What is Gluten and what does Gluten Sensitivity mean?
Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, barley, rye, bulgur wheat, and couscous, mostly staple foods in the Western diet. It’s not present naturally in rice, corn, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth. Do you love doughnuts? Gluten makes the dough in doughnuts (for example) elastic and helps them to maintain their figure: the doughnut, not you!
Gluten sensitivity is a range of illnesses in which the protein gluten causes harm or discomfort in your body (primarily your gastrointestinal system). Just to clarify, it’s not synonymous with Celiac disease. People with Celiac disease have an allergy to gluten and the gluten actually damages the digestive tract lining so ruling this out as a cause of the gluten sensitivity is essential. Celiac disease is a serious medical condition, and can lead to osteoporosis, anemia, seizure and even cancer of the small intestine if left unchecked. Compared to Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity is a relatively new medical condition with milder symptoms. Gluten sensitivity is also known as gluten intolerance.
Signs of Gluten Sensitivity
Digestive complaints. These clues are usually the ones which catch your attention first because they make you feel uncomfortable after you eat food containing gluten.
- Bloating – your abdomen feels full and tight.
- Diarrhea – you poop more frequently or your poop becomes watery and poorly formed.
- Feeling of excess gas
- Constipation – you have an irregular pooping schedule or your poop is hard to pass.
- Abdominal pain
Clues from your other body systems. Your other body systems can also experience discomfort. Like the intestinal clues, these extra-intestinal (beyond your intestines) clues usually occur after you’ve eaten a meal with gluten. They include:
- Pain in your joints
- Skin rashes
- Foggy brain – you have difficulty in concentrating and you tend to have short-term memory lapses.
- Ataxia – this medical term means that you have difficulty maintaining your balance. It could also manifest as you having a hard time coordinating your movements.
Testing for Gluten Sensitivity
Unlike gluten sensitivity, Celiac disease can be confirmed by taking a small sample of the lining of your small intestine (most accurate) and also through a blood test (testing for antibodies). It is a good idea to see your doctor about your symptoms first to rule out Celiac disease and other serious health conditions. If your doctor has run the tests for Celiac disease and they turn out to be negative (meaning you don’t have Celiac disease), your next step is to try the elimination diet to check for a gluten sensitivity.
So far there is no accurate test available for testing a general gluten sensitivity. For now, the only way to know if you have a gluten sensitivity is to remove gluten from your diet for 1-2 weeks and see if your symptoms (described above) diminish. The next logical step is to reintroduce a small amount of gluten back into your diet and see if your symptoms come back. This is called the elimination diet which is commonly used to test for food sensitivities.
There is no precise cure for gluten sensitivity. This doesn’t mean your life is limited or doomed. You can enjoy a gluten-free diet and actually live a healthier life. While, Celiac disease is more severe and worrisome than a gluten sensitivity, it can also be managed by following a strict gluten free diet.
Gluten sensitivity isn’t just a fad. It’s a real medical condition. But the above clues are only to give you an idea of the likelihood that you have a gluten sensitivity. In other words, go see your health practitioner first! Though taking gluten out of your diet is a great step towards better health even if it turns out that you don’t have an actual gluten sensitivity. Removing gluten from your diet helps to remove many of the over-processed foods available bringing you back to eating Just Real Food. At Karuna Beverages we carefully choose the ingredients that are naturally gluten free and work with third party labs to ensure the gluten level of each product is below the FDA limitation.