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What’s the deal with gluten-free and who should give it a try?

Are you tired of seeing the term gluten-free everywhere these days? Isn’t it just for those with Celiac Disease? Isn’t that a rare condition?

So what’s the deal? Even 10 years ago a person following a gluten free diet could not eat out at most restaurants, and now the awareness of this ubiquitous protein is well, ubiquitous!  Let’s delve into some of the questions surrounding this topic.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease (CD) is an autoimmune condition in which a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, called gluten, creates a response by the immune system and this attacks the villi of the small intestine lining. The villi are the small finger-like projections where nutrient absorption takes place.  Only some people with Celiac actually have GI symptoms.  The only treatment is to avoid foods containing the gluten protein 100% of the time for life.

Who should be tested for Celiac?

To give you a picture of what Celiac Disease can look like, I’ve taken a quote from Dr. Alessio Fassino, the pioneering researcher and expert on this topic, during an interview by Chris Kresser:

“Celiac disease is a clinical chameleon, and the symptoms can really affect any organ or tissue in your body, but also they are very unspecific.  It can go from a stomachache to fatigue to anemia to the tingling of your fingertips and so on and so forth, so you can imagine how many people will have these kinds of symptoms and how many of these people have been told:  You know, there is nothing wrong with you if you have chronic fatigue.  We’ll look into the reason why you have anemia, but we can’t find anything wrong, and you need just to take an iron supplement.  When they start to learn that celiac disease can do that, they ask themselves maybe this is what is the problem.  Some of these people, indeed, turn out to have celiac disease, and therefore are diagnosed and resolve the problem and so on and so forth.  Some people eventually fail to be diagnosed with celiac disease because they don’t fit the criteria, but because they were desperate because nothing else explained their symptoms, they decide, despite the negative results, to try the diet no matter what.  And some of them, sure enough, had their symptoms improved or completely resolved.”

If you talk to people who have been diagnosed with Celiac, then you will find that many of them did not have GI distress and their symptoms ranged all over the board.


What is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity?

So here I want to let you know that it’s a fact that avoiding gluten is not just for CD patients.  Rather, according to Dr. Alessio Fassano, Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is “a different form of immune reaction that will create a minimal inflammation without damage of the intestine.  And that caused the symptoms intestinally and extraintestinal that these people may eventually experience when ingesting gluten.”

According to some sources, NCGS is about 6 times more common than Celiac Disease.


Other Ailments that Benefit from Going Gluten-free

I won’t get into this topic too much but I do want to mention one autoimmune condition for whom the majority of sufferers find relief from going GF – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  Isabella Wentz wrote a book and has a blog and does interviews within the wellness community, and she surveyed over 2,000 Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis patients.  She discovered that about 80% of those surveyed found substantial relief from their symptoms by eliminating gluten from their diets.  She goes further to share that diary and soy are also majorly reactive for these autoimmune hypothyroid patients.

Is Gluten the only Problem with Wheat?

More and more research is coming out about the effects of a common pesticide on our health called glyphosate.  This is the main component of Round-Up which incidentally is sprayed on wheat shortly before harvest.  Scientists are trying to figure out if it’s the glyphosate or the gluten that so many people are reacting to.  Tests have shown this chemical in high levels in almost every one tested.


Final Thoughts

Should we all jump on the GF bandwagon? How do you know if you have a problem with wheat or gluten? If I have a patient who’s feeling awful and who eats wheat every single day without a break, I do suggest eliminating gluten for a minimum of 30 days, and then just seeing how they feel.  If there’s no relief, then fine, eat it.  After all, if someone is so reliant on this one food that they cannot stop eating it for a month, then it could likely be causing at least some contribution to their symptom picture.  I know for me it was a matter of drug dependence and independence, Crohn’s Disease and remission. I believe going gluten-free was a huge part of that. Tons of practitioners out there, not just me, have observed this change in our patients who go gluten-free.

I’d love to hear if going gluten-free made a positive difference for you! Please send me a message!

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