How Do You Know If You're Sensitive to Gluten?
Ever think you were serving up nutritious meals but the health of you or your child is not as good as expected? Could it be the food, type of drink, or possibly, hidden ingredient(s) in foods that were causing the health concern? The answer is maybe.
KEEP A LIST
When someone comes into the office or clinic with vague or multiple health concerns, I often ask them to keep a two-week diary of the foods and liquids they consume on a daily basis. I also request them to write down how their body felt after meals as well as later in the day. These clues can provide a lot of information as to the potential effect of the relationship of food and drink to the state of one's health.
Gluten is composed of several proteins found in wheat (oats
may also be affected through cross-contamination with wheat during processing),
barley and rye, as well as in the combination grain known as triticale. It is
the substance that gives dough its sticky consistency and, consequently, is
often used as a filler or added ingredient in many products. While most people have
no health issues related to gluten, others may experience an allergic response or,
more commonly, symptoms related to a sensitivity, intolerance or an autoimmune
Whether we know it or not, gluten is a common ingredient in most of our diets. It can be found in many other products such as:
- Drinks: beer, artificial coffee creamer, flavored instant coffees and teas
- Common foods: spaghetti sauce, gravy, cookies, breads, French fries, vegetables in sauce
- Ingredients: natural flavorings, starch (may contain wheat protein), hydrolyzed vegetable protein (sometimes), malt syrup, filler, hydrolyzed wheat protein, others
- Non-food products: lipstick, glue on stamps or envelopes, toothpaste and potentially, your vitamins and medications
Needless to say, it is very important to be familiar with the sources of gluten, especially if that ingredient causes your body distress.
HOW WOULD I KNOW?
Those who are sensitive to or unable to digest gluten, known as gluten intolerance, may experience symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and gastrointestinal upset after ingestion of products containing this ingredient
- Unexplained fatigue
For others who are afflicted with a less common but more distressing inflammatory and immune reaction to gluten, symptoms may range from mild discomfort to life-altering and severe reactions. This last one, known as Celiac disease, has the potential to affect multiple body systems including the intestines, nerves and bones. In fact, this disease is often misunderstood because of the wide spectrum of symptoms it may trigger.
For instance, while some may have gastrointestinal complaints, others may have health concerns outside the gastrointestinal tract. But in general, Celiac disease symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Damage to the small intestine
- Increased flatulence (gas)
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Persistent and unexplained fatigue
- Skin disorder (dermatitis herpetiformis)
- Neurologic concerns (seizures, tingling, numbness)
- Osteoporosis - complication of untreated Celiac disease
While the health concerns just mentioned may certainly be caused by other conditions, it is important to consider a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease in individuals with persistent and unexplained symptoms.
Fortunately, a gluten-free diet can go a long way toward
relieving the conditions related to gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease. For
further information, please speak with your family doctor or
gastroenterologist, as well as a registered dietitian.
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