Though many people avoid gluten thinking it is “the new dietary evil,” you should only shun gluten if you have celiac disease or you are gluten sensitive (intolerant). However, these two conditions are very different and prior to cutting gluten out of your diet, it is imperative that you get a firm diagnosis for either. Here’s why:
Celiac disease is a genetic disease that damages the small intestine leading to malnourishment.
The culprit in celiac disease is the protein gluten, which causes an autoimmune reaction that destroys the villi in the small intestine – the finger like projects that help our body absorb nutrients from the food we consume. When villi become destroyed our absorption of certain nutrients is impaired, which over time can lead to anemia, osteoporosis, miscarriages and other complications from long-term malabsorption. If diagnosed with celiac disease, the only treatment is strict avoidance of the protein gluten, found naturally in wheat, rye and barley as well as foods and drinks containing these grains in addition to a number of other foods, beverages and products you may not normally think of including medications, lip balms and dietary supplements.
Though no two cases of celiac disease are alike, some of the signs and symptoms associated with celiac disease include:
• Stomach upset, gas
• Itchy, blistering skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
• Joint pain
• Muscle cramps
• Skin rash
• Mouth sores
• Tingling in the hands and feet (neuropathy)
• Complications associated with long term malabsorption including anemia and osteoporosis
• Stunted growth in kids
• Weakness and fatigue
• Weight loss
• Missed menstrual cycles
Experts believe only 5-10% of those with celiac disease have been diagnosed. If you think you have some of the symptoms of celiac disease, it is imperative that you continue eating foods that contain gluten prior to seeing the doctor and getting tested. If you avoid gluten and then get tested you may have a false negative. To read more about celiac, click here.
Gluten Sensitivity or Intolerance
Gluten sensitivity is very different, and much more prevalent, than celiac disease. According to the Center for Celiac Research, approximately 6% of the U.S. population may suffer from gluten sensitivity. Though gluten sensitivity leads to some of the same symptoms associated with celiac disease including abdominal pain, fatigue, headaches, brain fog and tingling in the extremities, it doesn’t destroy the villi in the small intestine. If you think you have gluten sensitivity, again, keep the gluten in your diet and go to a gastroenterologist for examination and testing.
Nutrient Deficiencies and Supplementation
Common deficiencies found in Celiac patients and those with gluten sensitivity are calcium and vitamin D (especially in those that are also lactose intolerant), iron (causing anemia), folate, protein, magnesium, and phosphorous with iron-deficiency anemia being the most common. B vitamins and vitamin K may also be deficient. Gluten free multivitamin, calcium and vitamin D, iron and B Complex supplements may be needed in a gluten free diet to ensure adequate essential nutrients each day. Fiber is also important to prevent constipation when starting a gluten free diet.
Wellesse Liquid Supplements are all gluten free and are a great option because they are easy to swallow and absorb quickly. Many medications and supplements use a filler or inactive ingredient such as food starch that contains gluten.