Some people are gluten-intolerant, meaning their bodies produce an abnormal immune response when it breaks down gluten from wheat and related grains during digestion.
Gluten intolerance (also referred to as gluten sensitivity) is a spectrum of disorders, including celiac disease and wheat allergy, in which gluten has an adverse effect on the body. Symptoms include abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhea, bloating and bone or joint pain. It can also cause other unexpected symptoms such as headaches and vertigo.
There is actually no such thing as a gluten allergy. When someone says he is allergic to gluten, he usually means he has gluten intolerance.
A food allergy is a reaction of the immune system to a particular food. When a person’s immune system thinks a food is dangerous to the body, it reacts to the food in the form of an allergy. The response symptoms to a food allergen, such as hives, itching, swelling, trouble breathing, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, are time-limited and usually don’t cause lasting harm, except in the case of an anaphylactic reaction. Food allergies are sometimes temporary, especially in children.
People are not allergic to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat and other grains. Rather, some people’s digestive tracts have difficulty tolerating gluten and react with gastrointestinal symptoms. Because gluten intolerance is unrelated to the immune system, doctors can’t test for it with an antibody test. If you want to know whether you’re gluten intolerant, you’ll have to try an elimination diet. Eliminate any foods you suspect might be causing the symptoms. When the symptoms stop, stop eliminating foods and begin slowly reintroducing them one at a time. When the symptoms reappear, you will know what food is causing them. The elimination method takes several weeks to complete, as removing food from your diet is just the beginning to removing it from your entire system.
Here is a brief video that explains gluten intolerance – http://youtu.be/n4EffS3fWv4
What is gluten, anyway?
Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat endosperm (a type of tissue produced in seeds that’s ground to make flour). Gluten both nourishes plant embryos during germination and later affects the elasticity of dough, which in turn affects the chewiness of baked wheat products, including barley and rye and processed foods thereof. Gluten is not naturally occurring in corn, rice, or oats, but may be cross-contaminated by facilities that also process wheat, barley, or rye products. Most products that are 100% gluten free, and free of cross-contamination, are clearly marked on the package.
The most well-known form of gluten intolerance is celiac disease, which affects one in every 141 people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, it triggers an immune response that damages their intestines, preventing them from absorbing vital nutrients.
Please click here to see a visual guide to understanding Celiac Disease: http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/celiac-disease/ss/slideshow-celiac-overview
Celiac Disease is a chronic condition that occurs when gluten triggers an abnormal immune system response that damages the small intestine. Tiny, finger-shaped tissues (villi) line the small intestine. The villi create a large surface that absorbs vitamins, sugars, and other nutrients as food passes through the small intestine.
When a person who has celiac disease eats gluten, the villi flatten out and the intestinal lining becomes inflamed. The inflamed area cannot absorb nutrients. So when a large portion of the intestines is inflamed, a host of problems begin to occur. In some cases, the inability to absorb nutrients may be severe enough to stunt growth and weaken bones. The loss of vitamins and minerals may lead to illnesses such as iron deficiency anemia, folic acid deficiency anemia, rickets, or osteoporosis.
Celiac disease is not something you are born with. Recent studies show that it can develop at any age. People who had tested negative for it previously can then develop the disease later. Symptoms may occur at any age but most commonly develop during the 20s, 30s, and 40s.
Since 1974, the incidence of the disorder has doubled every 15 years in the United States. Researchers found the number of people with markers for celiac disease in their blood increased from 1 in 501 people in 1974 to 1 in 219 people in 1989. The blood markers are used as a way to diagnose the disease.
In 2003, 1 in 133 people had celiac disease, according to other research from the Center for Celiac Disease Research.
Although researchers have identified specific genetic markers for the development of celiac disease, exactly how and why an individual loses their ability to tolerate gluten remains a mystery.
Research continues on how genetic, environmental, and immune factors interact and affect a person’s symptoms, at what age they begin, and whether long-term health problems develop.
Symptoms of celiac disease occur after eating foods containing gluten. Common symptoms related to celiac disease may come and go. They include:
- Gas, abdominal swelling, and bloating. These symptoms result from a failure of the small intestine absorbing nutrients from food. You may also have mild stomach pain, but it is usually not severe.
- Abnormal stools. Diarrhea or bulky, loose (or watery), pale, frothy, and foul-smelling stools often occur. They may contain a large amount of fat and may stick to the sides of the toilet bowl, making them hard to flush. Although children and adults often experience the same types of symptoms, intestinal problems, such as constipation, are more likely to occur in children.
- Weight loss. Despite having a normal appetite, adults and children may have unexplained weight loss. Younger children may fail to gain weight and grow as expected, a condition known as failure to thrive. (link to )
- Fatigue and weakness. Celiac disease can result in a general lack of energy and strength. Poor nutrient absorption is generally the cause for this feeling.
- Vomiting. Some people may get sick after eating gluten. Children are more likely than adults to have this reaction.
Celiac disease may also lead to:
- Osteoporosis and other bone problems related to a lack of calcium absorption.
- Anemia caused by iron deficiency and/or folic acid deficiency.
- Infertility or having more than one miscarriage.
- Delayed onset of puberty.
- Frequent respiratory infections.
- Problems with memory and concentration.
- Irritability in children. And adults may show signs of depression.
Celiac disease in children
In some children, symptoms begin shortly after introducing cereal into the diet, usually after 6 months of age.
A child who has celiac disease may not grow and gain weight normally. Children who have untreated celiac disease can become very ill because the child’s body is not absorbing needed vitamins and other nutrients. They may need hospitalization for treatment with fluids and medicine to restore nutrients. These treatments are usually short-term, and most children recover completely.
As children who have celiac disease grow up, they may be at a slightly increased risk for developing cancer (lymphoma) in the small intestine, esophagus or the mouth, although the evidence for this is not clear. But recent studies have found that following a gluten-free diet lowers the risk for lymphoma. Even if a child with celiac disease does not have symptoms after eating gluten, it is critical that he or she stay on a lifelong gluten-free diet to avoid intestinal damage.
Celiac disease in adults
Many adults suffer from Celiac disease without ever knowing it because they don’t have any symptoms, or they have only mild symptoms. Adults who have celiac disease have a slightly higher-than-average risk of lymphoma, which usually develops in the intestine. They also may have a slightly increased risk of developing cancer of the esophagus. Following a gluten-free diet can reduce this risk.
You are likely to get better if you consistently and permanently follow a gluten-free diet. Most people find their symptoms improve within 2 weeks. After the villi return to normal, which usually takes several months to several years, the body can absorb nutrients properly. Maintaining a gluten-free diet even when symptoms disappear is very important to keep any flare-ups from occurring and avoiding further damage to the intestines.
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