Continuing on our journey through the gut/brain connection, this week, we are going to focus on the role of gluten in gut/brain dysfunction. The current debate about gluten rages on, and we are not here to debate. Here are the facts. Whether or not you had a specific gluten sensitivity, there is nothing uniquely nutritious about wheat, and eating wheat does more harm than good. Today,we will be speaking specifically about the role of gluten in the gut wall breakdown which can cause a host of symptoms, but in general, wheat is just not the best thing for people to be eating due to the inflammation reaction that even non gluten sensitive people experience. Inflammation has been linked to everything from heart disease (if the cholesterol has nothing to “stick” to (inflammation), then cholesterol is not a problem), cancer (inflammation depletes the immune system, and the immune system is what helps keep cancer cells at bay), and auto immune disease (again, inflammation depletes the immune system and those with a strong gut and good immune system do not get auto immune disease). Bottom line, the less inflammation we have in our bodies, the healthier we will be overall and the lower our disease risk will be. I plan to write more in the future about the role of our foods and auto immune disease, but for the purpose of this article, I will stay focused more on the health of the gut as it relates specifically to gluten/wheat sensitivity.
Celiac disease (actual measurable reaction to wheat) is quite rare, affecting only about 1% of the population. People who have celiac disease have to 100% as the effect of eating it can eventually lead to malnutrition. But what about the rest of the population? Everyone knows someone who is avoiding wheat for one reason or another. Whether for weight loss or headaches or joint pain, more and more people are finding that when they avoid wheat, they just feel better. This is called non celiac gluten sensitivity. The three basic criteria for diagnosis for non celiac gluten sensitivity are:
- A negative celiac test (both blood test and biopsy)
- Gastrointestinal and/or non gastrointestinal symptoms (gas, bloating, brain fog…full list below)
- Marked improvement in symptoms when gluten is removed from the diet
As with other health condition, it is important to pay attention to your body and be a detective. The body was designed to WORK, without symptoms that we in America have come to call “normal.” Research is starting to show that while gluten intolerance starts in the gut, the reaction is far reaching and has been shown to affect almost every system in the body including endocrine (especially the thyroid), cardiovascular (health of heart and blood vessels), reproductive system (infertility is linked to inflammation), and the central nervous system (functions of the brain). Because this condition can have such varied symptoms, people often dismiss symptoms as just something that happens to them and never realize that there is something that they could actually do about it. Knowledge is empowering. Use the information that we are teaching to challenge he mainstream notions that sickness and ailments are expected. They are not. Know your body. Expect it to function optimally, with as little (or no) medication as possible.
Read below for the common symptoms of non celiac gluten sensitivity.
- Digestive symptoms (IBS), including abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. This is the most commonly recognized symptom of gluten intolerance. Many people think that if they don’t have these symptoms, they must not have gluten intolerance. That is not the case.
- Chronic fatigue or chronically low energy levels
- “Brain fog” which can be characterized as having a hard time concentrating and recalling infomation
- Joint and muscle pain
- Anemia (iron deficiency)
- Numbness and tingling in the arms and legs
- Infertility and other reproductive problems
- Skin rashes, including dermatitis, and eczema
- Autism and ADHD (not caused by gluten sensitivity, but eliminating gluten from the diet of an ADHD/Autistic child can greatly improve symptoms)
- Depression and anxiety
Most people can find at least one or two of those symptoms on the above list. Remember, not everyone will fall into the category of non celiac gluten sensitivity, but everyone can benefit cutting down on or eliminating wheat. For those who are sensitive, understand that sensitivity can take up to 72 hours to manifest and MAY or MAY NOT be gut related, and an inflammation reaction in the gut from one ingestion of wheat (for those who are gluten sensitive) can take 3-5 months. The bottom line is this. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, it is a good idea that you eliminate gluten entirely from your diet. Remember that “gluten free” products have just as many inflammatory ingredients as gluten containing products, so it is still best to stick with whole food (fruit, veggies, healthy fats, grass fed/organic meats). For those of you who do not experience those symptoms, cutting back on the regular ingestion of wheat is still a good idea. Ezekial bread is an option for those who are not gluten sensitive as the wheat is organic an therefore does not contain glyphosate (Roundup).
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Care for your gut. What goes into your gut controls how the rest of your body functions. Don't settle for sub optimal functioning. Be empowered to change your health, one bite at a time. Stay tuned for our continuing series on gut health and what you can do to improve yours. If any of the symptoms above are happening in your body, take steps to change what is going into your body. You have the power to change your future through what you eat.