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Gluten Intolerance

Starting a Gluten-Free Diet

A strict gluten-free diet is the first one step in treatment of gluten intolerance and celiac disease.  It is critically necessary to treat the disease, as symptoms of these disorders will only resolve when gluten is removed from the diet. Even minuscule amounts of gluten can reactivate the disease-causing immune reaction mechanism. As little as 20 parts per million (ppm; a standard measure of concentration) can cause symptoms in a person who is gluten intolerant.

The very good news is that gluten intolerance and celiac disease are receiving a much higher media profile. The Media are now focusing on these disorders, with featured content appearing frequently in the national press. The result is that gluten-free foods and household products are becoming much more widely available. 

It has never been easier to avoid gluten.  Most health food stores and quality grocery stores have created a gluten-free section and continue to expand their offerings.  Many gluten-free foods can also be ordered online.

Tinkyada is a brand that offers gluten-free pastas, made from rice, that are a great substitute for wheat pasta.

You can even enjoy fresh made pizza at local restaurants, such as Pane e Vino and Mellow Mushroom, which provide the option of choosing gluten-free crusts.

About 40% of Americans are genetically predisposed to become intolerant to gluten. At least 1% of Americans (about 315,000 Americans) have the very severe form of gluten sensitivity, called celiac disease.  It is possible that the percentage of Americans suffering from celiac disease may actually be much higher reports the NCHS the National Conference on Health Statistics, because most physicians simply do not recognize the signs and symptoms of celiac disease when presented. Celiac disease has been nicknamed the "great masquerader" as the disease often presents with a variety of signs and symptoms.  A person who is gluten intolerant may develop celiac disease after repeated exposure to gluten.

So what exactly is gluten?  It's a complex of proteins that are found in wheat, rye, and barley. When eaten, the human digestive tract is unable break down the gluten proteins into its component amino acids, so the gluten proteins remain  undigested in the gastrointestinal tract until they are excreted. 

The body tags proteins as "self: or "Foreign." In those persons who develop celiac disease, the gluten proteins are identified as "foreign" and their immune systems launch a reaction against these proteins trying to kill them. Infants, children, teenagers, and adults, may have this reaction, and continued exposure to gluten may cause development of celiac disease.1-2

The Western Diet is made up of significant amounts of Wheat, rye, and barley. Think about the last time you went to a restaurant. They served bread. Almost all breads are made from one or more of these three grains. Then think of our daily consumption of Cerials, cookies, cakes, pizza, bagels, muffins, and don't forget all pasta are just a few of the foods that contain gluten. Additionally, gluten is found in nearly everything we consume from vitamins,  to shampoo, to toothpaste, household cleansers, and even prescription drugs. Wheat-based binders are often used in the manufacturing process of many food and non food items. 

A susceptible person's initial immune reaction to gluten will often worsen with continued exposure. Eventually the immune reaction may damage the lining of the person's small intestine, leading to the classic symptoms of Irritable Bowel - abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhea, and abdominal bloating.  Intestinal damage causes these very unpleasant and debilitating symptoms to get worse and leads to Celiac Disease and other serious diseases. One of the major consequences of celiac disease can be malnutrition because the damaged intestinal lining is unable to properly absorb needed nutrients.

Gluten intolerance may be related to a variety of serious disorders. Perhaps surprisingly, research has pointed to neuropsychiatric conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and schizophrenia may be associated with underlying gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Evidence suggests that arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), and psoriatic arthritis may also be related to gluten intolerance. Endocrine conditions, which are so prevalent today, including diabetes, hyper- and hypothryroidism, and Addison's disease are often related to gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Infertility and frequent miscarriages may also be related to an underlying condition of gluten intolerance. What did the Greeks say, "So goes the gut so goes the body."

It is important to realize that gluten intolerance and celiac disease may be an underlying cause of many of these serious medical conditions that have not been treated successfully. It may be critical to consider gluten intolerance as an underlying cause of these various disorders and to take appropriate action. Patient knowledge and increased physician knowledge and awareness are crucial to correctly identifying a hidden problem.3

Your Millar chiropractor is an expert in nutrition and is trained to identify underlying causes of health problems. Additionally, chiropractic treatment may help restore more normal and more effective immune system functioning. In cases requiring a holistic, multidisciplinary approach, chiropractic treatment is a crucial component.

1Selimolu MA, Karabiber H: Celiac disease. Prevention and treatment. J Clin Gastroenterol 44(1):4-8, 2010
2Setty M, et al: Celiac disease: risk assessment, diagnosis, and monitoring. Mol Diagn Ther 12(5):289-298, 2008
3Schuppan D, et al: Celiac disease: from pathogenesis to novel therapies. Gastroenterology 137(6):1912-1933, 2009