Celiac Disease: A Whole
When your healthcare provider hears you say “gluten allergy,” she’s likely to think first of celiac disease, which occurs when your immune system mounts an attack on your small intestine in response to ingestion of gluten-containing foods.
Celiac disease affects about one in every 133 Americans.
There are many different symptoms potentially caused by celiac diseaseevery case is different, and in fact some people don’t have any symptoms at all. But there are some symptoms that appear frequently in people ultimately diagnosed with celiac disease, including:
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
- Depression and/or anxiety
The absence of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you can rule out celiac disease: as I said, some people have no symptoms at all, or suffer mainly from neurological symptoms .
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.
What Should You Do If You Think You May Be Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitive
If you are experiencing symptoms when eating foods that contain wheat, barley, rye or oats and think you may have a sensitivity to gluten, its important to first rule out coeliac disease.
We do not recommend trying a gluten free diet as a first option if you are experiencing symptoms because this could prevent a coeliac disease test from giving you an accurate result.
Check if your symptoms are related to coeliac disease by taking our online assessment. If the results are positive, you can take them to your GP to ask for further testing for coeliac disease. Its essential to keep eating gluten for the tests to work.
If you get a negative test result for coeliac disease and other causes of your symptoms have been ruled out, you might wish to discuss the possibility of non coeliac gluten sensitivity with your healthcare team.
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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.
What Happens If You Accidentally Eat Gluten On A Gluten
Accidentally eating gluten when you have a gluten intolerance may result in uncomfortable side effects. You might notice immediate effects, such as headache or abdominal pain. Other effects are more subtle, but cause problems in your health over time. Once you’ve dealt with the side effects, all you can do is try your best to completely avoid gluten in the future.
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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.
Warning Signs Of Gluten Intolerance
Should the immune system have an unusual response to gluten in your system, then it might be a sign that you have gluten intolerance.19 Sometimes it can be mistaken for celiac disease or a wheat allergy.20 The root cause of a gluten intolerance is not fully understood, although it has been linked to the digestive system, compared to celiac disease where a genetic link has been found.21
Typical gluten intolerance symptoms include bloating, belly pain, diarrhea, tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell. Someone with a gluten intolerance might also experience these indicators, although these are less frequent and already affect areas beyond the gut:
Joint or muscle pain
If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. This will help you determine whether you have gluten intolerance or if the symptoms occur because of other health reasons. This greatly applies if you or someone you know has severe belly pain. An extreme stomachache is not a sign of gluten intolerance, so it might be due to another potentially devastating disease that may require immediate treatment.
To diagnose a gluten intolerance, its important that you continue eating your usual meals, especially if its abundant in foods with gluten. This could help the doctor determine the main cause of the symptoms. An inaccurate diagnosis might occur if the patient decides to stop eating gluten-loaded foods prior to, or during, a consultation.22
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You Feel Down A Lot Of The Time
Mood changes, or feeling an increase in depression and/or anxiety after eating gluten-containing foods is a symptom in those with NCGS, says De Latour.
In fact, one 2014 study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, found that gluten-intolerant subjects reported increased depression after just three days of eating gluten.
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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Managing A Severe Food Reaction With Epinephrine
A wheat allergy reaction can cause symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening the severity of each reaction is unpredictable. People who have previously experienced only mild symptoms may suddenly experience a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. In the U.S., food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting.
Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis, which can occur within seconds or minutes, can worsen quickly and can be deadly. In this type of allergic reaction, exposure to the allergen causes the whole-body release of a flood of chemicals that can lead to lowered blood pressure and narrowed airways, among other serious symptoms.
Once youre diagnosed with a food allergy, your allergist will likely prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector and teach you how to use it. Check the expiration date of your auto-injector, note the expiration date on your calendar and ask your pharmacy about reminder services for prescription renewals.
If you are uncertain whether a reaction warrants epinephrine, use it right away, because the benefits of epinephrine far outweigh the risk that a dose may not have been necessary.
Your allergist will provide you with a written emergency treatment plan that outlines which medications should be administered and when . Be sure that you understand how to properly and promptly use an epinephrine auto-injector.
It Could Reduce Inflammation
If you don’t 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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Gluten And Health Disorders
Gluten sensitivity will appear in very different ways. Most of the cases involve several symptoms like indigestion, headaches, lack of concentration and even overweight. Gluten intolerance is not a pathology that physicians take into account when it comes to making regular diagnoses.
Many people experience gluten sensitivity on a daily basis without being aware.
Is There A Food Intolerance Test
A number of companies produce food intolerance tests, but these tests are not based on scientific evidence and are not recommended by the British Dietary Association .
The best way of diagnosing a food intolerance is to monitor your symptoms and the foods you eat. See what happens when you cut out the suspected food for a while, and then reintroduce it into your diet.
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Celiac Disease Tests And Diagnosis
Doctors use blood tests and other tests to help find out if you have celiac disease:
- Serology tests look for certain antibodies.
- Blood tests check other parts of your immune system.
- Intestinal fatty acid binding protein tests show if thereâs damage to the intestine.
- A complete blood count looks for anemia .
- C-reactive protein tests show if thereâs inflammation.
- Metabolic panels test liver and kidney function.
- Vitamin D, B12, and folate tests look for vitamin deficiencies.
- Iron and ferritin tests look for iron deficiency.
- Swallowing a small camera can show problems in your digestive tract.
- Imaging tests show signs in the intestine, like wall thickening or changes to blood vessels.
- Genetic testing looks for human leukocyte antigens to rule out celiac disease.
If you’re on a gluten-free diet, you’ll need to come off it before having the antibody test so the results will be correct.
If blood and other tests show that you might have celiac disease, youâll probably need to have an endoscopy. This procedure lets your doctor look at your small intestine and take a bit of tissue to see whether itâs damaged.
How To Know If You Suffer Gluten Intolerance
First, avoid eating products that can contain gluten for 60 days. To do so, it is not enough to just stop eating bread and pasta with gluten. Lets not forget that gluten is also a food additive in many processed products. Therefore, read the product label carefully. Moreover, you will have to order a gluten-free meal if you go to a restaurant.
It may be difficult to give up the products that you usually eat as well as the belief that whole bread is always healthy.
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Wheat Allergy: This Is A Real Allergy
People who are allergic to wheatactually, truly allergic to itsometimes also experience gastrointestinal symptoms and rashes, but they also experience more “typical” allergy symptoms, like a runny nose. People occasionally refer to a wheat allergy as a “gluten allergy,” but true wheat allergy doesn’t necessarily involve glutenit’s possible to be allergic to many different components of the wheat plant. Symptoms of true wheat allergy include:
- Nasal congestion
- Swelling of lips, tongue and/or face
- Nausea, vomiting and/or abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
The most dangerous potential symptom of wheat allergy is anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening systemic allergic reaction. People experiencing anaphylaxis from wheat allergy may find themselves coughing, wheezing or having difficulty swallowing their hearts may beat rapidly or slow down and they may have a large drop in blood pressure. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency, so if you experience these symptoms, call 911 immediately.