Gluten is a protein composite consisting of a gliadin fraction (alcohol soluble) and a glutenin fraction (only soluble in dilute acids or alkali). It gives elasticity to dough helping it to rise and to keep its shape. Gluten occurs in wheat and other grains, including barley and rye, and in foods or drinks derived from them, but not in corn, rice, or oats. It’s can be found in any product containing wheat, including soy sauce, salad dressing, pickles, gravy and french fries.
It works by attacking the villi, the finger-like structures which line the small intestine, resulting in stomach problems and mal-absorption of nutrients. Left untreated, the disease can cause severe health conditions and complications such as mental illness, osteoporosis, Anemia, miscarriage, and even cancer.
Common Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
- Gastrointestinal (GI), stomach, and digestive problems including one or some of the following: Gas, bloating, queasiness, abdominal cramping, constipation, diarrhea, or an alternating combination of both – IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
- Headaches and/or migraines: If your migraine starts within an hour or two of ingesting food that contains gluten, it’s highly indicative of a gluten sensitivity.
- Fibromyalgia: Inflammation of the connective tissue is one of the strongest symptoms of a gluten intolerance. Essentially, the body thinks gluten is an enemy and will send out antibodies to destroy it. Those antibodies destroy the lining of the stomach and intestines. Just like with joint pain, the inflammation could present itself in any part of the body. If a doctor told you that you have fibromyalgia, try eliminating gluten and see how you feel.
- Emotional issues involving chronic irritability and sudden, irrational mood shifts.
- Neurological issues, including dizziness, difficulty balancing, and peripheral neuropathy affecting nerves outside the central nervous system and resulting in pain, weakness, tingling or numbness in the extremities.
- Fatigue, whether chronic or almost after every meal. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is, like fibromyalgia, a syndrome, not a disease. If that’s what you’re diagnosed with, it means your doctor can’t locate the cause of your fatigue.
All these symptoms are common to other health issues and diseases. That’s why symptoms alone as a diagnosis is perplexing.
Stress is often cited as one of the cause of these symptoms. Instead of anti-depressants, sleeping aids or anti-anxiety meds (some of which contain gluten), take a good look at what you’re eating.
Management Tips: Guidelines of a Gluten-free Diet
- Avoid all foods made from wheat, rye, bran, enriched flour, bulgur and barley (cereals, breads, pasta, croutons, crackers, cakes, cookies..)
- Avoid beer and other grain-based alcohol.
- Avoid oats. Some oat preparations can be contaminated with wheat. In some cases small quantities of oats are allowed into the diet under medical supervision. Also some food products can be produced in facilities that manufacture gluten.
- Use caution with processed foods that may contain gluten (canned soups, salad dressings, soy sauce, seasonings, ice cream, candy bars, instant coffee, ketchup, mustard, processed and canned meats, sausages…)
- Read the food and product labels before buying or consuming any product. Manufacturers are required to provide information about the ingredients used to make their food products. Gluten containing fillers can be found in some prescription and over-the-counter medications. Gluten also can be found in many vitamin products, tablets, vitamin preparations and even cosmetic products such as lipstick, lip gloss, chapstick and toothpaste.
- Avoid milk and other dairy products that contain lactose. Untreated individuals with celiac disease often are lactose intolerant. With successful treatment, dairy products can be reintroduced slowly into the diet.
- Other cereals such as corn, millt, sorghum, teff, rice, and wild rice are safe for patients to consume. Non cereals such as amaranth, quinoa or buckwheat are also harmless.
- Non-cereal carbohydrate-rich foods such as potatoes and bananas, tapioca, garbanzo beans are safe to consume. They do not contain gluten and do not trigger symptoms.
- It is recommended to take vitamin and mineral supplements to reduce the risk of deficiencies caused by the disorder.
- Substitute recipe ingredients and adjusting time and temperature used for baking.
Take note that, if this chronic digestive disorder is not properly treated, the person’s quality of life can be seriously undermined.
In the words of Natalia Jill, a fitness trainer, a Licensed Sports Nutritionisth and a CELIAC patient “I do avoid gluten (which is the protein found in wheat rye and barley) not only because I am a celiac, but because when eating unprocessed natural foods, those are naturally gluten free anyway.”