Gluten is the major protein found in some grains. It is present in all forms of wheat (bulgur, durum, semolina, spelt, farro and more) as well as in barley, rye and triticale (a wheat-rye cross).
Gluten however, is found in many processed foods. It is a chewy, glue-like protein used to make for example breads and bagel taste as they do. You will find gluten in breads, sauces, cereals, pasta, cookies, cakes, crackers, gum, ketchup, and many other processed foods.
When you have an intolerance to gluten, that intolerance is what makes your body react negatively or be “sensitive” to gluten. Meaning that gluten sensitivity does not go away. You cannot take a pill or shot, to take care of a gluten sensitivity. Gluten intolerance comes in different degrees of allergic reactions or “sensitivity.
What are the symptoms?
There are many physiological factors and ways in which your body reacts to a gluten sensitivity. Some of the most common symptoms include: abdominal pain, stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, dermatitis, allergies, coughs, skin rashes, constant fatigue, sinusitis, migraines, and headaches.
There are tests to determine if you are gluten intolerant. Best advise is to consult your doctor or natural integrative health practitioner. If you, after testing find out that you are gluten intolerant; it means that your digestive system cannot recognize and breakdown gluten into its smaller amino acids that your body can use. This leads to an immune reaction where your body produces antibodies to protect itself against gluten.
This abnormal immune response to gluten causes inflammation in the lining of your intestines. It is that inflammation that makes you feel sick when you are gluten sensitive. The solution is to eliminate gluten from your body. You then you must go on a gluten free diet.
Being on a gluten-free diet is healthier if you have gluten intolerance or just want to feel better. A gluten-free diet is not a weigh loss diet. It does require that you act carefully when selecting your foods, and what is more important; that you pay attention to the food labels. Best alternatives are to use more natural and less processed foods, and opt for more home cooked type and natural fresh based foods.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman a renowned functional medicine expert, “An estimated 99 percent of people who have a problem with eating gluten don't even know it.”
For those wishing to learn more about gluten sensitivity, I found the following references as best sources for providing practical lifestyle recommendations, useful recipes and natural therapies.
France, C., Glodfinch, T., & Streeter, C. (2011). Love food, Parragon Books (Ed.), Gluten, Wheat & Dairy Free. Over 70 Delicious and Nutritious Recipes doi:www.parragon.com
Lieberman, S. (2007). The gluten connection, how gluten sensitivity may be sabotaging your health. New York: Rodale.
Lipski, E. (2012). Digestive wellness. Strengthen the immune system and prevent disease through healthy digestion. (4th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.
Moriarty, P. (2012). The gluten free kitchen. Over 100 simple, irresistible recipes that everyone will enjoy. New York: Metro Books.