By Lindsey Felt, Nutritionist
As many of our patients know, we often recommend essential dietary changes to accompany their Optimal Health Program. One of those dietary changes involves taking gluten out of the diet, not because the patient has been diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease, but because it has been determined that they have what is know as a “gluten intolerance” or sensitivity. One of the most common questions we get from our patients is “What is the difference between Celiac’s Disease and a gluten intolerance?”
First of all….What is Gluten???
Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a protein composite most commonly found in wheat and related grains such as barley and rye. Gluten is the amalgam of a gliadin and a glutelin, which is conjoined with starch in the endosperm of various grass-related grains. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture. It is also used in a wide variety of foods as a thickener and binder, flavor enhancer, and protein supplement.
Celiac disease is the most severe form of gluten intolerance. Individual with Celiac Disease suffer an adverse autoimmune reaction when they consume gluten, meaning that their immune system mistakes some part of the body as a pathogen and attacks its own cells. Antibodies triggered by the autoimmune reaction to gluten flatten the intestinal villi, the tiny fingers in the small intestines needed to break down and absorb vital nutrients from food.
Initial symptoms of Celiac Disease include cramping, bloating and diarrhea, nausea, hives, congestion but , if left untreated, can eventually lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis and other more serious health problems that can result in early death.
(Non-Celiac) Gluten Intolerance or Gluten Sensitivity
Gluten sensitivity is becoming more common, although is still vague in its diagnosis. People with gluten-sensitivity cannot tolerate gluten and may develop gastrointestinal symptoms similar to those in celiac disease. However, for people with gluten intolerance, the overall clinical picture is usually less severe and difficult to identify making it an often overlooked health issue.
According to recent Wall Street Journal Article, “Dr. Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center says that research into gluten sensitivity today is roughly where celiac disease was 30 years ago.” The bottom line is that we are still learning what constitutes non-celiac gluten intolerance/sensitivity. According to a recent BMC Medicine study on Celiac and Gluten Intolerance/Gluten Sensitivity: “gluten can set off a distinct reaction in the intestines and the immune system, even in people who don’t have celiac disease”.
• GI – digestive problems, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel
• General – fatigue, weight loss or gain, hormone imbalances
• Physical and neurological symptoms – headaches, cognitive impairment, brain fog, mood swings, depression
• Bone & joints – osteoporosis, fractures, bone and joint pain
• Skin problems – eczema, psoriasis, rashes, easy bruising
• Reproductive – menstrual irregularities, infertility
Here is a useful table from the Wall Street Journal that differentiates between Gluten Sensitivity, Wheat Allergy, and Celiac Disease.
Where do you go from here?
We have witnessed many of our patients making marked improvements from the following conditions (but not limited to) with the complete removal of gluten from their diet: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Crohn’s disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, ADHD, and Fibromyalgia. Changing your diet so that it best accommodates your needs can have a profound impact on your health.
If you suspect that you have a gluten intolerance, have a health issue that would benefit from a gluten free diet, or a history of Celiac Disease/gluten intolerance in your family but are unsure how to proceed, here are the steps that we recommend:
- Meet with Dr. Camp or Marya Grosse, F.N.P. for proper diagnosis and testing through such cutting edge laboratories as EnteroLabs and ALCAT Food Sensitivity Testing.
- Meet with our Nutritionist to help you develop a proper food plan to support your HEALTHY gluten free lifestyle.
- Make the decision to cut gluten 100% out of your diet for a minimum of 3 months or, depending on the severity of your diagnosis and symptoms, longer.
Please enjoy the following healthy gluten free recipes to see how tasty gluten free living can be!
-Lindsey Felt, Certified Nutrition Consultant
Beck, Melinda. (March 15, 2011) “Clues to Gluten Sensitivity.” The Wall Street Journal On-line. Retrieved July 29, 2012, from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200393522456636.html