What is the big deal about Gluten?
So many of us have started hearing a lot about going gluten free and wonder is it just a fad or does it really make a difference in our health. We wonder, should I go to the trouble of trying to go off gluten and how do I know if I have a problem with gluten? Well gluten is not bad but bad gluten is bad. The gluten in wheat, rye and barley is bad. The best research authorities in the world state that “ No One “ can digest bad gluten. We can break it down into small pieces but not small enough pieces to where it doesn’t cause inflammation in our small intestines where it is processed. People that do not have a gluten sensitivity (GS) get irritation from eating it but they don’t get the immune response like GS people do. Their gut heals and they don’t really notice much of a problem. GS people and those with true Celiac Disease (CD) get irritation that doesn’t heal as readily and the immune response that cascades can reek havoc in their systems. I say “Systems” because you don’t often experience gastrointestinal complaints when you are GS or CD. Only 8% of the people who test positive for CD using more sensitive testing have any GI complaints. My brain went, WOW!, when I heard that fact. No GI symptoms?
This happens because we are getting an immune response. When the gut gets exposed to gluten it makes tears in the lining of the small intestine and allows particles larger than are supposed to get into the blood steam to enter. This we call “leaky gut”. Think of your gut lining as cheesecloth. It normally sifts out certain size particles. When you eat gluten it makes holes or tears in the cheesecloth allowing larger particles to pass through. These larger particles are viewed by the body as invaders because they are not supposed to be there. Thus the immune system reacts to fight it. Over time the immune system gets overstressed and hyperactive. This leads to inflammation and cell destruction. Where in the body the immune system attacks these cells depends on where these compounds attach when then immune system finds them and individual genetics. The immune system will attack normal cells causing break down by the immune system anywhere in the body. Research is now finding that people with mildly elevated liver enzymes, osteoporosis, chronic sinus congestion, thyroid disease, depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, hormone imbalances, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, auto immune diseases of all kinds and many, many more maladies should be tested for CD and GS routinely.
So let’s say you decide gluten free is for you. Is that all I need to do? No, is the short answer. Just removing glutinous foods from your diet is like having your house burn down. The fire stops burning because it has no more fuel. And then the firemen come and say it is safe to move back in. Do you think it would be a very hospitable environment to live in? First you have to stop the smoldering spots, clean up the debris and then rebuild the house. Right? Same with your gut. Lots of damage has been done to the gut and calming the immune response and healing the systems that have been damaged is all required to get back on the road to health. Research shows that over time the gut can regrow the villi damaged in celiac disease but more often than not there are still signs of inflammation and increased risk of disbiosis and small intestine bacterial overgrowth, SIBO . Disbiosis is a condition where the bad bacteria in your gut greatly outnumber the good bacteria that help you make and absorb vital vitamins and nutrients. Specific diet changes also have to be started in order to give your small intestine the digestible fibers it needs to grow and maintain healthy flora. This is why people many times don’t feel significantly better by simply removing gluten from their diet. Saying it really didn’t seem to make a difference.
So how do I find out if I am GS or have CD? The best tests are done by specialty labs, like Cyrex or Genova. They test all markers for the immune reactive components associated with gluten sensitivity. The standard labs test for 2 to 3 of these marker where specialty of labs often test for 19. This is why we and more natural healthcare practitioners use these specialized labs. They catch everyone possible that have these issues. The typical test your gastroenterologist does is one test, transglutaminase II. It picks up some reactive patients but the standard for celiac confirmation is always a biopsy. The biopsy only confirms complete villus atrophy which is the end stage of celiac disease. There are at least 2 other stages of inflammation and destruction that are present long before CD is able to be diagnosed by this method. It is like you have installed shag carpet in your house, heaven forbid, and short time later you start to notice that the fibers are falling out. You think, hmm, maybe something is wrong but well it’s still got shags so you wait. Do you wait until all the shags are gone before you decide that the carpet is wearing out prematurely? Not a wise choice yea? It is extremely important to identify as many people with GS and CD as possible because people are dying of these immune related diseases and disorders. Not to mention all the needless suffering it causes. Follow up testing to make sure you no longer have leaky gut and smoldering inflammation is also important to make sure you have given your body the time and right nutrients it needs to be as healthy as it can be.
Yes, going gluten free is a hard thing to do but becoming ill or developing a life threatening disease is far more devastating to ones quality of life and lifestyle. Furthermore, it is much, much harder, often requiring much longer treatment times to redirect the body to restart the healing process. And yes, in some cases when these disease processes have gone on for a long time it is often not possible to completely recover ones health. This is why I am receiving advance training and certification to help as many people as I can to discover the cause of their illnesses and help them recover. If you suspect you might have issues with gluten Please! get tested and get the help necessary to get on the path of healing and health.
Written by Dr. Becky Laird DC at Life Source Healing Center 706-338-5650