I believe that visitors frequently come to Elegantly, Gluten-Free wondering whether they have a gluten-related problem or not. Normally, I don’t get into the medical aspects of gluten problems but I thought that I’d talk a little bit about what I know today because Gluten Intolerance really is a “Silent,Vicious Killer.”
It’s been close to 12 years since I was diagnosed with celiac (coeliac for those in the medical establishment or outside of the U.S.) disease, and, because of that, I know a lot about the condition. Note, I am not a physician. So, please take this article as one friend sharing what she believes to be true with another friend over a cup of tea or coffee.
If you are experiencing serious symptoms please contact your personal physician right away or go directly to a hospital emergency room or equivalent medical facility to obtain treatment, as appropriate.
What Are Gluten Sensitivity, Gluten Intolerance and Celiac (Coeliac) Disease?
There is great controversy in the Gluten-Free Community about the nature of Gluten Sensitivity. Without getting into heavy, scientific detail, it seems that some people have symptoms from gluten that are similar to those produced by celiac disease. However, according to the latest research that I have seen, scientists don’t yet agree as to the actual, genetic connection between celiac and gluten sensitivity.
Gluten Intolerance is a commonly used name for celiac disease. People who have gluten intolerance will often have a bad reaction when they eat anything containing a substance called gluten. But, some people with the disease will have no outward reaction to eating gluten, while some will react quite violently.
A person with an outward reaction to gluten will frequently exhibit significant symptoms like bloating, vomiting, migraine headaches, infertility, rashes, joint pain, constipation or diarrhea, to name just a few. There are actually around 100 different symptoms that have been recorded. And, to make it even worse, multiple symptoms sometimes occur at the same time.
The symptoms of coeliac disease whether outward or internal occur because of your body’s reaction to the presence of gluten in your food. Gluten is normally found in 4 grains that are quite common in our food supply… wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats.
How Does It Happen?
Gluten is an important, special kind of chemical called a protein. Proteins help anything that is alive work properly. Animals, plants and humans all have and use proteins. Proteins are very important in a lot of the chemical reactions that keep our body running like the well-designed instrument that it is.
The gluten protein is not normally found in the human body so that is where the trouble begins. Typically, it gets into our body when we eat something containing one of the 4 grains that I mentioned above.
Scientists now believe that gluten intolerance or celiac disease is a genetic disease. They have identified at least 8 genes or “sites” in the human genetic makeup that seem to play a role in the disease.
Different people have different combinations of the 8 “sites” or genes active in their bodies, so, they get different combinations of symptoms. This is why one person could almost die from a gluten reaction and another person could live their whole life without any outwardly noticeable reactions at all.
Unfortunately, when a person’s body is gluten intolerant and the right “sites” are active, the person with the disease will often become quite ill when they eat food that has gluten in it. Normally, I experience digestive upset, vomiting and diarrhea when I have a gluten reaction. Other individuals might react differently or not at all.
In the most general sense, gluten reactions happen because the chemistry of your digestive process and your body’s pickup of nutrition from your food doesn’t work right.
Sometimes the symptoms are caused by your body’s reaction to physical changes in the lining of your intestines caused by the disease. And, sometimes they are caused by immune responses that are your body’s reaction to those physical changes or some side-effects of those changes when you eat food with the gluten protein in it.
Whatever the cause of the symptoms, they are bad news. And, so are some of the longer-term effects of the disease. In fact, if you have coeliac disease, you can literally be a walking “time bomb” of serious future problems…
… Especially if you have no symptoms.
The Gluten Intolerance “Time Bomb”
Unfortunately, approximately one percent of the population has been diagnosed with gluten intolerance and researchers suspect that the actual number of individuals afflicted with the disease may be as high as ten or more percent of the population. Often, people with the disease have no symptoms at all.
Serious and sometimes fatal diseases like cancer, lupus, diabetes, fibromyalgia, thyroid disease, insomnia, arthritis and other what are called “autoimmune” diseases have been identified as side effects from coeliac disease. Autoimmune disease is a fancy term which means that your body attacks itself because something gets into places in your body where it should NOT be.
Your immune system, which God designed to attack things like viruses and bacteria, thinks that those molecules are invading organisms and attacks them and surrounding tissues. And, that’s where the long-term trouble begins.
When a person has autoimmune responses for years, their body begins to develop serious diseases like those I mention above as side effects of the autoimmune reactions. The serious, long-term, side effects are not likely to be too severe in someone who has visible symptoms of the disease.
This is because the people with those symptoms are going to avoid gluten since they get sick when they eat something with gluten in it. Consequently, they will have many fewer autoimmune reactions…and less hidden damage to their bodies.
The people who are in serious trouble are likely to be those with no obvious symptoms. They don’t have any indication that they are gluten intolerant and, because of that, are at risk of serious. long term side effects caused by hidden gluten reactions. Personally, I think that they are actually more likely to develop the serious long-term diseases than those individuals with obvious symptoms of gluten intolerance..
It is my personal, medically unsupported belief that much of the cancer, arthritis and other serious diseases that occur later in life are actually caused by undiagnosed and hence unmanaged celiac disease. It seems to me to be just plain common sense that 30 or 40 years of constant autoimmune responses in an undiagnosed celiac disease victim would lead to very serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, thyroid disease, restless leg syndrome, etc.
What You Should Do
So, if you have a blood relative like a father, mother, sister, brother, son or daughter, aunt or uncle or grandparent who is or was gluten intolerant or exhibited symptoms of coeliac disease during their life, you need to be tested for the disease. There are now blood and saliva tests for the disease so you don’t need to go through a colonoscopy like I did to find out if you have the disease.
If you have symptoms, you need to have the test to make sure that coeliac disease is actually what you have. There are other very nasty diseases that can look like celiac disease.
If, after testing, you find out that you have the disease even though you have no symptoms, you need to get on a celiac diet so you can hopefully avoid the longer term side effects of the disease like cancer, lupus, diabetes, fibromyalgia, infertility, thyroid disease, insomnia, arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, etc.
Then if you don’t have a comprehensive health insurance plan like Aviva (UK) or Aviva (US) there will probably come a time in your life when you will actually need coverage. So get coverage now and protect yourself and you family from the financial devastation that a serious illness can cause.
And, finally, if you are a victim of celiac disease, get your copy of my book “How To Eat Gluten-Free… The Official Guide (2012).” It will be quite helpful. It’s a digital Kindle e-Book, reasonably priced and guaranteed by Amazon Kindle.
Don’t have a Kindle? You can get a free Kindle e-Book reader for your PC or Mac when you buy your copy of my book.
Or, you can get your own personal Kindle Reader through one of the links in the left column.
Get your copy of “How To Eat Gluten Free… The Official Guide (2012)” Kindle e-Book by clicking on the image below…
Well, that’s about it. I hope this article helped.