The term “gluten-free” is becoming increasingly more prevalent among the medical community, health, and nutrition circles and with the general public. Products are being labeled as gluten-free — even those products that have none naturally! There are even gluten-free sections in many grocery stores and some churches offer sugar and gluten-free communion. The question remains, is there an increase in the number of people with gluten intolerance or is this just a product of our education?
WHAT IS GLUTEN?
Gluten is the protein found in most grain-based products. Specifically, those from wheat, European spelt, barley, and rye. The hypersensitivity and/or the allergy to gluten is called celiac (Coeliac) disease, an autoimmune disorder that is a reaction to gliadin and grain products.
Long term issues with celiac disease often lead to Chron’s or Irritable
Bowel Disease (IBM). Chron’s (regional enteritis) disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the digestive tract. This can be a genetic disorder or traumatic onset but is more commonly associated with dietary developmental etiology. Malabsorption and failure for the peristalsis are common issues with Chron’s that may possibly lead to pain and death.
IS THIS PROBLEM GROWING?
Due to the recent media attention to celiac disease, it may appear that there has been an increase in new cases diagnosed. Currently, it affects 58-67 percent of the African American population. While the Caucasian population is statistically significantly lower, it has been noted that the number of cases is increasing.
Currently, there is more research on the topic of celiacs & Chron’s disease and possible linked causes. Scientific studies have found that smoking is a common factor, as well as alcohol consumption. However, there has not been a proven link between immunization, specifically with the influenza vaccine and Chrons.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A GLUTEN INTOLERANCE?
The etiology of celiac disease is still unknown at this time, but there is a genetic predisposition to the condition and it is likely that some combinations of the factors previously discussed are contributory to the disease.
Some common findings that are easy to spot and may help you to determine if you have a gluten intolerance:
- Look for small red spots on the back of the arms. This is easier to spot on pale, white skin
- Loose stools
- Night sweats and a mild to severe distended stomach
- Dry itchy skin
- Swelling in the stomach area
- Fatigue – both mental and/or physical
These are not a conclusive list of symptoms and may be very common with other issues (ex. Red spots, like micro acne). The final analysis is to stop consuming gluten for two weeks and see if symptoms diminish. Difficulty with losing weight