Gluten is a protein found in the grains of several grass crops, including wheat, rye, barley, and their relatives. It is also widely used in the food industry as a thickener, stabilizer and filler. Gluten is only partially digested in the intestinal tract, giving rise to protein fragments that can trigger an immune response. Gluten sensitivity (or gluten intolerance) includes a wide spectrum of disorders, in which gluten has an adverse effect on the body.
Those with a gluten sensitivity experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease, yet lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in those with celiac. Research suggests that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is an innate immune response, as opposed to an adaptive immune response (such as autoimmune), or allergic reaction.
The most common symptoms of gluten intolerance is IBS (symptomatic of gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and loose stools). Symptoms, however, are not limited to the gastro-intestinal system. Symptoms of gluten intolerance can also include any of the following.
When assessing for a gluten intolerance, one should cut out all sources of gluten for a minimum of six weeks. Truly avoiding gluten isn’t as easy as just cutting out wheat and gluten-containing breads, pasta and cereals. There are many hidden sources of gluten found in processed foods – from gravy mixtures, salad dressings and spices to vegetarian meat substitutes and potato chips.
For more information on how to go gluten-free, download a free copy of my new Gluten-Free Guide!