What is gluten sensitivity?
Gluten, a protein that is found within wheat and other grains, has dramatically increasing levels of sensitivity within the population today. Many of our our patients and clients as well as the community at large ask us about food sensitivities, especially gluten sensitivity. Simply put, gluten sensitivity is when someone has an immune response to gluten. This is not to be confused with an allergy, which is an IgE-mediated response to gluten, or any other substance for that matter. Gluten sensitivity involves an IgA, IgM, or IgG immune response. Those with gluten sensitivity are not identified with conventional allergy testing on the skin or IgE response. When an individual is sensitive to gluten, it means that they have an exaggerated immune response to the protein which leads to systemic inflammation, and potentially autoimmunity along with a whole host of chronic illnesses according to the peer-reviewed evidence base.
Where is gluten found?
Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, barley, and traditional wheat known as einkorn. Oats, while technically a gluten-free grain are often contaminated with gluten in their processing. Not only that, but gluten-free oats are also prone to cross-reactivity, which means that the protein structure is close enough to gluten's protein structure that it can elicit an immunological response. Other common foods that can cross react with gluten are dairy, corn, soy, millet, sesame, rice, yeast, and chocolate. Keep in mind that there are many hidden sources of gluten in food products today such as modified food starch, food emulsifiers, food stabilizers, artificial food colorings, malt, and dextrin. It is very important for those with gluten sensitivity to avoid these foods, at least for a time, while working with a functional medicine practitioner to heal the gut and normalize the body's immune response.
How gluten impacts the body
To shed light on how gluten impacts human physiology, it is important to understand the biochemistry of wheat and wheat digestion. Gluten gets broken down by enzymes in the gut to different proteins called gliadins and gluteomorphins. These molecules are actually the main triggers to the inflammatory and immunological cascades that can result. This continuing immuno-inflammatory process is what can result in the cellular junctions within the gut becoming permeable or "leaky".
Symptoms of gluten intolerance
Research studies indicate gluten intolerance is linked with many symptoms and diseases such as:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Dermatitis and other skin conditions
Peripheral neoropathy, myopathy, and other neurological disorders
Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder
Type 1 diabetes
Autism spectrum disorders
Insulin resistance and inflammation
You may notice that these symptoms and diseases are not all revealed in the gut; but many are manifest through the skin and the brain. Undignosed celiac and gluten sensitivity are correlated with many symptoms. In fact, 30% of those with celiac disease show no gastrointestinal symptoms.
How do I know if I am gluten intolerant?
As you can see, undiagnosed or unmanaged celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is a significant risk factor to developing an autoimmune condition or other chronic disease. We need to be more specific in the diagnosis and treatment of gluten intolerance. Discovering and addressing gluten intolerance can save your future health as well as improve your current quality of life. To determine whether or not you or your loved one has a gluten sensitivity, what foods you may cross react to, or if your chronic symptoms could be related to gluten, we use the strongest and most accurate food-sensitivity testing in the world.