Could It Be Gluten? Your Body’s Many Reactions
Think that your problem couldn’t be caused by gluten sensitivity? Think again. If you’re still under the impression that people who react to gluten always have diarrhea, then you’re still old school. If you think that it has to involve any digestive symptom at all, you’re behind the times.
Gluten sensitivity comes in all shapes and sizes. For example, take celiac disease. Celiac disease is a specific kind of damage in the small intestine known as villous atrophy. This is a symptom associated with gluten sensitivity. It just happens to be a symptom with its own disease name.
With or without celiac disease, it’s clear that gluten sensitivity is associated with all kinds of health problems. Got fatigue? That could be your gluten sensitivity. Brain fog? That too. Insomnia? Ditto. Poor recovery from exercise? Poor endurance? All can be due to gluten sensitivity.
Behavioral problems and psychological difficulties can also be related to gluten sensitivity. Many people report that depression or anxiety fall away once they stop eating gluten. Others notice dramatic changes in their kids who once had ADD, irritability, poor grades, poor social skills, and even autism.
How about neurological disorders? White lesions in the brain can be caused by gluten, as can tics, seizures, and the inability to walk. I know people who got rid of their cane, or literally walked away from their wheelchair after they stopped eating gluten. No problem is too dramatic or too severe that it couldn’t be exacerbated by a gluten sensitivity.
Dermatitis herpetiformis is caused by a reaction to gluten. But even if you can’t pronounce it, you’ll recognize acne, eczema, and psoriasis. All fancy names for skin reactions that really do have a cause, and sometimes it’s gluten. Itchy skin? That too.
And what about those digestive issues? Only a minority of people with gluten sensitivity, including celiacs, experience diarrhea. Many others get constipation instead. Some just have abdominal pain or gas. Who would ever think that their gas is due to ingesting gluten? Mine certainly was. Other problems include reflux, heartburn, canker sores, irritable bowel syndrome, and nausea, to name a few.
Autoimmune diseases are another great mystery to medicine. Yet somehow we fail to recognize that we have the cure to at least one autoimmune disease. We call it celiac disease. And we also know that gluten sensitivity is associated with many other autoimmune diseases including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Lupus, Sjogren’s, and Scleroderma. Anyone with any autoimmune condition should strongly consider the possibility that gluten is a trigger.
Getting tired of reading this yet? If so, skip to the end and assume that just about everything can potentially be triggered by gluten sensitivity. If you do, you’ll be right most of the time. Other symptoms include headaches, migraines, asthma, weight loss, weight gain, inability to gain weight, fibromyalgia, arthritis, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, irregular cycles, and many cancers.
What about other reactions to gluten? There are likely many, but they haven’t been investigated yet. Unfortunately the medical community tends to assume that there is no connection until proven otherwise. But when it comes to something as notorious as a gluten sensitivity, you should always keep an open mind. In fact, I assume that the connection is possible until proven otherwise.
We evolved to be healthy. That is the definition of natural selection. Therefore, most of our chronic health issues must be due to some deviation from that path. In that light, finding such a simple solution to many major dilemmas doesn’t sound so miraculous. It’s just common sense.
But what if you don’t have any symptoms at all? Still think you can’t be gluten sensitive? Remember, even many celiacs don’t experience any obvious reaction to gluten. And even celiacs with symptoms often went years or decades before their problem became obvious. Of course, in either case gluten is still causing harm. The same is true for non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If your lab work is positive, then you’re having a reaction, whether you like it or not.
The bottom line? Gluten sensitivity can literally be connected to nearly all health problems. Whether or not your doctor agrees does not change this. In fact, even if all of your lab work is negative, you should still consider the possibility. The results may be truly remarkable.
Written By: Dr. Stephen Wangen
Dr. Stephen Wangen is the award winning author of “Healthier Without Wheat: A New Understanding of Wheat Allergies, Celiac Disease, and Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance.” He is co-founder and Medical Director of the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment Center (www.IBSTreatmentCenter.com), the first clinic of its kind in the nation, and he is an internationally recognized speaker and writer. Gluten intolerant himself, he hasn’t touched gluten for 18 years and has lived dairy-free for 12.