How to Live With a Gluten Sensitivity
You've probably seen the proliferation of gluten-free products at your local grocery store and wondered if you should be eating these foods.
Gluten is a protein found in certain grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. Approximately one in 20 Americans is sensitive to gluten. If you're among this group, you may experience cramping, bloating, or diarrhea when you eat foods containing gluten.
At the other end of the spectrum, about one percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease (also called celiac spru). Celiac disease is an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. When celiac sufferers eat foods containing gluten, it damages the villi that line the walls of the small intestines. Villi are tiny finger-like projections that absorb nutrients from our digested food. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis, and other serious problems.
Gluten sensitivity or intolerance is genetic and often first appears in children as digestive problems and irritability. Adults who have a gluten intolerance may experience anemia, fatigue, bone or joint pain, arthritis, depression or anxiety, tingling, seizures, canker sores in the mouth, or dermatitis. Some patients may not have any symptoms, prolonging the start of treatment.
Experts have linked several factors to gluten intolerance, including the duration you were breastfed, the age you started eating foods containing gluten, and the amount of foods you eat that contain gluten.
People who have celiac disease typically suffer from other immune problems, such as diabetes or arthritis. They are also likely to have microbial infections and imbalances in the composition of the microorganisms in their gut, although physicians aren't sure if this is a cause or an effect of celiac disease.
The only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, gluten hides in many processed foods, making it difficult to eliminate it completely. A nutritionist or dietitian who understands celiac disease can help you evaluate food and develop a safe and healthy eating plan. Grains and other foods based on potatoes, rice, soy, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, bean flour, and ready-made gluten-free foods, offer celiac patients a wide range of satisfying alternatives.
If you have celiac disease, you must eat a gluten-free diet for the rest of your life. Although eliminating foods containing gluten can seem daunting at first, once you purge them from your diet, your symptoms will quickly begin to subside and you'll notice an improvement within days. Eventually your intestines will heal and absorb critical nutrients again.
Beck, Melinda. "Clues to Gluten Sensitivity." Wall Street Journal. Web. 15 March 2011.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Celiac Disease." Web. September 2008. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/celiac.pdf
Armstrong, Matthew J., Robins, Gerry G., and Howdle, Peter D. "Recent Advances in Coeliac Disease."
Current Opinion in Gastroenterology 25(2) (2009): 100-109. Medscape Medical News. Web. 25 June 2009. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/704849
Stokowski, Laura A., RN, MS. "Food Allergy: The Gastroenterologist's Perspective." Medscape Medical News. Web. 20 April 2011. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/740765
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Hotter Temperatures Linked To Kidney Stones
- 2. Summer Bug Bites: What to Look For
- 3. Skin Health Advice with Dr. Kenneth Beer
- 4. Summer Safety Tips That Every Parent Needs To Know
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.