Gluten Intolerance (also known as Gluten Sensitivity) is a sensitivity or an allergy to gluten, which is the protein found in many wheat-based products such as:
- Spelt and Refined Flour
- Corn Flour
- Wheat Bran
- Rice Cereals containing malt extract from barley
- Some Icing Sugar Mixtures
- Baking Powders
as well as many processed foods you find on your supermarket shelf such as
- Frozen foods
- and many more…
Gluten is undoubtedly the silent root of a great many of the health challenges that millions of people face today, both physical and mental. [i] From a historical perspective, gluten – derived from the Latin word for “glue” – has only recently entered our diet, and is very difficult for the body to digest because it requires a specifically strong acid in the stomach to process it.
When gluten passes through the stomach undigested, it will – if eaten in excess – cause irritation to the intestinal microvilli. Gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break apart tight junctions in the intestinal lining. Therefore, it creates symptoms of gas, bloating, IBS symptoms, etc. in the digestive tract. (Follow this link for an explanation by a doctor of why gluten is so hard to digest.)
The chances are good that, even if someone feels healthy, they have at minimum Gluten Sensitivity – even if they don’t know it. And if you are experiencing autoimmune disorders, eliminating gluten is one of the most important places to start.
While gluten is never the only cause of an autoimmune disorder, it contributes to the disorder drastically – so let’s just say it never helps. Gluten’s close association with an autoimmune disease like Coeliac Disease is a primary reason for removing gluten from the diet when trying to manage any autoimmune disease.
The most commonly known disorders stemming from Gluten Intolerance are Coeliac Disease (spelled Celiac in the US) and Leaky Gut. But both of these disorders are diagnosed very late in the game, leaving a large percentage of people running around unaware of their gluten-related issues.
Coeliac Disease, the most common and recognizable form of Gluten Sensitivity, is due to near-total destruction of the microvilli in the small intestine and results in severe chronic malabsorption of nutrients. However, Coeliac Disease is only one form of Gluten Sensitivity.
Leaky Gut is due to the breaking apart of “tight junctions in the intestinal lining” due to the effects of the protein zonulin released in the gut. Other factors — such as infections, toxins, stress and age — can also cause these tight junctions to break apart. Once these tight junctions get broken apart, you have a leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, things like toxins, bacteria, undigested food particles, and more can escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and attacks them.
Coeliac Disease, Leaky Gut and Gluten Sensitivity are generally defined as “states of heightened immunologic responsiveness to ingested gluten proteins.” This can also be one of the major contributing factors to most autoimmune disorders.
Differences between Coeliac and Gluten Intolerance
The term “Gluten Intolerance” is used when referring to the entire category of gluten-related issues…such as Coeliac Disease, non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity and wheat allergies. However, on its own, Coeliac Disease is believed to be an auto-immune disorder that mainly affects the digestive process of the small intestine.
The University of Chicago Coeliac Disease Centre gives a great explanation of Gluten Intolerance:
“Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity” (what many call Gluten Intolerance) causes the body to mount a stress response (often GI symptoms) different from the immunological response that occurs in those who have Coeliac Disease (which most often causes intestinal tissue damage). As with most allergies, a wheat allergy causes the immune system to respond to a food protein because it considers it dangerous to the body when it actually isn’t. This immune response is often time-limited and does not cause lasting harm to body tissues.”
Renowned Coeliac expert Alessio Fasano, MD, completed a study which defined the difference between Gluten Sensitivity and Coeliac Disease.
In brief, Fasano discovered that individuals with Gluten Sensitivity showed no signs of intestinal damage but showed an increase in an innate immunity marker. This is different from the classic immune response seen in Coeliac Disease, which is known by an increase in an adaptive immune marker. Results proved that this adaptive immune marker was lower in people with Gluten Sensitivity and higher in people with Coeliac Disease. The study concluded by saying Coeliac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity are “different clinical entities”, marked by different unique immune responses.
The effects of and the markedly increased mortality risks associated with full-blown Coeliac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity happen to be virtually identical. Both are autoimmune conditions that create inflammation and immune system effects throughout the body.[ii]
The Undiagnosed Masses
It is estimated that 99% of people who have Gluten Intolerance or Coeliac Disease are never diagnosed. A proper diagnosis by biopsies is essential, however even a biopsy does not guarantee a correct diagnosis. The way that Coeliac Disease is tested can be very limited as they only test for a single mechanism! The conventional testing method misses a lot of information.
Given that the mechanisms for Gluten Intolerance can often be impossible to test for, this is when it is so important for the patient to use their intuition. Such intuition can be the best source of information because it is based on feeling. The use of intuition can be easily dismissed in the scientific world.
The medical establishment often finds it hard to differentiate between Coeliac Disease and Gluten Intolerance, which can both present themselves in many different forms, based on the individual.
For example, I have had many biopsies done for Coeliac Disease and Gluten Intolerance over the years, but they have all come back negative. Yet gluten still does not agree with me in terms of the inflammation it creates in my body. Excess gluten, grains and starch contribute to the rise of inflammatory markers known as TNF and CRP. So while I may not be diagnosed with Coeliac Disease or Gluten Intolerance, that does not mean gluten is not an issue.
Coeliac Disease is one litmus test for the global epidemic of Gluten Intolerance and all of the problems that gluten can create, and the global incidence of Coeliac Disease is growing extremely fast. In fact, in a 2009 article in pediatrics it was written “in the past seven years, one in four children was diagnosed as having Coeliac Disease in southern Alberta as a result of case finding of associated conditions, consistent with data from the United Kingdom”.[iii]
So if it is considered realistic that 25% of children diagnosed in certain areas in 2009 has full-blown Coeliac Disease, how many have Gluten Sensitivity? Once could safely assume that well over half of the population of the planet are dealing with issues associated with gluten.
To learn more, read the study in BMC Medicine.
My Experience with Gluten Intolerance
I remember when our close family friend was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and it seemed like their days of eating were over. Suddenly they had this label glued to their forehead and in the late 90’s being gluten free was almost unheard of and difficult to navigate. Fast forward 15 years and gluten free options are available almost everywhere. But most importantly, the issues surrounding gluten consumption are now being more widely recognized and accepted in ways beyond the standard testing approach.
I could talk to you about all the biopsies and allergy testing I have had over the years, but I would prefer to just cut to the chase. I never realised the issues I had with the gluey gluten until I actually cut it all out 100% and committed to it. In the time frame of four weeks, I experienced some major revelations in my mind and body. Here are the top 6 gluten free miracles that I experienced as a result of going gluten free:
- My Bloating Disappeared — I had no idea I was bloated, until the bloating diminished!
- I Am Now Wide Awake Every Morning — Before my transformation it would take me 2 hours to wake up properly and I would often feel fatigued upon rising. it seemed 10 hours of undisturbed sleep was never enough.
- I Got Smarter, Literally — Just weeks after adopting this change, my memory improved and I felt stronger, smarter and had a more powerful sense of endurance.
- I Got Happier, Less Moody — Negative, degrading thoughts used to dictate and hijack my mind. I had an ongoing replay of my story of how illness was a curse. I believe that 65% of every illness is emotional based and even when I was in remission ‘physically’, mentally I was still a mess and that was a major factor in keeping me trapped in that vicious cycle.
- I Had Fewer Skin Issues — It was routine for me to know as soon as winter would hit, my skin would shrivel up like a prune and crack like an 8.9 magnitude earthquake. Whether it was a Herald Patch in the form of “Pityriasis Rosea”, Shingles, an Infected Cyst or Sweets Disease, these skin issues were always a signal of the inflammation building before a relapse (increased white blood cell count).
- My Hormones Got Happy — A huge plus from ditching the glue (and I know many of you ladies will love to hear this) is that Mrs PMS does not run the show every month! She may still make an appearance, but it is far less prominent than before.
So what have been your experiences with Gluten Intolerance, or going gluten-free? Please share with us and post in the comments section below.
Peace, Love, Health
[i] (Nora T. Gedgaudas, 2009) p 33
[ii] (Nora T. Gedgaudas, 2009), p 34
[iii] Pediatrics, McGowaen et al, 2009
Read more about Digestive Disorders on SuperFoodSam.
The information included on this page is for educational purposes only, and is based on the author’s own personal journey and experiences. It is not intended, or implied, to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease or illness. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information in this blog or website does not create a physician-patient relationship.
GAPS™ AND GUT AND PSYCHOLOGY SYNDROME™ ARE THE TRADEMARK AND COPYRIGHT OF DR. NATASHA CAMPBELL-MCBRIDE. THE RIGHT OF DR. NATASHA CAMPBELL-MCBRIDE TO BE IDENTIFIED AS THE AUTHOR OF THIS WORK HAS BEEN ASSERTED BY HER IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE COPYRIGHT, PATENT AND DESIGNS ACT 1988 OR ANY OTHER LAW.