In the last several years many new gluten-free products have cropped up in health food stores and local grocery stores. Most of these products are breads, crackers, cookies or anything you would traditionally find wheat in.
Why are these products being created? More people are being diagnosed with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease and are looking for products they can eat that do not contain gluten, a protein found in wheat products. Celiac disease is also known as nontropical sprue, gluten sensitive enteropathy, or celiac sprue. This disease usually shows in the first 3 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.
Gluten and gliadin are two proteins that are found in certain grains and negatively react with the autoimmune system of people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. The gliadin in particular tends to cause a reaction in the immune system because it causes damage to cells in the digestive or other systems of the body. The immune system will react to gluten or gliadin and create antibodies. The body creates antibodies to substances that the body considers a threat and that will damage the body in some way. The creation of these antibodies causes the body to fight again any foods that have gliadin in it. The body begins to fight the food that is being put into the body and this causes havoc in the digestive system and other systems of the body. The allergic reaction causes inflammation and damage, usually in the small intestine of the digestive system.
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 them being bulky, pale, frothy, or foul-smelling. 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.