I see an article on a weekly basis regarding the pros or cons of being gluten free. Traditional medicine leans toward the stance that if you don’t have Celiac disease then you should not avoid it. I have a problem with this because I think the way we diagnose celiac disease is next to pitiful. I will explain that in a bit. Therefore, I land in the common sense camp: if gluten bothers you then you should avoid it regardless if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or not.
I always hear the debate of are we seeing more gluten related health issues because we diagnose it better or is something else causing this. I personally believe it is a combination of a few factors. First, our bodies cannot break down gliadin easily and the amount of gliadin has increased exponentially in our grains over the years as we have tried to engineer it to grow better. Second, because our current grains have been chemically modified I wonder if there is something that is being altered that our bodies just don’t like.
Let’s start with the basics. Gluten is the substance that makes things doughy. It “glues” things together as a binder hence the name gluten. It has two components: glutenin which contributes to the elasticity and gliadin which contributes to the extensibility which helps it rise during baking. The gliadin component is also the protein of the grain. Gluten is found in many grains but the leading four are wheat, barley, malt and rye.
Symptoms of gluten issues include diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, persistent anemia, blood in stools, itchy skin, dermatitis (eczema or psoriasis), sores (especially on legs), headaches, swelling in fingers and many more.
If you have any of the above symptoms then you may have a gluten issue. READ ON to learn the differences between gluten sensitivities, allergies & celiac disease as well the different options for testing. You won’t want to miss why traditional testing may give you a false negative test result!
You can have a gluten sensitivity, a gluten allergy or celiac disease.
A gluten sensitivity is primarily down a pathway called IgG although reactions still can be severe and immediate. The IgG pathway can be tested with blood tests (we use the ALCAT primarily).
An allergy involves the pathway called IgE which is tested by the skin prick (RAST) method.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body creates antibodies to gliadin. These antibodies then turn and create havoc on the gastrointestinal system. The gold standard of diagnosis of celiac is a biopsy done by endoscopy where a scope goes down your throat and takes a small piece of tissue. The problem is celiac lesions are often skip lesions meaning that a normal biopsy might occur and you still have celiac, especially in early cases. There is also a blood test that looks at antibodies which are next to pitiful. When we test for celiac, many labs only do two markers – one tissue tranglutaminase antibody and an IgA. When you eat a product containing gluten an enzyme called tissue transglutaminase is responsible for breaking it down. It is always important to check the IgA because if this is low then the body may not be able to make the other markers and celiac can be missed. A few labs will check an endomysial antibody. There is also a stool analysis that can look for anti-gliadin IgA antibodies which can be useful. This test is currently only available thru specialty labs.
It was previously thought that the only gliadin responsible for celiac is the alpha type and it’s associated transglutaminase but you can react to any of the gliadins or transglutaminases. There are four different types of gliadins: alpha, beta, gamma and omega and a multitude of different transglutaminases. Knowing that we can react to the different types of gliadins and that there are many more transglutaminases really should make the current testing only useful when the results are positive. If you have a negative test then you can still have celiac!
There is one test available on the market that actually looks deeper, the Cyrex wheat/gluten blood test. It looks at THIRTY-TWO different gliadin/transglutaminase markers for an in-depth look at gluten allergies!! Insurance is not covering this test which is why it is not being used more often. This is a great test to do if you really want to know if you have a gluten allergy.
At the end of the day, if you have a gluten sensitivity, allergy or celiac you have to avoid eating gluten which can be tricky because it is in so many foods! If you think you are sensitive to gluten then try removing it for three weeks (no cheating) and see how you feel off of it and then introduce it and see how you feel. Most of the time you will know in this period of time with the exception of skin issues as this often takes removal for three months to see the benefit. If you have just been diagnosed with celiac or have celiac and are not improving with a gluten free diet then it is important to do some extra gut healing. We use a variety of products including colostrum, aloe & glutamine when combined with a really good probiotic may help you along. Extensive damage will require more in depth healing protocols and we can help with that, too!
To your health,