by Charles Weller June 19, 2013
While the popularity of the gluten-free diet seems to be increasing, refining the diet for gluten-sensitivity is not just another health craze. Whether affected by celiac disease or a low level of gluten-intolerance, researchers estimate that some level of gluten-sensitivity affects approximately 7 – 15% of Americans, if not more. Many people with gluten-sensitivity are unaware of it, either because they do not see the symptoms, do not attribute the symptoms to their sensitivity, or do not get tested for the symptoms that they have. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which gluten protein causes a reaction in the body to destroy the lining in the small intestines. If celiac disease goes untreated it can lead to more complicated health issues such as malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility, gall bladder disease, and cancer. The only treatment that currently exist for this disease is to follow a gluten-free diet. The health effects from not following a gluten-free diet if you just have a low intolerance to it are not as serious, however the symptoms can be very uncomfortable and lead to further health issues.
Celiac disease is actually a hereditary disease. The common symptoms of celiac disease vary but can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss or gain, fatigue, headache, and heartburn. Those that are suffering from sensitivity to gluten, although they don’t have celiac disease, often notice similar symptoms. These symptoms, however, can be easily connected to other sources, often making it difficult to know if one has celiac disease or a gluten-sensitivity. Making it even more difficult to detect whether one has a sensitivity or not, is that some people with a sensitivity do not show any symptoms at all.
It is important to discuss with a physician the possibility of celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity if suffering from such symptoms. While there are some tests offered to determine if one should not be consuming gluten-protein, they have not yet been proven to be completely accurate for those without celiac disease. The simplest, most effective test is still considered to be the gluten-free diet. While this might be easier said than done, one can try to eliminate foods with the gluten-protein from the diet and see if the symptoms go away (of course this is only viable if one is actually suffering any symptoms). Either way, following the gluten-free diet which is based on mostly natural foods and the elimination of processed foods, is definitely going to be beneficial.
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