Gluten Sensitivity: What You Need to Know

Gluten is a group of complex proteins found commonly in grains derived from wheat such as barley, oats, rye, and bread, among other cereal grains. Proteins, gliadin and glutenin, provide the elasticity and binding properties when the flour and water are both mixed together. This is the reason  gluten is used to make several bread products.   

Other foods that are made of gluten are beer, tortillas, cereals, cookies, cake, breaded meat and fish, pasta and noodles. We often hear the term ‘‘gluten-free’’ being thrown around loosely but seldom do we understand whether it really makes sense. 

There is a misconception that a gluten-free diet could support weight loss, but this is not always the case and only those with gluten sensitivity should avoid gluten foods. It has benefits as well for people with high gluten tolerance as it includes several low cholesterol food that could help them maintain good health.

According to Very Well Health, an immune reaction to foods containing gluten leads to a medical condition called gluten sensitivity. There are mainly eight symptoms experienced when suffering from gluten sensitivity, and either one or many occur at the same time 

1. When the digestive system fails to work, there is constipation, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain. Also, anemia, and weight loss can be byproducts. 

2. Rashes, bumps, eczema, itching, burning, psoriasis and hives are all associated with being gluten sensitive. 

3. A foggy brain results in loss of concentration, loss in train of thought, and short term memory loss, that are all symptoms of gluten sensitivity. 

4. Migraines and headaches become more common when eating food containing too much gluten. 

5. Seizures, brain-inflammation, impaired coordination, and tingling sensations in arms and legs are the symptoms of the neurological issues that can occur with gluten filled diets. 

6. Due to gluten sensitivity, some people can also develop depression and anxiety because of the brain fog. 

7. People who have been diagnosed with celiac disease are known to have reduced fertility, this includes both men and women. 

8. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is known to have some link to gluten sensitivity, possibly due to brain fog, but more research needs to be done. 

Gluten Bread, pasta, cereal, pancakes, noodles and pastries are some of the common food items that contain gluten. Wesual Click/Unsplash

Autoimmune Disease

When the immune system attacks gluten proteins under the false impression that they are foreign invaders in the system, the condition is referred to as gluten intolerance. It also goes against the natural structures in the gut, according to Healthline.

This process when the body starts to turn on itself is why celiac disease and gluten intolerance are often classified as autoimmune diseases. Non-celiac gluten disease is not the same as celiac disease and wheat allergy, though sometimes they may have common characteristics, they are seperate conditions.  

Type 1 diabetes, schizophrenia, depression, Hashimoto's thyroiditis and autism are other conditions said to be linked to gluten intolerance. 

Why Is There Ambiguity?

More precisely, to avoid confusion, gluten sensitivity refers to people who do not have either a wheat allergy or celiac disease, but whose only symptom is a negative response to gluten foods. However, celiac disease is accompanied with damage to the gut lining, according to Healthline. 

Scientists are conducting a lot of research on the subject, but it still remains unclear. There is some evidence, however, to suggest that FODMAPs, a type of carb and fibre could be one of the causes. Some scientists for this reason believe FODMAPs and not gluten are more likely to cause disturbances in the digestive system for those with non celiac gluten sensitivity. 

For a condition cited by so many people, there is no medical test that can really prove gluten sensitivity in black and white terms. But there are parameters than can indicate gluten senstivity, however, there is no concrete diagnosis. Data is also lacking to quantify the percentage of people living with gluten sensitivity. This is a major setback because self reported assessments of gluten sensitivity are not accurate in 75 percent of the cases. 

One sure shot way to know for sure is to rule out celiac disease and wheat allergy, then introduce and abruptly stop gluten free foods completely to see if there is a reaction.