Who Really Needs a Gluten Free Diet?

One of today’s most discussed health topics is a gluten-free lifestyle. More and more gluten-free products are popping up on the shelves, and the sales of gluten-free foods now gross over six billion dollar per year. Many people are currently re-evaluating the role of wheat and other grains in their diets.

For approximately one percent of the population, avoiding all forms of gluten is absolutely essential. An extreme sensitivity to gluten is known as celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to the protein compound found in wheat, barley and rye, and many processed foods, known as gluten.

According to CBS News chief medical correspondent, Dr. Jon LaPook, in individuals afflicted with celiac disease, gluten can cause inflammation that damages the lining of the small intestine, making the body unable to absorb essential nutrients, such as calcium.

Many people who have celiac disease do not realize that they suffer from this condition. Dr. Peter Green, the director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center, states that 10 years ago, approximately three percent of people with celiac disease were aware that they had this condition.

Today, according to Dr. Green, the number is approximately 17 percent. While this percentage is certainly higher, it is still remarkably low. Until recently, doctors only suspected celiac disease when patients were very ill with unexplained weight loss, diarrhea and severe abdominal pain.

Nowadays, medical professionals are becoming more attuned to subtler signs of celiac, including fatigue, constipation, bloating, brain fogginess, migraines, infertility, and even a short stature.

Celiac disease can be detected with a simple blood test, which if positive, can be confirmed with an upper endoscopy. It is especially important to detect celiac in children, as, according to the Mayo Clinic, they can experience detriments to their growth and development, as their bodies cannot adequately absorb nutrients.

However, aside from those who suffer from celiac disease, many more individuals experience ‘non-celiac gluten sensitivity.’ This sensitivity does not show up in blood tests, and is simply remedied by cutting gluten out of one’s diet.

The key thing to know about tests for gluten sensitivity is if it says you are gluten sensitive you are, if it says you are not, unfortunately, you may still be gluten sensitive. The best way to test for gluten sensitivity is to use Enterolab. Enterolab is the premiere speciality company for gluten sensitivity (and a variety of other tests).

Dr. LaPook advises a full analysis by a physician to see if other conditions, such as infection, lactose intolerance, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are the culprits if you feel bad after ingesting gluten. It is indeed crucial to be as informed as you can about what is going on in your body, so that you can properly address it.

As far as gluten is concerned, many experts are beginning to question whether it deserves a place in our diets at all. Gluten has been linked by numerous studies to triggering autoimmune diseases, as well as neurological and mental illnesses, among other chronic conditions.

stomach acheModern, commercial wheat is in most cases highly processed, and doused in pesticides and insecticides right from the seed stage, throughout the storage process, all the way to the final product. Even in the case of organic wheat, Dr. Mercola has stated that in his experience, about 75 percent of the population would benefit from avoiding wheat altogether.

So, who really does need a gluten-free diet? It is a choice that every individual must make. Listen to your body. Try avoiding gluten, even foods that contain traces of gluten, for two weeks. If you feel better, you may want to stick to it.

If you still feel that something in your body is amiss, seek out the advice of a health professional you trust to see if something else is going on in your body that needs addressing. For many people, simply saying no to gluten can greatly increase their quality of well-being.

-The Alternative Daily

Fallon, Sally and Enig, Mary. Ph.D. Nourishing Traditions. NewTrends Publishing. 2000.

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