After much thought about the topic to address in my very first blog post, I decided to keep it simple and start with the basics of gluten free living!
Gluten in numbers
More than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten (including but not limited to thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy, schizophrenia, osteoporosis, cancer, anaemia, inflammatory bowel disease and others) It’s estimated that 99% of the people who have either gluten intolerance or celiac disease are never diagnosed. Could you be one of them?
So what is gluten ?
‘gluten’ is a collective term for proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and possibly oats (will address the oats and gluten conundrum in a different blog post).
What is Celiac disease ?
In simple terms, Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. When a person with celiac disease eats even very small amounts of gluten, his immune system is activated and attacks and damages the small intestine. The villi of the small intestine (initially responsible for the absorption of nutrients) become inflamed and thus the health risks and complications. Celiac disease is a genetic disorder so having a family member with celiac disease increases a person’s chance of having it to 1 in 10! Gluten intolerance on the other hand is a separate condition from celiac disease and is often referred to as non celiac gluten sensitivity. In this case symptoms are often similar to celiac disease but without the tissue damage.
What symptoms could indicate the need for a gluten-free diet?
There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions and thus the difficulty in diagnosis. Doctors often spend too much time looking for other causes of these symptoms leaving celiac disease and gluten sensitivity for last (that is, if they consider it at all!) You may be suffering from celiac disease and not even know it. Physicians have been slow to diagnose this surprisingly common condition. Learn the symptoms! gastrointestinal symptoms, such as recurring abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea/constipation, gas, nausea and vomiting, and bloating bone and joint pain Mood swings, depression and irritability weakness and fatigue weight loss/gain fluid retention unexplained infertility persistent hunger iron deficiency anaemia Vitamin deficiencies (mainly B12, D, and K) mouth sores and tooth discoloration muscle weakness, and muscle cramps tingling/numbness in hands and feet blood in the stools or in the urine Skin rash on elbows, knees, shoulders, buttocks, and face better known as dermatitis herpetiformis. In a particular case called ‘silent celiac disease’ symptoms may not be present, but the ingestion of gluten is still causing an autoimmune reaction. These individuals might eventually develop more recognisable symptoms but by that time the disease may have been present for many years.
How to treat gluten intolerance?
There is currently no cure for celiac disease and so those who are diagnosed with this disease need to completely cut our gluten from their diet.