Are you wondering if you should join the gluten-free craze, even though you have never been diagnosed with celiac disease? This is a question that I am asked very often in my practice.
For those people that have celiac disease it is a very debilitating disease that impacts the digestive tract as well as other systems of the body.
Celiac disease is also known as nontropical sprue, gluten-sensitive enteropathy, or celiac sprue. This disease usually shows in the first three years of life as solid foods are introduced. If the diagnosis is not made during that time, the symptoms may reappear in adulthood generally after 35 years of age.
Certain grains (wheat, spelt and barley) have proteins on the cell surface called gluten, and more specifically gliadin, which trigger the immune response in the intestinal tract.
The immune system tries to neutralize the gliadin or gluten and instead damages the intestinal cells. It ruins the normal digestive tract and causes the digestive system to create pain and inflammation in the body. The damage from this disease can also cause nutrient deficiencies that may contribute to other symptoms in the body.
There are several symptoms that result from the reaction in the small intestine, one being malabsorption issues for nutrients, minerals and vitamins.
Others are problems with bowel movements that can range from diarrhea to bulky, pale, frothy, foul-smelling bowel movements. There can be weight gain or weight loss. There can be symptoms that show up outside of the digestive tract as well, such as pain in joints, thyroid conditions, mental health issues, and diabetes-related symptoms.
If you had to deal with these symptoms you would definitely want to go gluten-free because it would relieve your pain and change your life. This is the reason gluten-free products have been cropping up in health food stores and local grocery stores. Most of these products are breads, crackers, cookies or anything that would traditionally be cooked with wheat.
Gluten sensitivity is different from celiac disease in the way the immune system reacts.