Are You Gluten Intolerant?

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Filed Under: Immune Health, Digestive Health
Last Reviewed 02/14/2014

Are You Gluten Intolerant?

People who are gluten intolerant have an inherited autoimmune disorder characterized by a sensitivity to gluten, a protein found primarily in wheat, rye, and barley. Oats used to be considered a culprit, but no longer are.

When people with this condition eat gluten, their immune systems are activated and the resulting inflammatory response damages or destroys the villi that line the small intestines and allow nutrients to be absorbed.

Incidence of gluten intolerance is widespread. Upwards of 15 percent of Americans are gluten intolerant, but only about 5 percent of these people have been diagnosed and treated.

According to experts at the University of Chicago Medical Center, a gluten-intolerant patient usually suffers with symptoms for an average of 11 years before intolerance is identified, and the typical child sees eight pediatricians before getting an accurate diagnosis.

Gluten-Intolerant Cases

  • Scott had abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea and was diagnosed with ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney disease and cancer.
  • Diana had iron-deficiency anemia along with extreme fatigue and diffuse pain, symptoms she was told were all in her head.
  • Laura had chronic itchy rashes that were identified as dermatitis.
  • And 12-year-old Sarah was plagued with hallucinations and given antipsychotic drugs.

All of these individuals spent many miserable years trying to get to the bottom of their problems. Yet in the end, each of them discovered what they actually were gluten intolerant, or had celiac disease.

Confirm That You Are Gluten Intolerant

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of gluten intolerance, it is important that you get tested and (hopefully) rule it out at once—because the longer gluten-intolerant patients are untreated, the more serious the damage to your intestines and your overall health.

  • Celiac disease dramatically increases your likelihood of developing autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes and autoimmune hepatitis and thyroid disease.
  • It raises risk of osteoporosis, lymphoma and cancer of the GI tract.
  • And, thanks to ongoing nutrient deprivation, it places you at risk for virtually all degenerative diseases.

Don’t wait for your doctor to recommend testing. Most of them are so focused on symptoms that they don’t even consider anything as “unimportant” as diet.

Ask for a blood test for antigliadin antibodies and endomysium antibodies. If either test comes back positive, request a celiac panel to confirm the diagnosis. (Although intestinal biopsies are considered the gold standard of testing, these blood tests are pretty accurate.)

You can also take matters into your own hands and try an elimination diet.

Simply stop eating all wheat, rye and barley for four weeks, then slowly add each of them back into your diet. If you feel better off gluten, and symptoms return as you reintroduce it, bingo!

A Sure Cure for the Gluten-Intolerant

The good news is that gluten intolerance is one of the few medical conditions for which we have a cure that is 100 percent effective for 100 percent of affected patients.

All you have to do is eliminate gluten from your life. This is the only thing that will allow the villi to recover and regenerate.

Because this condition is a recipe for nutritional deficiency, it’s imperative that you also take a good daily multivitamin and mineral supplement, along with additional vitamin D, folic acid, B-complex vitamins, and a probiotic supplement. 

Should You Go Gluten-Free?

At my clinic, we test our patients with suspicious symptoms and, if indicated, counsel them in appropriate diet changes.

Sure, a gluten-free diet can be inconvenient and a challenge to stick with, but it’s absolutely worth it. (For a comprehensive list of gluten-free foods, visit celiac.com.)

Studies show that gluten-intolerant people who eliminate this protein eventually recover completely.

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