What Does Gluten DO to me?

Well lets start with the fact that gluten has NO nutritional benefits.  So by removing gluten from your diet, you will not be missing out on something important.  There are many people who have no issues at all with gluten and this post is NOT about them.  This post is for the 15% of U.S. population who have gluten sensitivity in some form.

Those with some form of gluten sensitivity can experience many problems such as hives, difficulty breathing, and digestive issues; in serious cases, a person can experience anaphylaxis, a sudden and severe reaction that can be life-threatening.  Gluten can also cause damage and inflammation in the small intestine, bloating, weight loss, joint pain, weight gain, fatigue and headaches.

For those of you who might like a little more detailed description of what it does in your body: you have small hair-like projections on the intestinal wall which are called villi.  Their function is to absorb the nutrients and vitamins as food passes through the intestines and help break it down. Gluten attacks the villi, wearing them down so that they can no longer function as they should (no longer absorbs nutrients and vitamins) which leaves you malnourished.

Sometimes, tiny holes are created in the intestinal lining, which lets food particles leak into your bloodstream rather than being broken down and absorbed normally. Your body’s natural defense system will fight these “foreign invaders” and attack the body.  You may see symptoms like skin rashes, eczema, bloating, mouth sores, and headaches and more.

Both Celiac disease and gluten intolerance create inflammation throughout the body, with 200-300 possible effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract and more. It can be the single cause behind many different “diseases.”

Re-read that part……….TWO to THREE HUNDRED possible symptoms!  That is crazy! No wonder why it is so often mis-diagnosed.  Different organs can be affected by different types of gluten sensitivity and it can affect more than one area, again complicating diagnosis.  

When damage takes place in the cerebellum, the balance center of the brain that controls coordination and complex movements like walking, speaking and swallowing.   This is called Gluten Ataxia and is a neurologic condition characterized by the loss of balance and coordination. However it can also affect fingers, hands, arms, legs, speech and even eye movements. Typical symptoms include difficulty walking or walking with a wide gait, frequent falls, difficulty judging distances or position, visual disturbances and tremor.

When it affects your skin it is dermatitis herpetiformis.   This is a chronic blistering skin condition, characterized by blisters filled with a watery fluid.

When gluten affects the small bowel, this is celiac disease.  

The Gluten Free Network had some interesting points on Celiac disease vs. gluten intolerance:

Celiac disease is an immune reaction, a severe sudden onset allergic reaction, to the protein called gluten. While celiac disease is initially an auto-immune disorder, it is also a disease of malabsorption, because essential nutrients are not absorbed.  If you imagine a continuum of gluten intolerance symptoms, celiac disease is usually at the most extreme end with immediate autoimmune reactions.

Gluten intolerance often has a slower onset than celiac disease, and may be hard to diagnose due to the broad range of symptoms and causes.  Undiagnosed for long periods of time, food intolerance have been found to contribute to diabetes, bowel cancer, anemia and osteoporosis.

A partial list from Celiac.com shows signs and symptoms of malabsorption, malnutrition, vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies associated with Celiac Disease to be:

Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating; Anemia; Diarrhea; Easy bruising; Epistaxis (nose bleeding); Fatigue or general weakness; Flatulence; Fluid retention; Foul-smelling or grayish stools that are often fatty or oily; Gastrointestinal symptoms; Gastrointestinal hemorrhage; Infertility; Iron deficiency anemia; lymphocytic gastritis; Muscle weakness; Muscle wasting; Nausea; Panic Attacks; Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage); Stunted growth in children; Vertigo; Vitamin B12 deficiency; Vitamin D deficiency; Vitamin K deficiency; Vomiting; Voracious appetite; Weight loss or Obesity.

Celiac.com also shares a list of disorders and conditions that may have a connection to gluten intolerance:

Addison’s Disease; Anemia; Arthritis; Ataxia, Nerve Disease, Neuropathy, Brain Damage; Attention Deficit Disorder; Autism; Bacterial Overgrowth; Casein / Cows Milk Intolerance; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Cognitive Impairment; Crohn’s Disease; Depression; Diabetes; Down Syndrome; Dyspepsia, Acid Reflux; Epilepsy; Fertility, Pregnancy, Miscarriage; Fibromyalgia; Flatulence (Gas); Gall Bladder Disease; Gastrointestinal Bleeding; Infertility, Impotency; Inflammatory Bowel Disease; Intestinal Permeability; Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Kidney Disease; Liver Disease; Migraine Headaches; Multiple Sclerosis; Obesity, Overweight & Celiac Disease; Osteoporosis, Osteomalacia, Bone Density; Psoriasis; Refractory Celiac Disease & Collagenous Sprue; Sarcoidosis; Schizophrenia / Mental Problems; Sepsis; Sjogrens Syndrome; Skin Problems and Thyroid & Pancreatic Disorders.

THIS IS NO JOKE PEOPLE!

I would like to be clear here………….this does NOT mean that everyone with depression or an autoimmune disease or any of the above mentioned symptoms/disorders/conditions has gluten sensitivity.

What it DOES mean is that if you have any chronic illness, or one or more of the above listed issues and do not seem to experience relief from what the doctor prescribed, perhaps you should consider the cause could be gluten sensitivity.

How can you correct this?  You need to treat the cause not just the symptoms.

Eliminate gluten-from their diet – not just “cut back” on it.

This information only scratches the surface of what is available. Please check WebMd, Celiac.org, Celiac.com and many other sites for more detailed info.  I hope that this has given you a little insight as to the seriousness of gluten intolerance.

Live and LOVE gluten free!

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