Gluten-free bread, gluten-free pizza, what is the big deal behind gluten-free eating? Is it healthier for you?
If you’re someone who has celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (gluten intolerance), the answer is, “Yes!” Gluten-free eating is necessary for those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance to avoid several illnesses and diseases. Before we discover if you may have a problem with gluten, let’s cover some basics.
What is Gluten?
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of gluten by now, but what is it exactly? Although gluten has been given a bad rap, it is a natural protein. That means that gluten is not an additive, it is a part of the makeup of wheat, rye, spelt, and barley. Gluten is what makes a dinner roll or cookie soft and chewy. Gluten acts like a glue and gives some foods its texture and shape.
Foods like cereal, pasta, crackers, birthday cake, and even condiments like soy sauce, salad dressing, and gravy contain gluten. Thankfully, gluten-free alternatives are more accessible for people who must avoid the protein. Today, restaurants offer gluten-free menu options and manufacturers are adding special gluten-free labeling to packaging. Without special labeling, you would have to read the entire ingredients list and know which of those ingredients have gluten in them.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that has a genetic predisposition. The disease can be activated by triggers like trauma, stress, infections, and environmental factors. About 33% of the population has a genetic predisposition for celiac disease, but only 1% of this group will actually develop celiac disease. Most people who have celiac disease are still undiagnosed.
When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, it damages their small intestine. When the small intestine is damaged, the body is not able to absorb important nutrients from food. This can lead to conditions that are associated with malnutrition.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity, more commonly known as gluten sensitivity, is not an autoimmune reaction. Gluten-sensitivity is the diagnosis given when celiac disease or wheat allergy is ruled out and if symptoms improve by eating a gluten-free diet.
A wheat allergy is different from celiac disease. If someone has a wheat allergy, their body attacks the wheat. The body will then send out a message to the rest of the body that a problem is happening. This can cause a reaction like itching or hives. Wheat allergies are very common in the US. Children who are allergic to wheat may outgrow it. However, adults with the allergy will have it for a lifetime.
Signs and Symptoms
There are over 200 signs and symptoms of celiac disease and gluten intolerance…Wow! Many of the symptoms are gastrointestinal.
Gastrointestinal Symptoms Include: