It seems like today that a large group of people have some type of food sensitivity, be it dairy, gluten, peanuts or carbs, and everybody seems to be on some type of diet, is it a fad or is it just trendy? Well, celiac disease is no joke, and steps to diagnose it should be performed, as left untreated, can be life threatening. First off, let’s describe what is gluten, and where can it be found.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is mainly found in wheat, barley, rye and other grass related grains. It determines the ability of wheat dough to absorb water, stick together and gives elasticity.
Where is gluten typically found?
Gluten is usually found in baked goods such as; breads, pastas, crackers and as a filler in many spices and sauces.
Which grains do NOT contain gluten?
The problem is that some of these grains are processed in plants that also process wheat, allowing some cross contamination. Someone who is highly allergic to gluten should be extra careful.
Celiac Disease / Wheat Allergy
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease that is triggered by eating gluten or products containing gluten. There is no cure. Long-standing consumption of products containing gluten cause an immune reaction in the intestinal tract that results in destruction of the intestinal lining. About 1% of the US population suffers from celiac disease and is associated with the HLA class of genes known as HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 located on chromosome 6p21. DNA testing can help determine if this gene is present from a simple blood test.
Gluten Sensitivity / Intolerance
Also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (ncgs), is typically less severe than celiac disease and lacks the lab and intestional mucosal changes found in celiac disease. The symptoms may also involve other organ systems that celiac patients don’t experience.
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain/muscle aches
- Chronic Headaches
- Weight loss
- Immune system disorders
What to do?
First off, its important to determine if the problem is sensitivity or allergy. The difference can be life or death. Go see your primary care physician and get some blood tests done to see if you have the gene or if your inflammatory markers are elevated. If everything comes back normal, go on a strict gluten free diet for at least 3 weeks to see if there is any resolution of symptoms. Gluten sensitivity can be a tricky one to diagnose due to its varying clinical presentation.