©By Dori Cranmore RN, Holistic Health Practitioner

Lately, it seems, gluten intolerance has become a common topic of discussion.  Searching the local stores for gluten free food is certainly a challenge.  If your life has been disrupted by gluten sensitivity, you understand all too well how it seems to have sabotaged your health. We have increased the gluten content of flour by as much as 90% over the past 25 years by genetically modifying wheat to give us certain desired baking characteristics. If GMO foods are not labeled as such, how will we ever know the consequences until large segments of the population are affected?

Gluten is actually a composite of the proteins gliadin and glutenin.  Not too many suspect the multiple organ problems to be related to food, let alone the gluten in the food. Celiac disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust, and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye. Gluten can cause inflammation and can affect any cell, tissue or organ. If you have celiac disease and eat foods containing gluten, an immune reaction occurs in your small intestine, causing damage to the surface of your small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients.  Gluten sensitivity is not a food allergy but an intolerance and is much more complicated than allergic reactions.  An allergy is more of an immediate reaction like a rash or itching or throat swelling.  Gluten causes an immune reaction and may not occur for 24-72 hours after consuming it so it’s difficult to figure out what actually caused the reactions.

The Mayo Clinic says there are no typical signs and symptoms of celiac disease.  Most people present with general complaints like:

  • Intermittent diarrhea and or constipation
  • Abdominal pain – bloating – stomach upset
  • Irritability or depression
  • Anemia
  • Joint pain – muscle cramps
  • Skin rash – psoriasis – eczema – dermatitis
  • Mouth sores
  • Dental and bone disorders (such as osteoporosis)
  • Tingling in the legs and feet (neuropathy)
  • Weight loss or the inability to lose weight
  • General weakness and fatigue
  • Foul-smelling or grayish stools that may be fatty or oily (floating)
  • Stunted growth (in children) – failure to thrive

So, as you can see, it could be easily missed in the health care provider’s office.  Dr. Richard Passwater  reminds us that the most important thing to keep in mind is that if the problem is not corrected as soon as possible, damage to the intestinal tract worsens, suffering increases, and the absorption of vital nutrients suffers, compounding all health problems. I recently had a client that was scheduled to have her colon completely removed because she had suffered for 30 years with many of the symptoms that are listed above. She had been to several doctors/specialists and had multiple testing only to be told the only treatment for her was to have her colon removed and a colostomy placed. I suggested to her that she try a gluten free diet while waiting for her surgery date. She reported that within 3 days she was 100% improved with no pain.  She cancelled her surgery and is enjoying her new way of eating. Her husband and family are still scratching their heads at her extreme rapid change. Health professionals need to be educated about gluten sensitivity because it can make a profound difference in patient outcomes.  The general public needs to know so that they can take charge of their health and well-being and not have to wait until they see the “right person” to tell them to stop eating gluten. If you have an illness that has not responded to medical intervention, you have absolutely nothing to lose by trying a gluten free diet.  The blood tests actually test the antibodies to gluten so the accuracy depends on the consistency of the diet to detect this and even then it gets missed 30% of the time.  Some of the latest studies say 1 in 133 people have celiac disease and the fastest-rising population seems to be women over 40 years of age. Some new studies say as many as 81% of Americans have a genetic disposition toward gluten sensitivity and 29% are gluten sensitive. Customers have reported to us that using the amino acid L-Glutamine powder twice a day is helping repair the cilia in the colon that are damaged with celiac disease. Dr. Shari Lieberman author of many nutrition and Gluten related books says just about any chronic illness will respond to a gluten free diet and lists ADHD, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraines, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, microscopic colitis, psoriasis, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, ataxia and even type 1 diabetes.  Many foods have gluten that you would never suspect like ice cream, soups, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, prepared foods, imitation crab, beer, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, many herbal supplements (we carry gluten free supplements, snack bars and mixes).  Other forms of wheat also contain gluten such as graham, triticale, durum, semolina, spelt, kamut and bulgur.  Also if you are an O blood type then you are definitely sensitive to all wheat.