Being ‘gluten-free’ has become a bit of a trend, leaving many people feeling like it is has been made up by people, or is just a fad. I receive this question quite a bit in my practice, ‘Is being gluten-free really necessary?’ And the unfortunate answer is yes; that even if you don’t have an allergy to gluten, because of it’s inflammatory nature, it is best to reduce in your diet or avoid it altogether.
So let’s dive in and explore what gluten is, and why does it tend to be such a problem for so many people?
What is gluten?
It is a type of protein found in wheat and other cereal grains, that is also a type of lectin, which is inflammatory. Dr. Steven Gundry, MD has really brought inflammatory lectin-rich foods to the forefront, describing the amazing benefits of eating a low-lectin diet in his book ‘The Plant Paradox.’ One of my favorites to help move people with chronic illness towards a healthy, whole foods diet.
Why does it seem that more and more people are gluten-sensitive?
This is due to a few reasons. First, this is due to disruption of the gut lining through antibiotics, chemical exposure (even chlorine-heavy water), lectin-exposure and other negative impacts on our gut biome. This creates ‘leaky gut’ which allows large proteins to make it through our barrier of the gut, which signals the body to attack – therefore creating a reaction. Secondly, the amount of gluten added to our food products has increased dramatically. You can now find gluten in soy sauce, yogurt, meat – and the amount in bread itself is also higher to increase the chewiness. Third, due to GMO manipulation of our gluten-containing grains, the bodies enzymes do not recognize the proteins as well, and therefore are not as easily digested, thereby impacting the gut.
If I’m gluten-sensitive, does that mean I have celiac disease?
No, however, you can be severely gluten-sensitive.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications. Celiac disease is a more severe version of being gluten-intolerant.
How can I find out if I’m gluten-intolerant or have Celiac disease?
Some people don’t feel well when they eat gluten, so they avoid it. However, many people cannot tell if they have an issue or not – there is no immediate reaction, so it feels unclear. If this is the case, testing for antibodies is a great first place to begin. Insurance is typically good at covering this test. Ask your doctor to order the gliadin IgA and gliadin IgG antibodies.
If you are suspicious that you may have Celiac disease (due to family history, or reaction to gluten), other antibodies to explore are: Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies and Endomysial Antibodies. If these are positive, there is a strong likelihood you have Celiac disease. Further confirmation can be gotten through genetic testing for Celiac: the HLA-DQ2 is one of two main celiac disease genes and happens to be the most common gene implicated in celiac disease (HLA-DQ8 is the other so-called “celiac gene”). These also can be ordered through your doctor, and typically are covered well with insurance (although it’s always smart to check with your plan).
What foods contain gluten?
Common foods that naturally contain gluten are wheat, rye, wheat germ, barley, couscous, farina, malt, kamut, and spelt. This list does not include food groups that have gluten added to them – such as soy sauce, deli meat, MSG, pie fillings, etc. You can find a great list of gluten-containing foods at Celiac.org.
Why consider testing or becoming gluten-free?
I have seen amazing transformations in people with chronic symptoms or illnesses with the elimination of gluten. I have seen complete resolution of: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches, migraines, and IBS to name a few.
I have seen healthy weight loss, improvement of energy, better clarity, and improvement of gut symptoms.
I feel that there is a possibility of so many potential positives, that it is worth doing the elimination of gluten for 2 weeks, and/or testing to see how your body feels about this common food.
If you have questions or are interested in testing, we would love to see you! You can reach us at sagemedclinic.com.
We would love to be a resource for you!
In health and wellness,
Dr. Angila Jaeggli