Category Archives: gluten allergy symptoms
A recent paper published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics suggests that middle aged women with celiac disease may have up to 50 times the risk of the general population for also having a condition called microscopic colitis– an inflammatory condition which causes persistent, watery diarrhea.
Because of the difficulty in diagnosing microscopic colitis during regular colonoscopies, women in the risk group who also have the symptoms should consider undergoing colonic biopsies, which can be used to detect the condition more reliably. The good news is that microscopic colitis is considered a relatively benign condition, and most sufferers recover with treatment.
After almost two million years spent as nomadic hunter-gatherers, our ancestors learned about ten thousand years ago that they could grow certain types of plants under cultivation to feed themselves, and agriculture was born. Most schoolchildren know that agriculture allowed humans to congregate in cities, paving the way for the vast civilizations that span the globe today.
What very few lay people know is that the advent of agriculture saw an almost instantaneous decline in human health, as measured by the average height, bone density, and dental health of skeletons from that era. What changed?
The answer is diet. Early farmers replaced the hunter gatherer diet of meat, wild-growing vegetables, fruit and nuts with the agricultural diet of grains, legumes, and later, dairy. Unfortunately, while human culture can change on a dime, historically speaking, human physiology and genetics cannot. The beans, wheat, and dairy produced by farmers all contain chemical components that are difficult for the human digestive tract to process, causing irritation, chronic inflammation, and even allergic reactions in many individuals, which today is familiar to us as IBS, lactose intolerance, and wheat intolerance. In addition, grains are not nutrient dense foods– ever wondered why most bread and flour is “enriched”?– so the intake of several important vitamins and minerals was drastically reduced when people switched from hunting and gathering to sowing and reaping.
Today, there is a movement to improve individual health by returning to a diet that more closely resembles what our paleolithic ancestors ate. Called the Paleo or Primal Diet by various practitioners, it involves cutting out all grain, sugar, dairy, and legumes in a bid to heal the digestive tract and provide a rich variety of nutrients from meat, seafood, vegetables, nuts, and fruits to help the body rebuild itself.
I have been on this diet for about two months now, and I am convinced that, for me, this is the way forward to lifelong health after more than a decade of illness and misery. After starting this diet and stopping the birth control pill, I have completely eliminated all digestive discomfort and now consider myself symptom-free and “normal” after more than ten years of IBS.
If you would like to join me on this journey, here are a few resources to help you get started:
- Wheat Intolerance: Why the Food We Eat Is Ruining Our Health (A quick and easy read that gives an overview of the Paleo Diet and the health problems associated with common food intolerance issues.)
- The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat by Dr. Loren Cordain (This is the book I read when I started the diet.)
- Mark’s Daily Apple (The blog of Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy)
I hope that everyone who tries this diet has the same level of success with it that I have had. I can honestly say that right now, I can’t imagine ever eating any other way again.
New research in Sweden has shown that roughly half of all celiac patients in a test group showed the same intestinal reaction to corn as to wheat gluten, though at a much lower intensity.
This extremely preliminary finding suggests that corn may also be damaging to people with celiac disease, though far more study will be needed before any official announcements are made encouraging the avoidance of corn for those on a celiac diet. In the mean time, common sense must prevail. If you know that corn bothers you, don’t eat it. If you are diagnosed with celiac disease and following a strict gluten-free diet has not eliminated all of your symptoms, cut out corn for a couple of months and see if it helps.
One thing about it, cutting out corn, while a major nuisance, may actually lead to a more healthful diet. High fructose corn syrup is a staple in many of the high fat, high salt, highly-processed convenience foods so prevalent in the American diet. Cutting out those foods and replacing them with unprocessed or minimally-processed whole foods will definitely produce positive health effects, regardless of celiac disease status.
Loose stools are one of the more unpleasant and embarrassing wheat intolerance symptoms. Many people who suffer from celiac disease also have concurrent pancreatic problems which can make it difficult for them to digest foods properly, leading to persistent diarrhea. Now, a study is underway to determine whether supplementation with lipase (available from many health food stores in pill form) can help to control those unpleasant symptoms… and results look promising so far.
A simple fecal test for an enzyme called fecal elastase can give your doctor a good idea of whether your pancreas is functioning well, and might be a good idea for people with celiac disease or wheat intolerance who also suffer from frequent diarrhea. Lipase supplements are available over the counter and online; just make sure to do your homework and choose a reputable brand, since nutritional supplements are not regulated in the same way as drugs and food.
Many people who suffer from food-related problems such as wheat intolerance and celiac disease have discovered through trial and error that taking probiotics helps to control their symptoms. Now, Dr. Alessio Fasano of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has a theory about why.
In the case of celiac disease, not everyone who has the genetic predisposition to the disease shows symptoms. Some develop the reaction to gluten later than others; some never develop it at all. Dr Fasano wants to know why. He thinks that the expression of symptoms may be tied to changes in the person’s gut bacteria, which can happen naturally throughout their lifetime. Some research has shown that such changes have the power to affect gene expression in the host. While it has yet to be scientifically proven, it follows that treatment with probiotics might prevent the original expression of celiac symptoms in some patients.
Does this mean you should run out and buy some probiotics today? Well, it depends on what results you’re expecting. The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. You can’t take probiotics and then start eating wheat, expecting everything to be okay. In the case of wheat intolerance, which is not an allergic or autoimmune response, probiotics may increase a person’s tolerance… or it may not.
One thing about probiotics, though– they’re perfectly safe, and fairly inexpensive, so there’s no reason not to give them a try. Many people have reported that they feel generally better after taking probiotics, so it might be an experiment worth trying, even if you don’t intend to change your eating habits and gluten consumption afterwards.
The New York Times has a very nice Q&A style article on gluten-free living and celiac disease. Much of the information will also be of interest to those with wheat intolerance and wheat allergy symptoms.
Dr. Sheila Crowe, a professor in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology in the department of medicine at the University of Virginia, recently joined the Consults blog to answer reader questions about celiac disease. Here, Dr. Crowe responds to questions about maintaining a gluten-free diet.
Have you considered starting a probiotic regimen to increase your digestive health? Studies have shown that certain probiotics can be beneficial to celiac sufferers who have been accidentally exposed to gluten.
The classic symptoms of celiac disease are bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting. Weight loss and fatigue are common, as is failure to thrive and grow normally in children. However, not everyone who has celiac disease or gluten allergy shows these symptoms. Many may only suffer from fatigue and anaemia, and some have no symptoms at all.
In the case of small children, a red flag is the onset of digestive difficulties and failure to thrive shortly after the introduction of wheat products into the diet. In adults, an often overlooked symptom is an extreme fondness for products containing wheat– someone with gluten allergy symptoms may lapse rhapsodic about the taste of a relatively bland food like bread or pasta, and miss it or even crave it if they don’t eat it every day.
This may seem odd (and a bit cruel), but it’s actually part of the body’s attempt to protect itself. When a person with celiac disease or gluten allergy eats wheat, it causes an immune response and painful inflammation in the gut. The body’s response to inflammation and pain is to release endorphins, which produce a barely-noticeable-but-definitely-there “buzz”, to cover the pain; the same sort of buzz that a hospital patient gets from a dose of morphine, or a drug addict from a shot of heroin.
So, just as the heroin user and the hospital patient may become addicted to opiates, the person with celiac or gluten allergy symptoms becomes addicted to the small “high” that follows a meal containing wheat. It’s completely unconscious, of course– if asked, the person will say that they simply love the taste of the bread, pasta, or whatever– but it can be a strong hint of some sort of wheat intolerance or gluten allergy.
If some or all of these symptoms sound familiar, there are a few different ways to proceed with getting a more accurate diagnosis. These include antibody testing, endoscopic analysis, genetic testing, elimination diets, and challenge tests, which will be discussed more fully in other articles.
Your doctor can help guide you in determining your next step.