My son came home from high school recently and told me that his biology teacher informed him there was no such thing as gluten sensitivity. Unfortunately, this kind of misinformation is widespread, as many people are unaware that the root cause of inflammation is damage that undigested gluten proteins do to the gastrointestinal tract. Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are actually the most under-diagnosed health issues in the United States today, according to Peter H.R. Green, M.D., author of the book, Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic.
Doctors routinely test for celiac disease, defined as an allergy to gluten, the protein found in barley, rye and wheat. Since positive test results are obtained only at end-stage celiac disease, early results are often false-negative and therefore invalid. Many people who test negative for celiac disease are actually still intolerant to gluten, but aren’t being diagnosed as such.
The most reliable test for gluten sensitivity and celiac disease currently available is the Gluten Sensitivity Gene Test, through Entero Labs. These test results will show if a person has one or more genes for celiac disease and one or more genes for gluten sensitivity, often showing which parent is responsible for the gene present. The test cost is $180.
The gluten sensitivity and celiac genes do not skip generations, so testing one person in the family is enough to determine whether or not the entire family should be gluten-free. If one or more gluten genes are present then the person tested should remain gluten-free for life to avoid inflammation that could possibly lead to chronic disease. According to Dr. Tom O’Brien, of www.theDr.com, even one bite of gluten per month can continue the inflammatory effects of gluten, which can take as long as 180 days to leave the body.
Because wheat has been hybridized many times without being tested on humans, we are now finding that this new wheat is hard to digest and these undigested fragments work to open up the tight junctions between cells in the small intestine. These fragments work their way into the bloodstream. The body sensing the fragments as foreign invaders, mounts an attack on itself. This process is known as microscopic colitis or “leaky gut syndrome.”
Damage to the gastrointestinal tract causes malabsorption of important vitamins such as A, D, E, and K, folate, vitamin B12 and all minerals. Also the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is one of the feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, is made in the gastrointestinal tract. If inflammation is present, then the body has a hard time making serotonin which may lead to depression and anxiety.
Even if a person doesn’t have gastrointestinal symptoms of bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation, it doesn’t mean that there is no damage being done. According to Dr. Green, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are associated with over 300 health-related issues, including but not limited to the following: Hypertension, Type II Diabetes, Osteopenia and Osteoporosis, all bowel-related diseases such as Crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Diverticulitis, Ulcerative Colitis, Colon Cancer, Breast Cancer, ADD, ADHD, Autism, skin irritations such as Psoriasis and Eczema, Depression and Anxiety, Auto-Immune diseases such as Sjogren’s Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Vitiligo, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and many more.
The key to debunking the myth of gluten sensitivity comes through understanding that our diet choices do influence health outcomes. When a health issue arises, eliminating gluten may have a positive impact in inflammatory processes.
If you’d like to know more, you can attend my “Gluten Free/Dairy Free Easily” seminar at Peoples Wellness Center North on Monday, March 7 at 6 p.m. Find more info and RVSP for this free seminar here.
Barbara Gaston is a Registered Nurse. She sees patients at Peoples Wellness Center North.