After years of being confined to health-food shops, gluten-free foods have now made their way to almost every store imaginable. Many restaurants and supermarkets now offer a variety of “gluten-free” products. For people who are allergic to gluten–a protein predominantly found in barley, wheat, and rye–this newfound abundance of gluten-free products is highly welcome. Recently, it has even become hip to head the gluten-free way. Going on little to no evidence other than testimonials seen in the media, people have started switching to gluten-free products to feel healthier, treat autism, boost energy, or lose weight. However, the use of gluten-free products does not always make sense and should be used in moderation. Gluten-free products are best suited for people who have gluten sensitivity and could make them feel better. However, for a large proportion of people without any gluten sensitivity, the benefits derived from the use of gluten-free products may not always make sense from a financial perspective since most of the gluten-free products can be a little bit expensive.
One might ask why it matters what their particular diagnosis might be if they adopt a gluten-free lifestyle and feel better. Well, it matters for several reasons. First of all, a gluten-free lifestyle involves more than just giving up pizza, bread, and pasta—a lot of products that you may not know contain gluten. The little slip-ups that may not do much damage when you have gluten sensitivity could be critical to your intestines if you suffer from celiac disease.
Celiac disease patients are allergic to gluten and are intolerant to even the smallest amounts of gluten. Just fifty milligrams of gluten, which is approximately the same amount in a single small crouton, is sufficient to cause mayhem. For people with celiac disease, the consumption of foodstuffs that contain gluten triggers the immune system and causes significant damage to the small intestine lining. This can cause significant symptoms, interfere with the intake of nutrients from food, and cause problems such as seizures, nerve damage, infertility, and osteoporosis. A related condition known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity or gluten sensitivity can lead to symptoms that are similar in some respects to the celiac disease but without damage to the small intestine lining. Not very long ago, a process of elimination was used to diagnose celiac disease. Today, however, celiac disease can be identified through a blood test for antibodies presence against a protein known as tissue transglutaminase. If the intestine is found to have a biopsy, then the diagnosis is confirmed.
For people suffering from autoimmune disorders and inflammatory diseases, gluten consumption can be detrimental. The immune system does not recognize the gluten in grain, and therefore strikes the intestine causing critical damage. People who are oblivious to their gluten sensitivity can significantly damage their body leading to nutrient loss since their digestive tract fails to absorb nutrients from their food efficiently. People who have lupus and Crohn’s disease are usually advised by their physician to steer clear of gluten since it poses a significant risk of joint inflammation, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.