Do You Have A Potential Gluten Problem? Check out the symptoms:
Many people have a cluster of symptoms that do not necessarily correspond with aging. They can be bowel problems, either constipation or diarrhea, usually diagnosed as IBS, abdomen discomfort described as bloating after they eat, gas after eating, dull or sharp pains in their abdomens, gerd, reflux, foggy thinking, low energy, joint pain, headaches, chronic anemia, increasing allergic response to either foods or the environment, early onset of osteopenia, abnormal thyroid labs, diabetes type 1, other autoimmune disease, and/or weight gain.
If a bowel reaction occurs immediately after eating a certain food that would provide an obvious easy way to identify a connection between the symptom and a triggering food agent.
But what is not that obvious is how an undiagnosed issue, such as a gluten sensitivity or gluten enteropathy, (better known as Celiac Sprue), can go undetected for months or years, and contribute to many of the symptoms and medical conditions that affect people in their lives.
Could one of the root causes of these seemingly unrelated health problems have a connection? Many researchers think so and have found that link in the protein component of the cereal grain species Triticeae, which contain wheat, rye and barley among others. (1) What is different about these grains is that they contain a special type of protein called gluten. Researchers have discovered a whole new set of mechanisms that occur in the bowel as a result of chronic gluten
exposure beyond celiac disease. (2)
Testing for a gluten problem is not always easy or straight forward. The genetic test for the HLA (human leucocyte antigen) DQ2.2, DQ2.5 and DQ8 is available through your doctor. If you are positive for either or both of these, you have a 95% chance of getting or having celiac sprue or celiac disease.(3) If you do not test positive for either of these, many physicians look for other reasons why the patient may have these health issues because gluten enteropathy may be ruled out.
What the patient may have is a gluten sensitivity, a much trickier diagnosis to pin down. Available tests that can further clarify a persons’ response to gluten or to other triggering dietary components is testing autoimmune reactivity, gluten cross reactivity, intestinal antigenic permeability screen testing, by labs such as Cell Science Systems, Cyrex labs, Doctor’s Data, Genova Diagnostics, Immuno Labs, Quest, Labcorp, or other diagnostic laboratories.
Short of drowning in tests, a simple and less expensive approach to identifying a gluten sensitivity that I have begun to use with my patients is to remove gluten from their diet for a 4 week elimination trial. My patients have found this to be extremely effective with resolution of many of the bowel, joint and foggy thinking symptoms mentioned above within this 4 week trial. It has been truly surprising to me. When gluten is re-introduced via a food challenge, many of the immediate symptoms seem to return.
Eating a gluten free diet, even for four weeks, can certainly be nutritious and fiber rich, but it takes more food preparation and planning, especially if traveling is involved.
Common Mistakes People Make When Following a Gluten Free Diet
The most common mistake I observe people making when removing gluten from their diet is substituting gluten free processed foods in their stead, i.e. breads, muffins, cookies, crackers, pastas, thereby increasing their total intake of carbohydrates beyond what they were taking before. That is fine if there is no weight problem and they are very active to burn the extra calories, but many of these processed foods are not healthier, they just do not have gluten. Many of these “gluten free substitutes” are low fiber, low in nutrients, high glycemic and/or high fat, and high calorie foods. Instead of these, patients are encouraged to eat whole unprocessed foods that never contained gluten in the first place.
- Jaime H. Mejías 1, Xiaoqiao Lu 1, Claudia Osorio, Jeffrey L. Ullman, Diter von Wettstein, Sachin Rustgi. Analysis of Wheat Prolamins, the Causative Agents of Celiac Sprue, Using Reversed Phase High Performance Liquid Chromatography (RP-HPLC) and Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry
(MALDI-TOF-MS) Nutrients6:1578-1597. 2014.
- Fasano A. Zonulin and Its Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function: The Biological Door to Inflammation, Autoimmunity, and Cancer. Physiol Rev 91: 151–175, 2011; doi:10.1152/physrev.00003.2008.
- K. Decochez, I. Truyen, B. Van der Auwera, I. Weets, E. Vandemeulebroucke, I. H. De Leeuw, B. Keymeulen, C. Mathieu, R. Rottiers, D. G. Pipeleers, F. K. Gorus
Combined positivity for HLA DQ2 /DQ8 and IA-2 antibodies defines population at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Diabetologia (2005) 48: 687