Gluten is a protein found in the endosperm of grains, especially wheat, rye and barley. It constitutes about 80 percent of the proteins in wheat, and is composed of the proteins gliadin and glutenin. Gluten is also used as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent, often hidden as dextrin, maltodextrine and dextrose found in ice cream, ketchup and many other items. Gluten provides elasticity to dough, which gives breads and bagels their chewiness.
Gluten intolerance is most common among people of Scandinavian, Irish, English, Scottish and Eastern European. Often it's assumed that gluten intolerance is a food allergy, however, it's actually an autoimmune process. Gluten intolerance affects an overwhelming percentage of the population, and is often misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed. One estimate says that 97 percent of all sufferers don't know they're intolerant to gluten because most doctors are unfamiliar with it.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance can vary per individual. The most significant symptoms are weight gain, fatigue and depression. Other common symptoms include diarrhea with periodic constipation, mental fogginess, skin rashes, gas, nasal and throat mucous, bloating and headaches. Children may experience allergies, asthma, anemia, re-occurring infections, a constant upset stomach or milk intolerance.
Effects on the body include chronic gut inflammation, dysbiosis, leaky gut syndrome, skin rashes, mental fogginess, lactose intolerance, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, extra pounds, allergies, food cravings, immune system dysfunction and many other conditions. Gluten intolerance causes multiple nutritional deficiencies, including an inability to absorb proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Gluten intolerance is an inability to digest the protein portion of grains, including wheat, rye and oats. In those who are gluten intolerant, these grains cause a reaction in the intestines that sets off various symptoms. Often it goes undiagnosed because the reaction can appear 12 to 24 hours after eating gluten, making it hard to identify the offending food.
Are your symptoms related to gluten?
• Abdominal bloating, pain or cramping
• Constipation and/or diarrhea
• Cravings for carbohydrates, sweets, breads
• Difficulty digesting dairy products
• Difficulty relaxing, often feel tense
• Digestive issues
• Female hormone imbalances
• Food allergies/sensitivities
• Intestinal gas
• Migraine headaches
• Muscle, joint pain or stiffness
• Overly sensitive to physical and emotional pain, cry easily
• Skin problems/rashes
• Tend to over indulge in alcohol
• Unexplained fatigue
• Weight gain
Do you experience any of the following conditions?
• Chronic fatigue
• Crohn's disease
• Eating disorders
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Lactose intolerance
• Ulcerative colitis
Number of "yes" responses potential for gluten intolerance
• Four or less = Not likely
• Five to eight = Suspected
• Nine or more = Very likely
If you scored five or higher completely avoid breads, pastas, bagels, cereals and all grains for 60 days. After 60 days you will notice major relief. It can take 30 to 60 days for the inflammation to subside, and nine to 12 months for the small intestinal lining to heal. If you identify yourself as gluten intolerant, you must avoid gluten for the rest of your life to prevent the unwanted and damaging effects of gluten.
Following a gluten-free diet means reading the list of ingredients. Gluten is in every grain except rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and millet. Some labels reveal if the product contains gluten, but most don't. Usually, the more processed a food item is (often evidenced by a long ingredient list), the greater possibility it contains at least some gluten. People following a completely gluten-free diet must also take into consideration the ingredients of any OTC or Rx meds and vitamins. Also, cosmetics such as lipstick, lip balms and lip gloss may contain gluten. Glues used on envelopes may also contain gluten.
Many supermarkets carry numerous gluten-free products. Florenicia Pizza offers gluten-free pizza on its menu. And, there are tons of cookbooks with gluten-free recipes.
Eliminate gluten from your diet, and let me know how incredibly good you feel and look.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens is a nutritionist, fitness expert and weight loss coach with more than 20 years of experience. Reach her at www.PaulaOwens.com.