to produce antibodies to handle this foreign invader. Those antibodies can trigger adverse reactions that produce a wide range of unwanted symptoms from diarrhea to difficulty walking.


WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE PROBLEMS DIGESTING GLUTEN?

The exact cause of celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity is not known. You are at a greater risk of developing celiac disease if you have a first-degree relative who has the disease or if you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition.

The following theories have also been suggested as a cause.

  • Toxins in our food supply and environment are changing our DNA and affecting gene expression.
  • Over consumption of wheat in general is triggering an abnormal immune system response that manifests in digestion and absorption problems. 
  • Use of gluten as a food additive has increased.
  • Reoccurring antibiotic use is disrupting our gut flora. 
  • Lack of childhood exposure to parasites and probiotics increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing natural development of immune system.
  • Infections triggering changes in the small intestine. 
  • It is not gluten that is the only issue; a group of foods high in FODMAPs (Fermentable, Oligo-Di-Mono-saccharides And Polyols) could be to blame. These are the carbohydrates fructose (found in fruit and honey); lactose (in dairy); fructans (in wheat, garlic and onions); galactans (in legumes) and polyols (sugar-free sweeteners); and stone fruit like apricots, cherries, and nectarines. These are most prone to fermentation by the gut bacteria and when there is an overgrowth of bacteria these foods could contribute to symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Click here for more information on a Low FODMAP Diet.


GOING GLUTEN-FREE... IS IT FOR ME?

An estimated 1 in 133 Americans has celiac disease, so it makes sense that so many people are switching to a gluten-free diet. Plus, non-celiac gluten sensitivity is six times more prevalant than celiac disease. Eliminating gluten from the diet treats both conditions. 

NON-CELIAC GLUTEN SENSITIVITY VS. CELIAC DISEASE

 Non-Celiac Gluten SensitivityCeliac Disease
SymptomsSame as those found in celiac diseaseSame as those found in non-celiac gluten sensitivity
DiagnosisOnly diagnosed through a diet elimination protocol that is medically supervised through physican and administered by a dietitianDiagnosed via blood test (lgA, lgA-tTG, lgA-EMA, lgG-AGA, lgG/lgA-DGP), biopsy of small intestine to confirm positive blood
Diet Prior To TestingMust rule out celiac disease prior to following a diet elimination protocolMust NOT remove gluten from the diet prior to testing as it could produce a false negative and require repeat testing
Severity of ConditionClinically recognized as less severe than celiac diseaseClinically recognized as more severe than non-celiac gluten sensitivity
Diet ProtocolMust be supervised by a physician OR registered dietitian skilled in food sensitivities, as additional food eliminations or diets (such as low acid, dairy free, FODMAP) may be required. Offending items may be dose-dependent.Only treatment is 100% gluten-free diet. This disease requires intense diet therapy and must be supervised by a physician AND registared dietitian skilled in celiac disease.
Vitamin and Mineral DeficienciesLikelyVery likely
Intestinal DamageDoes NOT have the intestinal damage to the degree found in celiac diseaseDamaged villi in intestine responsible for absorbing nutrients. People with celiac disease have increased intestinal permeability permitting toxins, bacteria and undigested food to seep through GI barrier and into bloodstream
Follow-Up
 
Any developments and/or changes in your health/symptoms should be communicated to physician and dietitian~Lab tests should be completed within three months following a diagnosis and annually for the rest of your life.
~Regular visits with a registered dietitian knowledgeable of celiac disease and the gluten-free diet are highly recommended.

SHOULD I TRY A GLUTEN-FREE DIET ON MY OWN?

It is worth investigating if gluten may be an issue for you or your family members if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten-sensitivity or if you or a family member has an autoimmune condition. 

  • SYMPTOMS: Bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, fatigue, itchy skin or rash, tingling/numbness, canker sores, acid reflux, joint pain, delayed growth, poor weight gain, obesity, thin bones, infertility, irritability, discolored teeth, missed menstrual periods and anemia
  • NEUROLOGICAL SYMPTOMS: Neuropathy, ataxia, dementia, seizure disorder, ADHD, hypotonia, chronic headaches, migraines, developmental delay and depression
  • AUTOIMMUNE CONDITIONS: Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease, pernicious anemia, vitiligo, scleroderma, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, Hashimoto’s disease, Addison’s disease, Graves’ disease, Sjogren’s syndrome and type 1 diabetes

SHOULD I GO GLUTEN-FREE?

Take this quick quiz to find out if Gluten-Free is right for you.

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