Why gluten free?
Is gluten free just a new fad or are there legitimate reasons for it? For the 18 million people in the U.S. classified as gluten sensitive, it’s no fad. And for those who have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, the need for gluten free foods is most definitely legitimate – and medically necessary.
First, what is gluten? We know it’s found in things like wheat, barley and rye but it’s basically a generic term for storage proteins, which contain particular amino acid sequences that can attack the small intestine and multiple systems in a person with Celiac Disease. Thus, multiple symptoms can occur including gastrointestinal distress, chronic fatigue, osteoporosis and anemia, although, some may not experience any symptoms.
Celiac is a genetically linked autoimmune disorder that affects both children and adults. It is not age dependent and can become active at any age. And while Celiac is not simply a food allergy, it’s important to note that ingesting gluten can initiate an immune mediated response that in turn can cause damage to the small intestine. This inherited disease is responsible for malabsorption of nutrients, which can result in malnutrition, and is also linked to skin blisters known as dermatitis herpetiformis. The good news is that the intestinal issues of Celiac can be restored to near normal if gluten is excluded from the diet.
Some people may have similar intestinal symptoms but test negative for Celiac. Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity actually affects an estimated 18 million Americans, six times the amount who have Celiac Disease. It causes possible but minimal intestinal damage that can be rectified by adopting a gluten-free diet. While still in the early research stage, non-celiac gluten sensitivity appears to affect primarily adults. Like celiac, symptoms can include abdominal pain, fatigue, headaches and “foggy brain”. Diagnosis is process of elimination – ruling out both celiac disease and wheat allergy and then following an elimination diet that monitors gluten.
For more information on celiac and gluten sensitivity, visit http://www.beyondceliac.org/celiac-disease/non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity/