Could it be Gluten Intolerance?
Pat Elliott, ND
Do you or someone you know suffer from
- Chronic digestive symptoms? (including heartburn, nausea, indigestion, abdominal bloating, frequent and/or loose bowel movements or chronic diarrhea)
- Excessive hunger or hunger soon after eating?
- Weakness or shakiness between meals?
- Early bone density loss? (or signs that it may be occurring such as stress fractures in the feet)
- Periodic outbreaks of an itchy skin rash? (or have been diagnosed with dermatitis herpetiformis)
- Canker sores? (painful ulcers inside your mouth)
- A family history of chronic digestive problems or osteoporosis?
Gluten Intolerance Facts:
Also known as celiac disease or celiac sprue, this genetically determined condition affects about 1 in 300 people causing them to experience an abnormal digestive and immunological response to the ingestion of specific grain proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and other grains. Many go undiagnosed because it often produces non-specific symptoms such as chronic fatigue or digestive problems characteristic of irritable bowel syndrome. Specialized testing is required for diagnosis and dietary avoidance of the offending proteins usually produces complete recovery
Amongst people suffering with chronic digestive, rheumatological, auto-immune, hormonal, neurological and psychological disorders, the prevalence of gluten intolerance is substantially higher than in the general population. Conditions associated with higher rates of gluten intolerance include:
- Hypothyroidism, particularly Hashimoto's autoimmune thyroiditis
- Grave's autoimmune hyperthyroidism
- Lupus (a multi-organ autoimmune condition)
- Sjogren's syndrome (autoimmune disease of mucus secreting glands)
- Addison's Disease (an autoimmune adrenal gland disorder)
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (type 1 diabetes)
- Myasthenia gravis (an autoimmune muscular disorder)
- Pernicious anemia (an autoimmune stomach disorder which causes B12 deficiency)
- Raynaud's phenomenon (a circulatory disorder which causes hands/feet to become painful and change color when exposed to cold)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Down's syndrome
Less established but suspected conditions possibly related to gluten intolerance:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic hepatitis and fatty liver
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Crohn's disease
The vast majority of gluten intolerant people are undiagnosed and suffering needlessly. On average, it takes 15 years of suffering with chronic symptoms to receive a proper diagnosis of this condition.
Most undiagnosed celiac sufferers are not underweight, a common but outdated misconception. One third are underweight, but the rest are normal wt (1/3) and overweight (1/3). Unfortunately, a patient being of normal weight or being overweight continues to influence many uninformed doctors away from considering the possibility of this diagnosis.
Historically, gluten intolerance has been diagnosed via intestinal biopsy. The recent advent of antibody testing for this condition is allowing the screening of larger populations. Most cases of gluten intolerance will be revealed using the antibody testing which can be performed on a blood sample or, less commonly, on a saliva sample. After a diagnosis is made and the person begins the recommended gluten-free diet, antibody levels can also be used to monitor recovery. The characteristic drop in antibody levels which occurs in a gluten intolerant person who is avoiding gluten and a positive clinical and subjective response to the diet by the patient can be used together to confirm the diagnosis.
For more information regarding gluten intolerance:
Gluten Intolerance Books:
Against the Grain : The Slightly Eccentric Guide to Living Well Without Gluten or Wheat by Jax Peters Lowell
The Gluten Free Gourmet, More from the Gluten-Free Gourmet, and The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy by Bette Hagman
Websites about gluten intolerance:
Celiac Support Page http://celiac.com/index.html#toc
Celiac Disease Foundation http://www.celiac.org/index.html
Celiac Sprue Association http://www.csaceliacs.org/
The CELIAC home page http://www.enabling.org/ia/celiac/#index
The CELIAC site email discussion group http://www.enabling.org/ia/celiac/#subscribe
Don Wiss' comprehensive listing of all related sites http://www.panix.com/~donwiss/
Local Support Group (Bellingham, WA):
The Gluten Intolerant Support Group
Contact: MaryLou Richardson, email@example.com or (360)734-4989
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Read more articles by Pat Elliott ND
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Could it be Gluten Intolerance?
Pat Elliott, ND
Elliott Health Care Associates
1155 N State ST, Suite 610, Bellingham, WA 98225
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