Gluten-free foods have been mainstream for a while now. But a few years ago they were hidden away in specialty stores and it took quite a bit of searching to find them. The question is; why did going gluten-free become so popular? Have people genuinely only begun to correlate their gut problems with gluten intolerance or is it a fad? The truth falls somewhere in the middle, and that’s what we’re going to discuss here.
Gluten is a collection of proteins found in wheat, rye, spelt, and barely. The name gluten actually comes from the glue-mimicking properties of its components. The two primary proteins of gluten are glutenin and gliadin. These bind to create a sticky glue-like consistency when flour is mixed with water. So when you think about the texture of gluten, it’s easy to understand why it’s difficult to break it down. Thus leading to inflammation and constipation as it moves at a snail’s pace through your gut.
Even those who don’t suffer from any kind of gluten sensitivity can experience problems digesting it from simply eating too much. But what about the people who experience symptoms on a much more severe scale when they consume this food product?
Celiac Disease Vs Gluten Sensitivity
Up to 1% of the US population alone suffers from celiac disease, and this number appears to be rising. What’s even more concerning is that studies show it often goes undiagnosed. People who suffer from this disease cannot tolerate any amount of gluten, not even a small bite of pizza! Just 50mg of gluten can have an effect. It’s just not worth the risk, even for the best pizza on the planet (also, who only has ONE bite?!). For those who suffer from celiac disease, gluten triggers a reaction in the immune system. This causes inflammation which damages vorgans and tissues in the body, especially the small intestine lining.
Damage to the lining of the small intestine is a big problem. It can stop you from absorbing the nutrients from food properly. And also lead to even more serious health problems such as nerve damage, seizures, osteoporosis, and infertility. Adverse reactions to gluten have also been recognized as contributors to illnesses such as autism, schizophrenia, and depression. Less serious but highly inconvenient and often very painful symptoms include bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and cramping.
How Do You Know if You Have Celiac Disease?
In previous years, the only test for this disease was performed by a process of elimination. However, it can now be confirmed with a blood test and an intestinal biopsy. For people who experience the symptoms of celiac disease but are tested negative with no damage to the gut lining, their symptoms may be a result of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This can cause all of the symptoms associated with celiac disease minus the damage to the intestines. A growing amount of research has gone into non-celiac gluten sensitivity in recent years; however, scientists are still trying to get a firm understanding of how this condition works.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has reported that up to 18 million Americans may suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity and this is still only diagnosed by a process of exclusion. People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity tend to report symptoms that are very similar to those suffering from celiac disease. They usually find relief by following a gluten-free diet, which then confirms the condition.
The Link Between FODMAPs and Gluten Sensitivity
There is growing evidence to suggest that many people who think they’re sensitive to gluten – aren’t. A study recently published by the Digestion Journal noted that 86% of people who thought they were gluten sensitive didn’t have any issues with tolerating it. But rather than dismissing this as the result of a dietary trend, it’s worth looking at what causes people to look for an answer to their symptoms in the first place. And the truth behind that is, they have symptoms in the first place!
Researchers are now looking at the part that FODMAPs (Fermentable, Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides and Polyols) play in the digestive problems that are often misdiagnosed as gluten sensitivity and there is substantial evidence to suggest that a high FODMAP diet might be the actual root cause of their symptoms. One such study of 37 people with IBS and self-diagnosed gluten sensitivity put subjects on a low-FODMAP diet before getting them to eat isolated gluten, rather than a grain such as wheat. The study showed that the isolated gluten didn’t trigger any symptoms in the participants. It thus concluded that their “gluten sensitivity” was actually a FODMAP sensitivity. In another study supporting these findings, participants with self-diagnosed gluten sensitivity didn’t have any adverse reaction to gluten but they did react to fructans, which are a type of FODMAPs found in wheat.
Anyone who is familiar with IBS will know that FODMAP foods are well-recognized for their role in causing digestive discomfort. They are hard to digest but easily fermented which leads to gas, bloating, constipation/diarrhea, and cramping. FODMAPS are found in bread, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, beans, certain fruits such as apples, and a number of other food items, which you can find in our Beginner’s Guide to the FODMAP Diet.
If you suffer from celiac disease, there’s no wiggle room here; you simply have to avoid gluten products. However, if you believe your symptoms are due to gluten sensitivity it’s worth investigating whether gluten or high-FODMAP foods are the problem. Once you know what’s really going on, you can adjust your diet and hopefully eliminate your symptoms for good.
The Key to Managing Your Symptoms
We’ve developed a Digestive Aid supplement that has proven to be extremely effective in treating the symptoms of gluten sensitivity. Even when you follow the strictest of diets, it’s normal to encounter a trigger food now. Sometimes, mere traces of gluten can cause a flare-up and it’s hard to know what’s set off your symptoms!
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