We’ve been hearing about gluten more and more these days. Your grocery store may even have a “gluten-free” section of food items. Often clients in my holistic chiropractic practice wonder if gluten could be the cause of their symptoms. This month, I’d like to bring you up-to-date on what science knows about gluten and its role in celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and the gluten-free diet.
Gluten is not a protein itself but rather a protein composite that is found in the grass-like grains of wheat, rye, barley spelt, kamut and triticale. Oats also contain gluten and certified gluten-free oats are available.
The first health condition discovered to be caused by exposure to gluten was celiac disease. This is an autoimmune attack on the small intestine. Common symptoms include abdominal pain and cramping, and alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation.
By damaging the intestinal lining, gluten can result in maldigestion and malabsorption of nutrients. A blood test is required to properly diagnose celiac disease. Gluten can also travel through the body and damage other organs. Almost any chronic health condition you can think of has been associated with gluten sensitivity, including aching joints, stress and anxiety.
There are several ways that gluten can produce adverse health effects. In sensitive individuals, the immune system produces antibodies against gluten. This causes inflammation and attack on various organs. What is the organ most commonly affected by gluten? The brain is the organ most damaged from gluten sensitivity. From headaches to dementia, from seizures to schizophrenia, including learning disorders and developmental delay, gluten sensitivity can be a major factor.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is another condition that may result from eating foods with gluten. Individuals who suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity suffer very similarly to people with celiac disease, but tests for that disease are negative. Through my holistic modalities, I am able to pinpoint gluten sensitivity and address it immediately.
Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are both treated with a gluten-free diet. Gluten avoidance is not an easy undertaking, yet can be life changing. Those with celiac disease need to practice lifelong gluten avoidance. Whether people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity can ever go back to eating gluten is not clear at this time.
Nor does a gluten-free diet aid weight loss, experts say. Unless your body is reacting negatively to gluten, eating gluten-free food will not help you lose weight. Eating gluten- free can cause deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, fiber, and other nutrients because people are avoiding breads, cereals, and grains that are fortified.
In contrast, many gluten-free products are not fortified. Be careful when choosing from the growing number of gluten-free products on the market shelves. They’re typically higher in carbohydrates, fat, and sodium, and lower in fiber. Instead, people can bake healthier bread at home that’s higher in fiber and protein and made with gluten-free grains that have been certified to be uncontaminated and gluten-free, such as quinoa, amaranth, or millet.
If you are having digestive issues or suffering from a chronic health condition, please call Amber at (805) 644-0461 in our Ventura office and schedule an appointment for an office visit. Find out if gluten is a health factor for you!