How Is Gluten Intolerance Different
It is fairly common for the term gluten intolerance to be used interchangeably with gluten sensitivity. While neither of these terms are well defined within the medical community, many consider gluten sensitivity to be a milder form of gluten intolerance. For example, someone who experiences mild symptoms triggered by gluten consumption that resolve quickly may be diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. On the other hand, someone who develops serious symptoms that last for a longer period of time would likely be diagnosed with gluten intolerance.
Unlike celiac disease, both gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance do not cause damage to the lining of the small intestine. The body does, however, identify gluten as a foreign invader which triggers the launch of an immune response. Inflammation is part of that response and can contribute to symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort but the symptoms and the inflammation typically resolve as soon as the gluten has been eliminated from the body via digestion. Frequent gluten consumption paired with gluten sensitivity or intolerance may contribute to other symptoms such as headaches, lethargy, hyperactivity, muscle weakness, and joint pain.
How Celiac Disease Is Treated
Once you’ve received a diagnosis of celiac disease, your healthcare provider will advise you to immediately start a gluten-free diet.
A strict gluten-free diet is the only known effective treatment for celiac disease, and it must be followed for life once you have been diagnosed.
Once people with celiac start following a strict gluten-free diet, the majority of people experience a significant improvement in their symptoms within days or weeks. Without exposure to gluten, the damage in the small intestine will begin to heal. A gluten-free diet also prevents more damage from occurring.
In some cases, your healthcare provider might prescribe medication to help with rashes associated with celiac disease. They may also prescribe supplements to address any vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may have occurred due to nutrient malabsorption in the small intestine.
Can Gluten Intolerance Start Later In Life
It sounds like a doom and gloom prophecy, but the reality is that gluten intolerance more aptly called gluten sensitivity spares no one. It can strike anyone at any time, including those who were not previously sensitive to it.
Similar to lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity can affect any member of the human population regardless of their age. What is even more interesting is there seems to be a trend that the older you get, the higher your risks are for developing a sensitivity to this family of proteins.
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What Is A Wheat Allergy
Gluten is just one of the hundreds of proteins found in wheat. A wheat allergy is an immune reaction to any of those proteins. When someone who has a wheat allergy consumes wheat, a certain group of white blood cells called B-cells begins to produce immunoglobulin E antibodies which attack the wheat molecules as if they were foreign invaders. While this is happening, other tissues in the body send out chemical messengers that alert the rest of the body to the presence of a threat. The speed with which this reaction occurs can range from a few minutes to a few hours after consumption and may be accompanied by a variety of symptoms including nausea, itching, abdominal pain, swollen lips or tongue, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis.
A person who is allergic to wheat must avoid all forms of wheat this is the only known treatment available for wheat allergies at this time. They may, however, be able to consume gluten from non-wheat sources such as barley or rye. It is entirely possible for someone to have a wheat allergy as well as celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, so additional testing may be warranted if youve been diagnosed with a wheat allergy. Wheat is one of the 8 most common food allergies in the United States and, while children can sometimes grow out of it, wheat allergies that develop in adulthood are typically permanent.
Diagnosing Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity In Adults
NYU Langone gastroenterologistsdoctors that specialize in diseases of the digestive systemare experts in diagnosing celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the digestive tract after a person consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and other foods and beverages. Some vitamins, medications, and personal care products such as lip balm contain gluten.
During digestion, food passes through the intestines, where nutrients are absorbed into the body. Most of this absorption occurs in the small intestine, where tiny finger-like projections along the small intestinal lining, called villi, sweep the nutrients from food into the bloodstream.
People with celiac disease, however, have a genetic susceptibility to recognize gluten differently. When someone with celiac disease eats food that contains gluten, it triggers the immune system to attack the small intestine. The body forms antibodies, or proteins, that attempt to remove gluten from the body as if it were a foreign invader. The antibodies also attack the lining of the small intestine, causing inflammation.
Over time, recurrent inflammation damages the villi in the small intestine, and the body doesnt absorb nutrients very well. This can lead to malnutrition and unwanted weight loss. The chronic inflammation also can cause abdominal discomfort.
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When To See A Doctor
You should see your doctor if you have any of the symptoms above when you eat foods containing gluten. This can be a sign of gluten intolerance or another serious problem like celiac disease or wheat allergy.
If you work with a doctor or registered dietician nutritionist to remove gluten from your diet but you still have symptoms or your symptoms get worse, you might have a condition other than gluten intolerance. If this happens, you should talk to your doctor or RDN, because you might need to change your diet or have additional testing done.
Understanding Leaky Gut And Allergies
When a baby is born, their gut is naturally leaky. This is actually a good thing. It allows for all of the beneficial components of breast milk like lactoferrin, immunoglubulins, sugars, and antibodies, to be easily absorbed into the bloodstream to support optimal growth and development. As the infant gets older, their gut becomes less leaky, and eventually develops into a mature semi-permeable intestine. This process is called closure.
Before closure occurs, the infant is in a vulnerable state. If the infant is fed anything other than breast milk, those items have a greater ability to pass through their permeable intestines and into the blood stream, triggering the immune system.
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The Signs And Symptoms Of Gluten Sensitivity
Chances are, you know someone on a gluten-free diet. Or maybe you know someone who can’t eat gluten, a protein combination found in cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley.
There are a few reasons for this recent interest in going gluten-free: About 1 percent of the United States population has celiac disease. When these people eat foods with gluten, it triggers an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine and can lead to long-term problems, like lymphoma and other autoimmune diseases like thyroid dysfunction, osteoporosis or osteopenia. But as much as 6 percent of the population may have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity . These people tend to feel better when they avoid gluten, even though they test negative for celiac disease.
Wondering if your child could be sensitive to gluten or benefit from a gluten-free diet? We asked Ritu Verma, MBChB, a pediatric gastroenterologist, Lustgarten Endowed Chair for Clinical Care of GI Motility Disorders, and director of CHOPs Center for Celiac Disease, for help in recognizing the signs of a gluten sensitivity. She also offers advice for what you should do if you think your child has a gluten sensitivity.
It Could Reduce Inflammation
If you dont have celiac, you could also still see your health improve upon giving up gluten. When you stop eating gluten, you may experience less bloating, lowered inflammation, clearer skin, more energy, and less brain fog, Snyder says. This is because gluten can trigger inflammation in the small intestine, which leads to a number of issues in the body like poor digestion, difficulty absorbing nutrients, and autoimmune disorders.
Once gluten is out of your system, your gut will have a chance to repair, and your body will be less burdened, freeing up more energy to help your body feel great and function optimally.
To learn more about what happens to your body when you stop eating gluten, check out the below episode of You Versus Food.
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Symptoms Of Gluten Intolerance
While some symptoms are common for all the three conditions, celiac disease, wheat allergy and non-gluten allergy symptoms specific to these conditions can also occur.
Some of the commonest symptoms of gluten intolerance include
- Issues with digestion such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation leading to nausea and vomiting can mean the person has developed gluten intolerance.
- A condition called Keratosis Pilaris developed due to deficiency of fatty acids and vitamin A in the body triggered due to improper absorption of gluten.
- Consistent fatigue and brain fog may also indicate gluten intolerance.
- Headache, dizziness or migraine may also mean the person has developed intolerance to gluten. These are the common symptoms of gluten intolerance and can occur at any time.
- Hormonal imbalance causing infertility, miscarriages and PCOS may also be symptoms of gluten intolerance. These, showing symptoms of gluten intolerance too are common.
- Rashes, inflammation, swelling and joint pains or issues like depression, anxiety and mood swings are also the symptoms of gluten intolerance. You can become gluten intolerant later in life too, with such symptoms.
When Allergies Typically Develop
Most people remember first getting allergy symptoms at a young age about 1 in 5 kids have some kind of allergy or asthma.
Many people outgrow their allergies by their 20s and 30s, as they become tolerant to their allergens, especially food allergens such as milk, eggs, and grains.
But its possible to develop an allergy at any point in your life. You may even become allergic to something that you had no allergy to before.
It isnt clear why some allergies develop in adulthood, especially by ones 20s or 30s.
Lets get into how and why you can develop an allergy later in life, how you can treat a new allergy, and whether you can expect a new allergy or an existing one to go away with time.
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What Is Gluten Intolerance
Gluten is a kind of protein that is found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is often found in foods that use these ingredients, but it can also be found in medicines, vitamins, and supplements that use small amounts of these ingredients. Gluten intolerance, also called gluten sensitivity, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or non-celiac wheat sensitivity, is a disorder where your body reacts badly to eating gluten.
In some ways, gluten intolerance is similar to celiac disease, a condition in which eating gluten causes symptoms. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is hereditary .
An autoimmune disease is a condition that occurs when the bodys immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the bodys tissue. In celiac disease, gluten causes a reaction that destroys the lining of the small intestines. This reduces the area for absorbing virtually all nutrients.
A gluten intolerance can cause problems with your digestive system, but it wont cause permanent damage to your stomach, intestine, or other organs. However, gluten intolerance is similar to celiac disease, a condition that can cause permanent damage to your small intestine, so you should talk to a gastroenterologist if you think you might have gluten intolerance.
Celiac Disease Vs Gluten Sensitivity Vs Wheat Allergy
To help pinpoint what might be ailing you, it helps to understand the basics of three common gluten and wheat-related health conditions, as well as the differences between them.
Celiac disease is a chronic immune-mediated disorder. If you have CD, ingesting gluten damages the lining of the small intestine, making it difficult to absorb necessary nutrients. The condition is genetic, and experts believe it affects around one in every 150 people, although it may be underdiagnosed, since many people with CD may not even be aware that they have it.
Some people with a mild form of the disease may not experience any symptoms. Most however, will develop common signs like diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue and sometimes nausea or vomiting. Some people with celiac disease may not have digestive issues but develop other symptoms, such as bone or joint pain, depression or anxiety, headaches, mouth problems, like canker sores or dry mouth, a smooth, shiny tongue and tingling or numbness in their hands and feet. Reactions typically arent immediate and symptoms may appear several hours after eating gluten. Left untreated, CD can lead to malnutrition, dermatitis herpetiformis , infertility, anemia, osteoporosis and a higher risk of some cancers, among other health problems.
Wheat allergy is like other food allergies, in which your bodys immune system overreacts to a substance most people find harmless in this case, wheat.
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Better Late Than Never
If you or an aging loved one exhibits the symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity, we recommend you consult with your trusted healthcare provider to arrive at the proper diagnosis at the soonest possible time.
More than half of the individuals who have coeliac disease remain undiagnosed. In the case of the elderly, their coeliac disease is often misdiagnosed for another condition. Instead of self-diagnosing, ask the help of experts such as a nutritionist or dietitian with a background in gluten sensitivity. This will reduce your risk for misdiagnosis and lead you towards the most suitable treatment. Getting a late but accurate diagnosis is far better than receiving a wrong diagnosis or not getting diagnosed at all.
Add Beneficial Bacteria To Your Gut
Did you know that 80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive tract or gut? Thats why if you suffer from any sort of digestive disease, you must always be repopulating your gut with beneficial bacteria as if your health depends on it.
I tell all my health coaching clients that they should talk to their doctor about taking a high dose of probiotics daily .
However, in times of accidental gluten exposure, I recommend doubling up on probiotics, taking one dose in the AM and the second dose in the evening, to give your gut health an extra boost in times of crisis.
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