Recently, with all the buzz regarding gluten you’re probably wondering what it is, and if you need to be concerned. Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye. Besides the obvious, gluten lurks in many foods, and is used as a thickener in many soups and sauces. Gluten intolerance is not a new thing, but it is now getting more attention than ever before. The reason: Gluten-free eating has a basis in science, and it does help a genuine problem.
For people like myself with a chronic digestive disorder called celiac disease, gluten is truly evil. I was lactose intolerant as a child, and studies are now linking lactose intolerance in children as a warning sign of gluten intolerance. Perhaps this is because gluten destroys the villi in your intestines. Therefore, rendering damage to the intestinal track. For many years, I was sick. In college my condition became so debilitating I could barely function. I started to do my own research. I was sick of being sick, and having every specialist under the sun poke and prod me. I was told to drink more water and eat more whole grains. I was told I felt sick because of my hypothyroidism. I was told that my chronic pain was in my head. Ill and frustrated, I started to pay more attention to what my body was telling me. I’ve always thought of food as a means of healing, and so I considered the idea that something I was eating was doing the exact opposite. I stopped eating gluten, and within days felt better. My stomach, like a balloon, deflated. My skin stopped itching, and I wasn’t in so much pain every time I ate a meal.
Experts once thought celiac disease was rare. An Archives of Internal Medicine study in 2003 suggests otherwise. One in 133 Americans is affected by celiac disease. A gluten-free diet is also being touted as a good idea for those that suffer from autoimmune diseases such as hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. More than 2.5 million people may have celiac disease, but as estimated 150,000 have been diagnosed. People can be asymptomatic for years, and the symptoms of celiac disease can overlap with other medical problems, often frustrating patients and doctors.
If you experience chronic digestive disturbances such as diarrhea and/or constipation, abdominal pain, fatigue, a doctor should evaluate you. You may find a local doctor using iTriage, the smartphone app, or iTriagehealth.com. Keep in mind, you may still test negative for celiac disease, and be gluten intolerant. Do your own research; be curious about the links between your diet and your health. Figure out what you can and cannot eat. Pickup a cookbook and experiment using new grains like quinoa which contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it an unusual source of complete protein among plant foods. Keep in mind, you must adhere to a strict gluten free diet to restore the healthy balance in your body. This diet must be maintained for life. Think of it as a lifestyle change. Go with your gut, as you know your body better than anyone.