Big Bad Wheat


English: Bread from India


Gluten, one of the main proteins found in wheat, is a troublesome little guy. The human gastrointestinal tract has a very hard time completely digesting it AND our immune systems don’t like it.


In addition to being found in wheat, gluten can also be found in rye, oats and barley. These are best avoided if you have celiac disease.


Celiac disease, present in as many as 2% of us, is a disorder in which gluten causes an autoimmune reaction and atrophy of the GI system is the result.  As the condition continues, more and more cells inside our GI tract are killed with resulting malabsorption of vitamins and nutrients. In serious cases it can be deadly. For many, however, the symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, gas, bloating and pain.


Celiac disease is not to be confused with gluten sensitivity. For many years doctors believed that a patient had celiac disease or nothing. They fervently denied the possibility that someone could simply be sensitive to gluten.  This has changed.


According to Dr. Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University:


“Recent studies are showing the gluten sensitivity may be much more common than previously thought. It may, in fact, be a separate disease entity that involves different organs and different mechanisms than celiac disease. While there is no doubt that the condition exists, the lack of definite criteria for a diagnosis has resulted in a skeptical attitude on the part of many doctors.”


Further, according to a study in the Lancet Neurology in 2010:


“Gluten sensitivity is a systemic autoimmune disease with diverse manifestations. This disorder is characterised by abnormal immunological responsiveness to ingested gluten in genetically susceptible individuals. Coeliac disease, or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is only one aspect of a range of possible manifestations of gluten sensitivity.”


Basically this is saying that people may have gluten sensitivity and over time this may manifest as celiac disease. However, there are many other ways that gluten sensitivity may present. Other symptoms might include:


  • Fatigue
  • Eczema
  • Anemia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Osteoporosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Neuropathy
  • Cerebellar ataxia
  • Infertility
  • Fatty liver


This list is by no means all-inclusive either. When a patient presents with a list of symptoms that don’t seem to fit together, have not responded to traditional types of treatments and have been long standing, one of the first things I do is check for gluten sensitivity. If it’s not there we move on to the next treatment strategy. However, for many in my practice, eliminating gluten has proven to be a very effective treatment.


If you’ve had a chronic health condition that has not responded to various treatment types, consider being checked for gluten sensitivity through a specialist with knowledge of the most recent research in this fascinating field.  It just might be the cure you’re looking for.


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Filed under Diet, Public Health

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