What You Need to Know About Gluten Intolerance Testing
The term “gluten intolerance” is most likely a phrase you have heard from time to time when talking to friends and family, doctors, or hearing it on the television. It is becoming an increasingly more common phenomenon and may be the cause for many pesky symptoms that make it difficult to go about your daily life.
There are roughly 18 million Americans dealing with this on a daily basis. So what exactly does this mean, what are gluten intolerance symptoms, and how do you get tested for it?
What Is Gluten?
Being familiar with gluten will help you understand how prominent it is in our daily consumption. Gluten is the protein found in carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, and other grainy foods. It is what helps bind our food together and gives it its distinctive shape. While gluten itself has very little nutritional value (if any) the foods that contain gluten are very beneficial for our health. It is recommended that 65% of our daily food intake should come from carbohydrates which is the main component of grains. Gluten is also a protein that helps regulate our digestive health and can be found in products such as yogurt, ice cream, and cheese. You can start to get a better understanding of the difficulties those with a gluten intolerance have when navigating their nutrition.
What is Gluten Intolerance?
When gluten cannot be digested properly, the immune system responds by releasing an antibody known as IgA. This antibody is what is responsible for digestive upset commonly found in digestive disorders. The most notable and common symptoms associated with gluten intolerance are bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and fatigue. Some more uncommon symptoms can be body aches, headaches, leg or arm numbness, joint pain, and behavioral issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity. These symptoms will appear some time after consuming carbohydrate rich foods.
So what is occurring in your body if you have a gluten intolerance? This is something researchers are still trying to pinpoint. With an increase in cases, researchers think a common factor has to do with an uprise of new wheat varieties that have a much higher gluten content. This increase may be affecting our digestive system in multiple ways. Some theories suggest an improper digestion of the carbohydrate which causes sickness due to the extended time it is sitting in our gut, causing fermentation and upset. Another theory is that gluten attacks the lining of digestive tract which causes inflammation and malabsorption.
With more information, we will hopefully be able to speed up diagnosis time which will bring relief to those who need it.
Diagnosing Gluten Intolerance – Gluten Sensitivity Testing
Since there is no definitive way of testing for gluten intolerance, a diagnosis is determined by a process of elimination of other testable diseases. A disease that shows similar symptoms is celiac disease and is caused by an autoimmune response to gluten. Although these share similarities, celiac disease has more detrimental consequences to health due to its systemic effects from autoimmune antibodies. It is also much easier to diagnose celiac disease. For people with celiac disease, even the smallest amounts of gluten can start an autoimmune response which causes the body to mistake itself for foreign bodies. Another similar disorder is a wheat allergy. Wheat allergies can cause similar digestive abnormalities but will often be accompanied with hives or rashes and difficulty breathing. This often time occurs minutes after ingesting wheat. Although symptoms are similar, damage to the small intestines is not present. This can be diagnosed with a skin prick test. Although it is less serious as celiac disease, if severe, it can cause anaphylaxis which is life threatening if not treated immediately. Irritable bowel syndrome is another disorder to be ruled out.
Once all other similar and testable diseases are eliminated, a gluten intolerance diagnosis can be made. This is typically done by eliminating foods containing gluten from the diet for up to six weeks and documenting if symptoms improve on a gluten free diet. If no symptoms improve, it is unlikely that the patient has non celiac gluten sensitivity.
With the majority of people living well into their 40 to 60’s before getting an official diagnosis of gluten intolerance, this can be a difficult transition from the lifestyle you are used to living your whole life. It is important to maintain a well balanced diet with many food varieties in order to make sure key nutrients and vitamins are being consumed at appropriate levels. A well balanced diet will be key in feeling your best and having optimal energy. A food journal will be helpful in monitoring dietary patterns while you are getting used to your new diet. While an initial diagnosis of gluten intolerance can seem frustrating, there are many familiar foods that can still be consumed that don’t contain any gluten. Grains with no gluten include but are not limited to quinoa, oats and brown rice.
Holistic Wellness Center is committed to monitoring and assisting you as you journey into your new dietary commitments revolving around a gluten free diet. We will follow along with you to help direct you in the appropriate direction for the entirety of your chronic illness. While other doctors may shy away from the hard-to-diagnose disorders, we take them head on while giving hope and comfort to our patients, assuring them that they are receiving the best care. Our physicians see disorders as they relate to the body as a whole and not just symptoms to be treated.
We believe treatment and recovery is achieved with a systemic approach and is not limited to one component. By addressing the root cause of a disorder, we can eliminate unwanted symptoms for good without simply masking them. We do this by staying up to date with the most relevant and appropriate treatments for each individual. By healing the gut and identifying imbalances, we can work on a more natural approach to getting you back to optimal health. Although there is no cure for gluten intolerance right now, going through specific diets, lifestyle changes and therapies may help you learn how to best manage your symptoms.
Our clinic has a strong focus on natural treatment and we do not believe in the use of drugs or surgery unless absolutely necessary. We offer a variety of treatments and therapies that work together to help you recover and get you back to feeling your best. Our team of doctors and assistants will try to accommodate your schedule as best we can and we are always available for any questions you may have regarding your condition.