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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Allen

Gluten is the protein found in wheat and other grains.

Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity

Symptoms of an immune reaction to the gluten in wheat, barley, and rye include irritable bowel type symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits, as well as systemic manifestations such as brain fog, headache, fatigue, depression, joint and muscle aches, numbness in the extremities, a skin rash or anemia.

Gluten itself may not be causing gut symptoms at all. Many people with wheat sensitivity have a variety of other food sensitivities. Two-thirds are also sensitive to cow’s milk protein, and eggs are another common culprit. The apparent increase in food sensitivities in recent decades could be due to pollutant exposure.

Celiac Disease

Those who suspect they might be gluten sensitive should first get a formal evaluation for celiac disease, which currently involves simple blood tests and, potentially, a small intestinal biopsy. If the result is positive, then one should embark on a gluten-free diet. If the test is negative, one should try a healthier diet—more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans—while avoiding processed junk food.

Why is it important to get a formal diagnosis even if you’re already on a gluten-free diet? One reason is that celiac disease is hereditary; testing will help inform the whole family of the risk. Second, health professionals don’t want to see people on gluten-free diets unless absolutely necessary because whole grains—including the gluten grains in wheat, barley and rye—are health-promoting, linked to reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases. Third, if one truly suffers from celiac disease, one must read labels and root out all sources of gluten from the diet.

About 1 in a thousand has a wheat allergy, nearly 1 in a 100 has celiac disease, and celiac disease appears to be on the rise. That means that potentially millions of people who could have been cured by a dietary change may have been suffering for years.

The information on this page has been compiled from the research presented in the videos listed. Sources for each video can be found by going to the video’s page and clicking on the Sources Cited tab.

Image Credit: Pixabay. This image has been modified.

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