What Is Gluten Sensitivity

Almost everywhere you turn to, you see plenty of ‘gluten free‘ signs: on food labels, on restaurant menu’s, on TV, in the magazines, it is like the new health trend. But people still do not really understand what it means and if they should pay attention to it or not. What is gluten sensitivity really all about? Should you eat gluten or should you not? What would be the benefits of a gluten free diet? Should you even consider going gluten free?

I will try to get the best answers for each of these questions and make you more aware of this term. Proceed with caution, if you continue to read this article, you might change your life.

What is Gluten?

What do pizza, pastry, pasta, bread, and cakes have in common, besides being insanely addictive? Gluten! Gluten comes from Latin and it means ‘glue‘. This glue is a protein composite and it is mostly found in wheat and other related grains such as barley and rye. The reason why the wheat dough is so elastic is due to gluten, which helps it rise and keep its shape.

Why is Gluten Bad?

Most people believe gluten is bad when, in fact, gluten is not bad, but for some people, it can create health problems because they have a hard time digesting it. They might have gastrointestinal issues like nausea, stomach pains, diarrhea, and even vomiting and progressive weight loss. People whose bodies produce an abnormal immune response when they break down gluten are either celiac or gluten sensitive.

What is Gluten Sensitivity?

Gluten sensitive is also called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, because these people, after consuming gluten, may experience many celiac disease symptoms, such as diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, skin rashes, and joint pain, but don’t appear to have damaged intestines – as celiac people would.

People that have celiac disease, when eating gluten, they experience a progressive deterioration of the villi within the small intestine. These villi are vital for our overall being because they help absorb vitamins and nutrients to nourish our bodies and sustain energy for our everyday activities. When they begin to flatten, malabsorption can occur, which is causing anemia, irritability, weight loss, stomach pains, and plenty of other gastrointestinal complications.

There is only around 1% of the population suffering from celiac disease, which is a permanent health issue and there is no known effective cure, but dietary changes – having a strict gluten free diet, you can slowly reverse damage in the small intestine.

Gluten sensitive, on the other hand, hits 6-10% of the world population and it is increasing day by day. Why? Read in my article about Gluten – 65 Easy Gluten Free Recipes To Experiment With.

If you want to know for sure if you are celiac or gluten sensitive you would need to be tested. They can do a blood test to measure amounts of certain antibodies that are commonly elevated when reactive to gluten, which is 95% accurate, or a biopsy of the small intestine or an endoscopy to see the state of the villi, which is very accurate.   If you do not have celiac disease, then all you need to do is check the symptoms list and if you have any, you might be gluten sensitive. There is no real diagnostic for gluten sensitivity, but you can start by incorporating a 2-3 month gluten free diet and see if you feel better or not.

Gluten sensitivity can be a temporary health issue, due to an imbalance in the gut. If you manage to stay off gluten for a while and help heal your gut with probiotics and healing foods or supplements, you might see that gluten does not affect you as much. Changes do not happen overnight, you need to have patience and love your body and the whole journey of getting better.

What are the symptoms of gluten sensitivity?

I am sure many of you are under the impression that gluten sensitivity might only be connected with gut or digestive problems. In reality, things are not as black and white, actually, you might be surprised to see how many symptoms are connected with gluten sensitivity.

  • Tiredness and Fatigue

Do you feel tired all the time? Do you feel like you need to sleep all day? Are you tired even after sleeping 12 h or more?

It is not normal to sleep more than 8h each night and feel tired. The ‘perfect‘ amount of time you should spend sleeping every night is around 7,5 h. Some people sleep less and have more energy than the ones who sleep more.

The reason? They are not gluten sensitive, or if they are they have a gluten free diet. Although it might seem weird and you might ask ‘How can gluten make me feel tired?‘ If your body is inflamed, your whole energy instead of going into restoring the normal bodily processes gets consumed in dealing with gluten proteins.

  • Autoimmune Diseases

At the Women’s Gluten-free Health Summit, Sarah Ballantyne PhD (or The Paleo Mom) stated:

 “Every single autoimmune disease in which gluten as a contributor has been investigated has shown that gluten sensitivity is a contributor to that disease.”

The autoimmune diseases linked to gluten sensitivity are Celiac Disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Graves’ Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Vitiligo, Sjogren’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Dermatitis Herpetiformis, and Type 1 Diabetes.

  • Skin Problems
Good news or bad news, but usually all the people that are struggling with acne, psoriasis, eczema, or dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) are gluten sensitive. I speak from experience when I talk about acne. My mild acne disappeared when I started a gluten free diet. The same principle I applied to all my 1:1 coaching clients who suffered from acne and they all got visibly better after letting go of gluten.
When you eat gluten (if you are gluten sensitive) your body triggers an immune system response that deposits the lgA (Immunoglobulin A) substance, under the top layer of skin which result in eruptions of red raised patches of skin, similar to the beginning of a pimple, that can develop into small watery blisters.
The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) says:
“If you have DH, you always have gluten intolerance.” (source)
  • Hormonal Imbalance and Adrenal Fatigue
This is one of the fields I want to specialize in because I find it fascinating and of course, has to do with gluten (which is a protein I have been studying for years). When people talk about hormonal imbalance, they usually refer to irregular menstrual cycles, weight loss or weight gain for no reason, hot flashes, low energy etc.  Dr. Daniel Kalish D.C says:
“a strong relationship has been established in medical literature between gluten sensitivity and the hormones progesterone and estrogen. Additionally, most of my patients with gluten sensitivity have an adrenal hormone imbalance, and this becomes exacerbated for patients during menopause…” (source)
“…observed serious problems often begin to reveal themselves when women with gluten sensitivity reach peri-menopause. As their ovarian output of sex hormones drops, the resulting hormone imbalance is worsened by over consumption of gluten. The adrenal glands respond to the stress of unstable blood sugar and gastrointestinal tract inflammation caused by gluten by increasing cortisol. This causes increased body fat, fatigue and unstable moods.”

If you suspect you might suffer from hormonal imbalance, try a gluten-free diet for at least 7 days. See how you feel, any improvement is better than nothing. In order to cure your gluten sensitivity, you might have to be off it for a longer period of time, start with 7 days and if you start feeling better, continue to 21 days and then test the theory by eating gluten for 2 days and then see how you feel. If your symptoms return, try to be off gluten for a few months and then test again. In time, symptoms will diminish, it matters the degree of sensitivity. Take it slow and have patience.

  • Headaches or migraines

I am sure all of you know how annoying a headache or a migraine can be. My personal cure for headaches – although I rarely have one, is a glass of water or a walk outside. Most of the time, you are dehydrated, so before popping a pill, try having a glass of water (not juice or coffee – but plain water). If this does not work, go for a 5-10 min walk, you probably just need a break and some fresh air. Now, it has been discovered that gluten might have a connection with this too. I am partially gluten-free, so this is why maybe I rarely get any headaches.

There was actually a study that measured migraine headaches in gluten sensitive individuals. What they noticed was that 14% of the people in the group reported headaches, from which 56% were non-celiac gluten sensitivity, 30% were celiacs and 23% were suffering from inflammatory bowel disease. (source)

  • Brain Fog

Not being able to focus or think clearly can totally ruin your day, especially if you are an entrepreneur and your whole business depends on your judgment. This is why ‘brain fog‘ is not a joke, but a serious issue.

Although, no one can really estimate how gluten affects us getting the ‘brain fog‘, there is a study from 2002, in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, where they found that there may be significant cross reactivity of IgG antibodies to gluten and other different antibodies that could result in mental fogginess. These antibodies can also cause inflammation which can further exacerbate the condition.

  • Joint and Muscle Pain

What you have to keep in mind is that gluten provokes inflammation in the body (if you are sensitive to it). Inflammation can occur in many places, including joints, muscles and everything that has to do with it. Whenever you are battling any kind of inflammation, think of gluten, it might be the answer to what is causing it.

WebMD says:

“Joint pain and inflammation are (also) common symptoms of gluten sensitivity. And research does show links between the two diseases.”

More information about the link between gluten sensitivity, joint pain, and arthritis conditions can also be found in the publications of The Arthritis Foundation.

  • ADHD

ADHD comes from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which affects adults, not only children. Dr. Ron Hoggan, Ed.D, co-author of the best selling book, “Cereal Killers” says:

“The concept of drugging a child to facilitate learning is upsetting to me, especially when there is cause to suspect that, on the gluten free diet, she may improve without intervention.” (