Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity (GS) is a very common condition that affects the health of millions of Americans. While it is slowly being recognized by conventional medicine, holistic doctors have been helping people with a variety of health problems by identifying this intolerance to gluten containing grains such as wheat, rye,  barley, and possibly oats.

A class of proteins known as prolamins, found in several grains, is what people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity reacts to. Technically speaking, gluten is made up of the proteins (prolamins) glutenin and gliadin found in wheat. The reactive prolamins’ in rye are secalin, and in barley it is called hordein. However, gluten has become the general term used for the prolamins that those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity react to.

Celiac disease(CD) is similar but different than gluten sensitivity. It is also under-diagnosed in the United States. About 3 million Americans or one out of every 133 people have CD. Many people with CD have not been diagnosed. This is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the gluten particles and then cross reacts with the tissues of the digestive tract. When someone reacts to gluten, it damages the fingerlike projections (known as villi) of the small intestine responsible for absorption of food and nutrients. This leads to the malabsorption of foods and nutrients. The end result is nutritional deficiencies. It also contributes to leaky gut syndrome, where toxins and larger than normal food particles, including gluten particles, are absorbed into the bloodstream and further worsen autoimmunity. There are two key genes that have been identified with celiac disease and can be tested. These are HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8. If you don’t have either gene there is a 99 percent chance you won’t develop celiac disease. However, this does not rule out gluten sensitivity which often does not show up on conventional blood, stool, or small intestine biopsy testing.

CD is diagnosed by blood tests and in some cases a biopsy of the small intestine. For the many that have a normal blood test or biopsy they may still have gluten sensitivity.

People with CD must strictly avoid all foods, medications, supplements, or substances that contain gluten as it can make them very ill. Those with GS may be able to tolerate varying amounts of gluten depending on their overall sensitivity and gut health.

Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Digestive upset (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, reflux, abdominal pain, nausea)
  • Headaches (including migraines, tension, and sinus headaches)
  • Hormone imbalance, infertility, irregular periods
  • Hair Loss
  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Skin problems including eczema, psoriasis, and vitiligo
  • Poor memory
  • Weight Loss
  • Weight gain
  • Mood problems-anxiety, depression
  • Stunted growth
  • Canker sores
  • Anemia
  • Autoimmune conditions, especially Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Seizures

Root Causes

  • Genetics
  • Excessive consumption of gluten containing products
  • Leaky gut syndrome and malabsorption (including acid suppressing medications that result in poor digestion and absorption)
  • Fungal infection (often caused by overuse of antibiotics)
  • Hybridization of wheat and other grains that create foreign proteins

Treatment

  • Diet
  • Foods to eat
  • Alternative foods to gluten that can be consumed include:
  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Potato
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Soy
  • Teff

One can also consume: fruits, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, fish, legumes, meat, seafood, nuts, poultry are all gluten free) Yogurt with live cultures with friendly flora that aid digestion. Note: many people with gluten allergy/sensitivity have problems with cow’s milk protein known as casein.

Foods to avoid:

  • Wheat (including wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat bran, cracked wheat, einkorn wheat, emmer wheat, semolina)
  • Couscous
  • Kamut
  • Spelt
  • Semolina
  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Barley
  • Oats (most oats are often contaminated with wheat, however certified gluten free are available)

Testing Techniques

Gluten sensitivity can be diagnosed by the strict avoidance of gluten for several weeks to see if symptom improvement occurs.
Lab tests to diagnose gluten sensitivity include stool, saliva, blood, or urine testing. This type of testing is available through the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine. We also have a nutritionist on staff who specializes in meal planning for those with gluten sensitivity or allergy.

Convenient Appointments Available

See Dr. Stengler in person at his clinic in Encinitas, California. If you do not live in Southern California, you can still benefit from Dr. Stengler’s care and expertise. His clinic is open weekdays for both in-office, telephone and video conferencing consultations. Please call our office at (760) 274-2377 or toll free at (855) DOC.MARK to schedule your appointment or get more information on Gluten Allergy and Sensitivity Testing.

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