Is Gluten Making You Sick?
Gluten is known as the major cause of Celiac Disease, but is less well known as an aggravator of several other allergies and diseases. You may not think of gluten as being the cause of your symptoms because only those of Coeliac’s Disease are well known.
The gluten-free diet “band wagon” may seem like the latest fad, but with the large majority of cases where gluten is a factor in illness remaining undiagnosed, it may well be doing more good than realized.
The Role Of Gluten In Disease
A protein ingredient in several grains, most notable wheat, gluten can cause inflammation. This type of allergy can cause acne, sneezing, or even anaphylactic shock.
When a person’s immune system reacts to an irritant, such as gluten, symptoms manifest in many ways. Problems can also occur with the skin, digestive system or other parts of the body.
Coeliac’s Disease-a serious hypersensitivity, it damages the villi of the small intestine causing impaired absorption of the nutrients from food.
Dermatitis and eczema-it isn’t as well known that gluten can cause dermatitis in some people. Itchy red rashes on the hands, scalp or legs can be caused by an allergic reaction to gluten. Dermatitis Herpetiforum is one form which mainly affects the skin, causing raised itchy blisters on the knees, elbows or buttocks.
Menstrual problems-women who suffer from bloating, headaches, fluid retention or tender breasts may have an increase in symptoms after eating wheat-based foods. This type of food allergy is not as obvious as these symptoms are considered “normal” for PMS sufferers, and may worsen with age, perhaps as sensitivity increases or internal damage builds up.
Crohn’s Disease-gluten may aggravate and worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease. This debilitating condition is an inflammatory bowel disease. It largely affects the ileum, which connects the small and large intestine, but may occur in any part of the gastro-intestinal tract. Its cause is still unknown, though there is a genetic predisposition to it, if a close relative has the disease, and those of Jewish or European descent have a higher risk of contracting ther disease. Symptoms include diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating, and stomach cramps. Damage then builds up over time, often requiring surgery to remove diseased portions of the bowel.
Ulcerative Colitis-is a similar auto-immune disease to Crohn’s Disease, but only affects the large intestine and rectum, whereby ulcers form in the lining. Symptoms are very similar. Gluten can cause a worsening of these symptoms.
Strife Begins At 40!
You may have found that it was not life that began at 40, but bloating, wind, a seeming weight “gain” and fatigue. These may also be symptoms of a wheat sensitivity. Flatulence, a bloated tummy, fluid retention-generally not taken as the symptoms of a problem with gluten!
How Do I Know If I Have A Problem With Gluten?
Primarily, in the case of Coeliac’s Disease, three biopsies are done. The first is made before eliminating gluten, to see damage to the small intestine. The next is done during the diet, to see if healing has occured, and the third checks for further damage after gluten is resumd in the diet. Some doctors take only one biopsy but also take blood tests, to show elevated levels of antibodies to gluten, whilst it is still in the diet. Accurate diagnosis is vital in order to treat this serious disease.
Those who have non-coeliac gluten intolerance may well feel better after cutting out gluten from the diet, but can tolerate small amounts without serious complications.
A finger-prick test is available in chemists for about $30, to be used at home. This test is most accurate if gluten is still being consumed, in giving an indication of if a gluten allergy exists.