Studies now shows that celiac disease and gluten intolerance, affect around 15% of the North American population. It is possible that you are one of these people. It is important that you are able to identify gluten intolerance symptoms?
We first need to identify the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an immune reaction. It is a sudden and severe onset allergic reaction to the wheat protein called gluten. Gluten can be found in several different but very common grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats. Celiac disease is initially a disorder of the auto-immune system, it is also a disease of malabsorption because essential nutrients are not able to absorb into the body. One of the most devastating symptoms of celiac disease going undiagnosed is malnutrition.
Typically, gluten intolerance often has a much slower onset than celiac disease, and tends to be harder to diagnose due to the wide range of symptoms and the many sources in which it is hidden.
Imagine a continuum of gluten intolerance symptoms; celiac disease would be found at the most extreme end with immediate autoimmune reactions. There are people with celiac disease that may not immediate symptoms, but internally the malabsorption of all these essential nutrients can erode one's health over many years. It is important to note that both celiac disease and gluten intolerance can be exacerbated by infection, surgery, emotional stress pregnancy and childbirth. Not everyone with a gluten intolerance or allergy will experience the exact same symptoms or to the same degree. This creates a great challenge for medical practitioners trying to do a diagnosis.
Here are some of the symptoms but not necessarilly limited to gluten intolerance and celiac disease.
- Fluctuations in weight
- Nutritional deficiencies, example: low iron levels
- Gastro-intestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
- Body Pains
- Stiff and Aching joints
- Eczema and Skin Irritations
- Head aches
- Irritability and behavioral changes
- Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage
- Cramps, tingling and numbness
- Slow infant and child growth
- Decline in dental health
If Gluten intolerance remains undiagnosed for a long enough period of time, conditions have been found to contribute to diabetes, cancer of the bowel, anemia and osteoporosis.
So, why are the symptoms of gluten intolerance so varied?
Much about gluten intolerance and celiac disease is still unknown. Gluten intolerance can affect anyone from children to adults in a variety of ways, but one thing that has been found is the less stress the better for the affected person. Anecdotal evidence suggests that emotional trauma and stress play a large role in amplifying the symptoms. Several studies have findings that show that the longer a baby is breastfed and the further it's delayed that they start eating gluten rich foods, it will creates a lower chance of developing celiac disease. Completely avoiding gluten through a pregnancy and in a child’s younger years of development may also raise the possibilities of an allergic reaction, as the child's developing digestive system cannot recognize the substance at all. Researchers remain unsure but perhaps a more moderate approach is best when attempting to preventing celiac disease, especially if the parents know that there is a genetic predisposition to the disease. Mothers might reduce but not eliminate gluten foods when pregnant, breastfeed for a longer than average period, and start introducing low gluten grains as first foods for baby.
How to diagnose celiac disease and gluten intolerance?
Until recently it was somewhat of a challenge to diagnose celiac disease because it does have such a wide variety of symptoms and are quite similar to a few other common diseases. Some examples of these are Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue, iron deficiency as well as intestinal infections can all have similar symptoms. There may be in fact a relationship between gluten intolerance and some of these conditions. An person may have a combination of issues that become worse by food choices that do not agree with their body. Doctors now know to test for raised levels of certain auto-antibodies in the blood. These antibodies are produced when the body senses a dangerous allergen, such as gluten. If the results indicate an allergy to gluten the doctor may perform a small intestine biopsy. This will reveal the damage to the villi in the small intestine. It is important to eat an ordinary diet including gluten, before being tested.
Another method is to self test for gluten intolerance. This requires a complete modification of a person's diet. It's a relatively simple thing to do, but does take a little bit of commitment. For it to work properly a person needs to remove many normal things from their diet and resort whole/natural foods without wheat gluten such as rice, fruits and vegetables, and any fresh meat. You can trust packaging that has a "Gluten Free" symbol on it. Foods that contain gluten will have ingredients on the packaging that include Maltodextrin, caramel color, and wheat flour. At this point it becomes important to understand how to read a food ingredients label. If a person is feeling any of the possible gluten intolerance symptoms at the start of this process, they should begin to recede within a week or two. At the time when the symptoms have all subsided, other foods can start to be introduced back into the diet a little bit at a time. It then takes a conscious effort to be aware if and when the symptoms begin to return.