What is gluten, anyway?
One can define gluten in its simplest form as a peptide comprised of 2 different proteins – gliadin (a prolamin protein) and glutenin (a glutamin protein). Gluten is found in all grains and its derivatives and is primarily responsible for the elastic properties of dough. Gluten comes in different forms and there are good forms and toxic ones. The toxic forms are mostly found in wheat, rye and barley products, and of course, its derivatives.
Are you sensitive or intolerant to gluten?
There are individuals who are intolerant to food containing gluten. This extreme form of intolerance is diagnosed as Celiac Disease. When an individual with Celiac Disease ingests gluten, their body creates an immune response to the gluten peptide and damages their intestinal wall preventing the absorption of vital nutrients from the food. There are tests that you can have performed to determine whether you have Celiacs Disease or not. What's important to note here is that just because your test may come back negative for Celiac, your body could still illicit sensitivities to gluten but the manifestation of the symptoms may not be digestive in nature and therefore, don't qualify for a Celiac diagnosis. For further information on Celiac Disease, I recommend visiting the Celiac Disease Foundation website.
To understand the difference between Celiac disease and gluten sensitivities, consider an iceberg. With icebergs, the portion that sits above the sea level is undeniably a very small percentage of the overall iceberg size. Consider the tip of an iceberg to represent the population of gluten-sensitive individuals that have Celiac Disease. The rest of the iceberg, the portion below sea level, represents individuals that have gluten allergies and/or sensitivities and do not qualify to be diagnosed as having Celiac Disease. To put it simply, Celiac makes up only a small percentage of the gluten discussion. The majority of individuals that have symptoms of gluten intolerance will not be diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Yet, they will experience the symptoms that are manifested in themselves by gluten. And, unfortunately, many will never get tested to confirm they shouldn't be eating gluten. So, what are gluten sensitivity symptoms?
8 ways that gluten sensitivities manifest themselves
The malabsorption of vital nutrients from food due to gluten sensitivities can lead to diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, reflux, weight loss/gain, bloating and/or abdominal pain.
Mental health issuesThe immune response to gluten can lead to depression, anxiety, cognitive, emotional and behavior problems.
Inflammation issuesWhen gluten creates an anti-inflammatory response in our body, our antibodies go to work and will create inflammation as they do their job. This inflammation tends to occur in joints, bones, gut and brain. Individuals will feel this as joint tightness or arthritis, bloating and brain fog to name a few.
Neurological issuesIf bloating is a sign if inflammation in the gut, then brain fog is manifested by inflammation in the brain. Yes, gluten effects do cross the blood-brain barrier into the brain. In fact, brain fog is only one of the symptoms. Others include, headaches, migraines, ADHD, insomnia and other sleep problems. On a personal note, headaches were my kryptonite and, upon going gluten-free, I no longer have headaches.
MalnutritionLining the intestinal walls are cells that resemble shag carpeting. As food passes through the intestines, the food nutrients get captured in the shags and then get absorbed accordingly into the body. In individuals with Celiac or gluten sensitivities, the shag is destroyed such that instead of resembling a shaggy carpet, the intestinal walls look more like Berber carpet, or worse, a tile floor. As such, vital food nutrients pass on by and do not get absorbed by the body and instead go directly into the bloodstream.
Skin issuesWhen food is not properly digested, one of the side effects is that toxins are circulated throughout the body. Those toxins illicit immune responses against them. One of the outcomes is skin irritations, such as acne, adult-onset acne, rashes, and eczema, to name some examples.
Frequent infectionsTo follow up on the above discussion of toxins circulating through the body, the toxins will also lead to infections throughout the body, bacterial, fungal or parasite. It's not uncommon for gluten-sensitive individuals to display fungal rashes on their skin. These rashes can be difficult to eliminate without addressing your dietary intake. I can speak from personal experience here.
FatigueAs a gluten-sensitive individual continues to ingest gluten, their immune system remains in a constant state of battle fighting the gluten proteins. This constant state of battle increases the levels of cortisol, which is the hormone that is best known for the “fight or flight” response . This, in turn, wreaks havoc on the adrenal glands which control the release of cortisol. When your adrenals are disturbed, your body falls to a state of continual fatigue which can only naturally be reversed by addressing the root cause of the stress – in this case, gluten.
What happens when you cut gluten out of your diet?
This is the part of the article that I love! This is where I stand on the corner and shout…“GO GLUTEN FREE!”
You might ask, why gluten free? It's quite simple, my health journey has led me to my next self, or “Me 2.0”. Physically and health-wise, I am a different, better and stronger person today than I have ever been in my life! What has been THE critical component of that transformation? My decision to cut those foods out of my diet that were creating immune responses within my body. The major suspects included, gluten, wheat, cow's milk, soy and egg yolks.
Initially, this was not easy as all of these foods were part of my daily staples, I ate it every day. Little did I know that the bain of my lifelong headaches, digestive issues, joint pains, and yo-yoing of body weight and fat was primarily gluten! I am convinced that had I gone this route earlier in my formative years, I'd probably be taller! 🙂 This has reinforced to me and my wife that , as we strive to nurture a healthy family, we must aim to encourage our children to make the right decisions on their own so that they can capitalize on their formative years!
Where to now?
Understanding gluten's impact on your body is not always easy. First, you need to be in the right place in your life to WANT to learn about gluten. Even then, it's a matter of visiting sites like this one in search for personalized experiences of gluten and it's impacts. The beauty of today is that Gluten is front and center in today's culture. Especially with the advent of a new societal focus on health and wellness and movements like Paleo and Crossfit, there are few people who don't know someone who is gluten-free.
Fortunately, as a result of the modern day visibility on gluten, there are experts on the topic that are getting a lot of visibility. One in particular is Dr. Tom O'Bryan who has a very reputable website, TheDr.com, that focuses on everything Gluten-related.
“Is gluten the cause of your health problems?” It very well could be. Especially if you're having unexplained rashes, migraines, digestive issues, fatigue/fogginess, unexplained weight loss (or gain), joint pain… as gluten could be triggering more than 300 different symptoms.
It’s an interesting, and important, question to ask. Fortunately, Dr. Tom O‘Bryan has made it part of his personal mission to move this question into today’s conversations between patients and healthcare professionals. Asking this question could, potentially, improve the lives of millions now instead of years from now, which is how long it often takes for groundbreaking research to make it to mainstream practice.
That’s why I encourage you to register for the world’s first Gluten Summit. This FREE event is taking place online from November 11-17. Dr. O’Bryan has gathered the world’s experts and opinion leaders on the topics of gluten-related disorders, healthy living and nutrition, each in one-to-one interviews about their particular areas of expertise.
DON'T MISS THE KNOWLEDGE THAT WILL EMERGE FROM THIS EXCITING EVENT!
I am fueled by "Paying It Forward in Health" on this site.My main driver in creating this website, alongside my family, is to share our ongoing family health journey in hopes of encouraging others to have the health epiphany that we have been blessed to experience.
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