Do you think you should switch to a gluten-free diet? Before you is a concentrated extract of useful information about gluten and its possible effect on the human body!
Author: Kendall Lou Schmidt
No doubt, among your acquaintances there are people who are going to go or have already switched to a fashionable gluten-free diet. Your aunt, your best friend or the dog of your neighbor – sometimes it seems that everyone around us blames gluten in all conceivable and unimaginable health problems.
The unprecedented popularity of the "gluten-free" trend involuntarily makes you think that perhaps everyone around you knows something that you do not know about? Maybe it's time for you to delete gluten from your diet?
Before you finally and irrevocably decide to switch to a gluten-free diet, it will be useful to know what gluten is, how it can affect our body, and what real causes compel many people to choose a "gluten-free" lifestyle.
Being a person who personally encountered celiac disease, I believe that it is important for everyone to know more about this problem.
Gluten Is a collective term for a group of proteins called prolamines. Each cereal culture has its own specific prolamin. In a certain category of people, the prolaminas of wheat (gliadin), rye (sekalin) and barley (hordein) can provoke a response from the body.
Although wheat gliadin is the main source of problems for people with gluten intolerance, rye secaline and barley hordein possess a similar gliadin chemical structure and can cause a similar reaction of the body.
Other prolamins, in particular, contained in oats (avenin), maize (zein), sorghum (kafirin) and rice (horizon) usually do not affect people with gluten intolerance. However, the results of the latest research on this issue are somewhat contradictory.
For example, with high sensitivity to gluten, oats can also provoke the development of a response. It was also proved that different types of kinoa possess different proportions of prolamines, and only a few of them can indeed be considered gluten-free.
Why does not everyone tolerate gluten?
Most people have no reason to worry about gluten, but for some, gluten can become a source of serious problems. The difference between a person who can not eat foods with gluten, and a person who does not experience any problems, lurks in the depths of the immune system. The body of gluten-sensitive people considers this nutrient to be a dangerous aggressor and includes mechanisms of immune protection after ingestion of food containing gluten.
Celiac disease causes an adaptive immune response. This means that with every new reception of gluten the patient will feel worse and worse.
With gluten intolerance without celiac disease, the condition will not deteriorate from time to time.
Here you need to say a few words about immunity systems. Human immunity is formed from two links: the system of the congenital and the system of acquired immunity. Both systems protect the body from pathogens and microorganisms, but the mechanisms of protective reactions have significant differences. It is these differences that explain why some people develop gluten intolerance without celiac disease, while others suffer from a full-blown celiac disease.
Congenital immunity is not an antigen specific. This means that it is programmed to fight any foreign biomaterial that it considers dangerous. Like a security guard, he scans potentially bad guys and without delay begins to neutralize the threat. This type of immune response is typical for people with gluten intolerance without celiac disease.
In other words, the immune system sees gluten as a threat and acts with it as with any other danger. It is important that with high sensitivity to gluten without celiac disease, antibodies do not form, which means that after a protective reaction in the innate immunity system, there is no memory of this event.
Unlike the simple gluten intolerance described above, a system of acquired immunity is attached to celiac disease, which uses specific defense mechanisms against each threat. The immune system produces antibodies to certain gluten proteins and remembers the "personality of the aggressor", so that every subsequent encounter with it will be accompanied by a more rapid and more powerful response.
That's why people with celiac disease feel worse and worse after every new contact with gluten.
What is celiac disease and how does it develop?
When gluten molecules enter the digestive system and come into contact with the intestinal mucosa, the mechanisms of the immune response are activated. Complex for understanding the reaction of immunity is detrimental to cells (enterocytes) forming the intestinal epithelium. Enterocytes play a key role in the absorption of nutrients, and therefore their destruction adversely affects the assimilation of vital nutrients. In turn, this leads to secondary disorders caused by nutritional deficiencies.
In addition, destruction of enterocytes allows toxins and bacteria to easily overcome the epithelial barrier of the intestine and enter the bloodstream, which increases the risk of infection and disease.
As in my case, many people have celiac disease developed in adulthood. The latest studies have shown that about one in 140 people suffers from celiac disease. In many people, the disease is not diagnosed, because its symptoms are often ignored or taken for manifestations of other diseases.
In my case, the doctors convinced me that I suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, lactose intolerance and hypersensitivity to flavors – and I listed only part of the diagnoses that I was given. In fact, hives, swelling and digestive problems were caused by the reaction of my immune system to gluten.
At the heart of celiac disease is a hereditary predisposition. Genetic features of the immune response in combination with a diet with gluten content lead to the appearance of symptoms, which are aggravated with age. As with other autoimmune diseases, antibodies are found in the body of people suffering from celiac disease, which recognize harmless molecules as potentially dangerous, and this triggers a response from the immune system.
Environmental factors, such as stress or a viral infection, can also exacerbate the disease.
What is gluten intolerance without celiac disease?
Let's see what "gluten intolerance without celiac disease" means? This term is used when a person is sensitive to gluten and experiences symptoms similar to a celiac disease clinic, but there are no specific antibodies in his body and there is no destruction of epithelial intestinal tissues that are characteristic of full celiac disease.
With high sensitivity to gluten without celiac disease, the manifestations of the disease are not aggravated with age and do not increase with repeated contact with the protein. Also for this condition, destruction of enterocytes and a nutritional deficiency caused by a violation of absorption of nutrients are not characteristic.
From the medical point of view, this disease is not as severe as celiac disease, but people with a similar diagnosis are strongly encouraged to adhere to a gluten-free diet.
What are the symptoms of gluten intolerance?
The immune-mediated inflammation underlies a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms that disturb people with celiac disease. After eating with gluten, many immediately encounter such manifestations of the disease as diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, flatulence and constipation. Among the extraintestinal symptoms often occur skin rash, itching and swelling.
If a person with a celiac disease adheres to a balanced diet, but continues to eat food containing gluten, there is a health deficit in vitamins and minerals, particularly iron, folic acid, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin K, because the body can not absorb them . The lack of these nutrients can lead to serious diseases, including rickets, hypocalcemia, coagulopathies, growth retardation and delayed sexual development, arthritis, anxiety, depression, etc.
With increased sensitivity to gluten without celiac disease, people experience the same symptoms of digestive disorders as patients with celiac disease. Moreover, people with gluten intolerance suffer other organs, not only the gastrointestinal system. They can complain of headaches, "blocking consciousness", arthralgia, numbness of the skin of the legs, hands or fingers.
How do I know if I should exclude gluten from my diet?
If you feel that you are experiencing the symptoms listed above, switching to a gluten-free diet can solve your problems. But you should not stick to a gluten-free diet just because it's fashionable, or because you've heard somewhere that it helps to lose weight. You should avoid foods with gluten only if you suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance without celiac disease.
If you doubt whether you have celiac disease or not, make an appointment with a doctor and take the necessary examinations. The basis for confirmation of the diagnosis will be the results of an immunological blood test in combination with an intestinal biopsy and a reliable improvement in the condition against a gluten-free diet.
The diagnosis of gluten intolerance without celiac disease is harder to confirm. People with symptoms of gluten intolerance, but with negative results of celiac disease tests and wheat protein allergy, may be diagnosed with gluten intolerance without celiac disease.
How to treat celiac disease or gluten intolerance?
The only way to treat celiac disease and gluten intolerance is to completely exclude from the diet all foods and foods that contain gluten. Simply limiting the amount of gluten in the food does not solve the problem – you need to remove all possible forms of gluten from the menu.
Adhere to a gluten-free diet is not easy. Gluten has penetrated many foodstuffs, and you would never have known about it, had it not been for the list of ingredients. It is often used as a thickener for soups, sauces, marinades and frozen yoghurts. It can be found in flavored foods, for example, in ice cream or a protein cocktail. Many dishes that are prepared with soy sauce or teriyaki sauce also contain gluten.
In the composition of many vitamins and food supplements gluten is present. All sorts of beer and many strong alcoholic beverages are made from wheat, barley or rye. Even cosmetics and skin care products can contain gluten.
If you think that you may have gluten intolerance, first of all talk with your doctor and find out more about this disease. Do not follow fashion trends without objective information.
To completely eliminate gluten from the diet, you need to arm yourself with the necessary knowledge, consult a doctor and carefully examine the labels on the products for the purpose of keeping allergens. And if you are in doubt about a product, just delete it from your list.