Not all people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance experiences the “classic” symptoms: diarrhea, weight loss, bloating and abdominal pain. Sometimes, they have depression, joint pain, infertility, irritability, an itchy skin rash -- and yes, even weight gain.
If you are not diagnosed as celiac, but suspect you are gluten intolerant, remove gluten-containing (usually wheat) products from your diet for 3-4 weeks. You may notice major improvements in your health, including an improvement in mental clarity, reduced mood swings and/or improved energy. Also, you may better be able to lose weight, and keep it off. Perhaps you experience freedom from sinus problems and allergies. Some people report improved blood sugar control and a reduction of joint pain.
What is commonly referred to as “gluten” is really a protein group, made-up mainly of the proteins gliadin and gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley. (Oats have a similar polypeptide chain, and may not be harmful to those with “gluten intolerance” but often considered harmful to those with celiac disease).
Haven’t humans eaten wheat for a long time?
It’s not that simple. Throughout most of agricultural history, grains were sprouted, which lowers the gluten content. In addition, to compound the problem of over-processed wheat common in the American food supply, the modern day storage of wheat requires the use of chemicals to prevent bacteria and fungal growth. One theory as to why many people are emerging as gluten intolerant is that constant exposure to these pesticides, fungicides and herbicides may tax the immune system. (70-80% of the immune system is related to the GI tract). Another theory suggests the modern day wheat supply lacks the genetic variety characteristic in the wheat of our ancestors.
Constant stress affects overall digestive health, making us more vulnerable to gluten intolerance: If you are under stress -- or your body perceives you are -- your gut health is affected and digestion is impaired. As a result, proteins such as gluten that are difficult to digest become more taxing on the digestive system.
Gluten intolerance (also referred to as “gluten sensitivity”) is different from celiac disease. In celiac disease, gliadin causes damage to the villi, structures in the lining of the small intestine.
If you are gluten intolerant or diagnosed celiac, consult a nutrition professional to make sure you are eating properly, and to learn how to detect hidden sources of gluten.