Gluten gets a bit of a bad rap – but for good reason.
A lot of the western world are dealing with some version of gluten sensitivity. Whether it be a non-coeliac gluten intolerance (often under the umbrella of IBS) or medically diagnosed coeliac disease itself. Gluten can be the trigger of many uncomfortable and often debilitating symptoms.
So what is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that’s found in many grain foods, most notably wheat. You’d probably be very familiar with its function is bread that gives it that stretchy and soft consistency. It’s also found in other grains such as oats, barley, rye and traces can be found in many other foods on the market like soy sauce.
Should I just cut it out completely?
Short answer, no. not unless you’ve been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease.
Coeliac disease is a significant medical condition that effects approximately 1 in 70 Australians. In coeliac disease, the immune system reacts abnormally when gluten is consumed (even the tiniest amount) and causes damage to the bowel leading to malabsorption of micronutrients. This damage can also cause serious gastrointestinal damage consequently causing chronic inflammation throughout many body systems, leading to serious health problems if it remains undiagnosed and untreated.
The symptoms of coeliac disease vary considerably. Some people experience severe symptoms while others may have no obvious symptoms at all.
Some more obvious symptoms include:
- Digestive complaints (diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, excessive gas, painful bloating)
- Extreme fatigue
- Nutrient deficiencies and difficulty restoring nutrient levels even after treatment
- Joint pain
- Mood changes
- Skin irritations (dermatitis, eczema)
How is Coeliac Disease diagnosed?
To diagnose coeliac disease, a blood test is used where high levels of certain antibodies will determine a diagnosis of the condition. This diagnosis must be made by a medical professional. It’s really important that if you suspect coeliac disease that you be medically tested. A blood test is the first step to diagnoses. This simple diagnostic tool may just rule it altogether out or point you in the right direction for the next step in diagnosis.
How is it treated?
Coeliac disease is not a condition that can be cured, but dietary elimination of gluten containing foods can help to support and repair the intestinal lining, preventing further damage. Even small amounts of gluten can cause damage to the intestinal tract of someone with coeliac disease.
What if it’s not coeliac disease?
If you’ve found out that you’re sensitive or intolerant to gluten and do not have coeliac disease, then simple elimination of gluten under the guidance of a qualified practitioner may be the next step. The same intestinal damage that occurs in coeliac disease does not occur in an individual with a gluten sensitivity if small amounts of gluten are consumed. Normally people who are sensitive to gluten can tolerate small amounts and diet is managed accordingly.
Remember, it’s really important to get professional advice if you’re looking at eliminating any food group from your diet. So if you’ve tried cutting out gluten and you’re still not feeling 100%, make sure you get advice from a qualified professional.
I have a passion for working with individuals with food intolerance and much of the work I do is about getting the root cause of the problem. I’d love to work with you to support you in feeling well again.
None of what is written in this blog is meant to be used as a diagnosis, but information only. Make sure you get advice from a qualified health professional if you suspect Coeliac Disease as it is easily treatable and can prevent a lot of health problems developing in the future.
Sizer, Whitney Nutrition Concepts and Controversies, 4th edition
Coeliac Disease Australia www.coeliacdisease.org.au