With an ever growing market share of grocery products being dedicated to the gluten free crowd, many people are left wondering, what is gluten intolerance? These folks are not alone because there is quite a bit of mystery shrouding the 2.5 billion dollar gluten free industry. For people wondering what is gluten intolerance, grocery products and labels do little to answer their questions and offer useful facts, and therefore many people who are unsure of the signs and symptoms of this common ailment walking around afflicted completely unaware. We’ve put together 10 shocking facts to help you answer the question of what is gluten intolerance that may help you determine if you may want to talk to your doctor or naturopath about symptoms that you may be concerned about:
1. There is a difference between gluten sensitivity (term used interchangeably with gluten intolerance), celiac disease and a gluten allergy (also known as wheat allergy), however the first condition comprises within it the latter two. Sufferers of a gluten allergy rash are more easily diagnosed. Sufferers of celiac disease experience an autoimmune reaction to gluten while those experiencing sensitivity often merely have gastrointestinal issues as a result.
2. Gluten content of products today is much higher than that in past years because it has been grown that way on purpose to make it tastier.
3. People without sensitivity, celiac disease or an allergy still have reportedly had reactions to gluten, which suggests that omitting it from a diet can alleviate symptoms such as a hard bloated stomach even in people who haven’t formally been diagnosed. While being in the process of development, there is currently no medical test available to diagnose gluten sensitivity (only celiac disease and the allergy), so relying on symptom identification (such as bloating) and genetic factors is the only effective way to find out whether you may be affected.
4. Starting a gluten free diet prior to diagnostic testing can alter the results and make your diagnosis next to impossible! This is the reason why so many individuals remain undiagnosed for years. One of the most important facts to keep in mind when scheduling a blood test is to confirm with your doctor exactly how much glutenous foods you should be consuming daily and for how many weeks, prior to your test. Usually, you would need at least 2 weeks of daily glutenous activity.
5. One of the most controversial facts is that gluten intolerance has been linked to migraines in some studies although the exact mechanism that causes this is still rather unknown. However, it could be one answer to what causes a migraine! Studies in the late 1970’s revealed that the number one allergenic food item that the most individuals with migraines reacted to was wheat (an overwhelming 78%!), which is high in gluten content. Once removed from the diet, most individuals noted a significant improvement in their pain patterns.
6. Over processed and over refined foods can cause similar symptoms such as constipation and bloating making some people think they have gluten intolerance when they really don’t.
7. Not only candy and ice-cream but medications, too, can contain gluten! Make sure to check to ensure that yours don’t! Even the glue on envelopes can contain gluten! So, do your homework to look for hidden sources as they are everywhere!
8. There is some evidence to confirm what the increased popularity persists, that a gluten free diet for those without celiac disease or sensitivity, will help you lose weight. Since gluten is a non-digestible protein found in what most overweight individuals eat on a regular basis- breads, pastas and sweets, eliminating it or at least reducing its amount significantly will improve digestion and hence assist in weight loss. Note, however, that while weight gain is one of the most common symptoms of gluten intolerance, so is inability to gain weight, which makes weight both one of the most contradicting facts of what is gluten intolerance, but also one of its most important indicators.
9. While gluten-less products are healthier for those who need to be using them, they aren’t overall healthier than their gluten laden counter parts. You will need to determine the health value and nutritional content of each product you buy because even some gluten free products are nutritional nightmares. Just because your bag of chips says “organic gluten-free” doesn’t make them any safer!
10. Many products now labeled “gluten free” to cater to a new “foodie” population have always been without gluten, and manufacturers are simply capitalizing on an already existing trait of their products in order to increase sales. One exception is with organic gluten-free oats. While oats actually naturally do not contain gluten, because they are normally processed at the same facilities that process glutenous grains, there is a high risk of cross-contamination. Oats with gluten-less label guarantee that they are completely safe.
Hopefully, this list of 10 shocking facts will open your eyes to some of the truths behind this condition and help you to better answer the question of what is gluten intolerance. If you think that you may be having effects associated with gluten, speak to your health care provider, especially before starting a gluten free diet.