Several years ago people started talking about removing gluten from their diet. There was a lot of talk about it being the next great fad diet. Many made fun of it and still do or see no purpose in it. No one needs to avoid gluten unless you're diagnosed celiac, right?
Maybe. Maybe not. Read on and let's dissect this beast.
If you're not consuming it, it's important to know what it is first...
What is Gluten?
Many avoid gluten because they know that it doesn't make them feel well. But, if you're not consuming it, it's important to know what it is and how it affects your body. So, when people ask you...you know! Because...people will ask.
Gluten literally means glue. It contains a protein (gliadin) found in some grains. Gluten provides these products with elasticity and thickness (picture a giant dough ball before it becomes pizza crust....mmmm pizza). It can be found in wheat, spelt, barley, and rye.
It's not just breads you need to watch out for. Gluten is found in other foods and beverages! For example, beer, cereals, pastas, breads, salad dressings, and more. Oats can be grown in the same fields as gluten grains, which means you have to look for certified gluten-free oats.
Gluten can be found in your supplements and sauces too! Places you probably never thought to look!
Gluten Sensitivity or Intolerance
When a celiac patient eats gluten, their digestive tract becomes inflamed through an immune response to gluten. This causes
- bowel distress
- nutrient malabsorption
- joint pain
and just an overall feeling of yuck.
Some celiac patients require 18 months to 2 years before their digestive tract heals and they begin to feel normal again after consuming gluten. This is a serious concern and should be treated just as seriously as any other food allergy. Celiac patients have a hard time eating out as the kitchen staff would need to have been trained in proper food allergy protocols.
Even though some avoid gluten and really don't know why, there may be good reason to avoid it, even if you don't have celiac disease. There's something called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS).
Until recently, many believed this was something those darned hippies made up as the next cool thing. New studies estimate that approximately 30% of the population has NCGS. Celiac afflicts approximately 1% of the population. It's a bit silly to be calling it a fad at this point.
Having an autoimmune condition alone puts you at greater risk of developing a second or third autoimmune condition. And there's a heavy link between Hashimoto's and Celiac. Those with Hashimoto's disease are 4x more likely to develop Celiac Disease.
And, quite honestly, some people just feel better without gluten in their life. Is it because they have a NCGS? Or are they carb sensitive and removing a large amount of carbs makes them feel better? We'll never know. Because...
There is no definitive test at this time for NCGS. It's really a diagnosis of exclusion. Individuals with NCGS will present with the same issues as a celiac patient, but less severe.
You could test your zonulin levels in your digestive tract. Zonulin levels increase in the presence of gliadin, the primary protein in gluten. But that test is new and it's unknown how accurate it is.
To test positive for Celiac Disease, you must be consuming gluten. If you're strict gluten-free, your test results will be invalid. Most people I know that avoid gluten aren't willing to consume it just for a positive test. They don't need the label.
You could also request a biopsy of your microvilli at your next endoscopy appointment. Many will have a false negative blood test but can test positive through a biopsy. But, again, you'll need a steady stream of gluten in your life before this happens.
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
When you consume gluten, if your body doesn't like it, your body will create an immune response. When this immune response happens, your body kicks off the inflammatory process. Your tight junctions lining your intestinal tract become loose. And particles that should be waste start free floating into your blood stream. This creates a whole host of symptoms that many don't relate to food.
Here are a few common symptoms of having a gluten intolerance or sensitivity:
- Joint pain
- Abdominal pain
(These sound a lot like Hashimoto's symptoms, don't they?)
I can think of several different illnesses these symptoms relate to as well. It's not so cut and dry. To read more on food sensitivities and leaky gut, check out this blog here.
The best way to determine whether you are one of the 30% of those with NCGS is to remove gluten from your diet. If you have NCGS, you will know in a matter of 5 to 7 days when your symptoms begin to improve and you start feeling better. I see this often in those with Hashimoto's. They report less joint pain, bloat, and bowel issues once they cut out gluten.
The moral of the story kids...lets not mock everything we haven't heard of or don't entirely understand. If you're ready to give gluten-free a try...I've got a course in mind just for you. Keep scrolling!
Are you ready to begin?
Because beginning is the hardest step for most people. And, truthfully, gluten is a big part of most peoples daily meals. But ditching gluten can greatly reduce many symptoms that you're having of an overactive immune system AND inflammation.
Take the first step on healing the inside so you can lose weight and be symptom-free by joining my low-cost gluten-free course ($19). You’ll get step-by-step guidance to achieving success by learning more than you ever wanted to know about how gluten affects Hashimoto’s and inflammation overall.
Click below to learn more about the course!
Cruchet, S., Lucero, Y., & Cornejo, V. (2016). Truths, myths and needs of special diets: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and vegetarianism. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 68(1), 43-50. doi:10.1159/000445393
MOCAN, O., & DUMITRAŞCU, D. L. (2016). The broad spectrum of celiac disease and gluten sensitive enteropathy.
Clujul Medical, 89(3), 335–342. http://doi.org/10.15386/cjmed-698