You may have been hearing about gluten sensitivity in the media a lot lately, but what does being intolerant to gluten really mean? And how can you tell if you are being affected by gluten in your diet? First off, “gluten” is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains that can trigger a reaction in the immune system and intestines among people with a sensitivity to it. Gluten is typically found in foods like bread and bakery items, pasta, cereal, pizza, fried vegetables, products containing flour, as well as many other processed foods. Experts estimate that 1 in 20 people have some form of gluten sensitivity symptoms, varying among cases.
When someone if intolerant to gluten, the body thinks that gluten is a foreign invader and creates antibodies to fight it off, attacking the small intestine and generating gastrointestinal problems. Common symptoms that arise in people with sensitivity to gluten present themselves in the form of stomach issues and bowel problems, including gas and bloating, headaches, fatigue, and balance difficulty. Gluten intolerance and losing weight can be closely related because of the inability to properly digest the protein found in gluten.
Although there is no official testing for gluten intolerance and there are no defined symptoms per se, experts recommend that if you think you may be sensitive to gluten that you first receive a blood test for Celiac disease. As for now, there is no treatment for gluten intolerance and following a gluten-free diet is the best you can do to manage your symptoms (List of foods containing gluten can be found here). Luckily there is an increasing availability of gluten-free products on the market these days. Sales of gluten-free products last year were estimated to be $2.6 billion. And with all this attention surrounding gluten sensitivity it might not be too long before a gluten free McDonalds pops up in your neighborhood.
Yours in Health,
Stella Metsovas B.S., CCN