Clues for Gluten Sensitivities: A New Guide Indicates Who Shouldn't Eat Gluten

By: Michele Wolfson

Do you dream about eating luscious treats like cupcakes and cookies, or even main staples like pasta and bread without doubling over from abdominal pains? Its often very frustrating dealing with food allergies related to gluten-intolerances, especially for young children.

Trying to figure out what exactly makes you uncomfortable can be a real challenge. "One way to determine if gluten (or any other food) is causing problems is to do an elimination diet for at least 2 weeks whereby you eliminate all gluten from your diet, which means not even a breadcrumb. After two weeks, reintroduce gluten, and see how you feel," says Mona Solar, creator of Solar Wellness, an organization that is dedicated to helping improve the lives of those following a gluten-free diet as well as other food sensitivities.

If you are feeling constantly bloated, or experience fatigue and foggy thinking and feel worse after eating wheat and other products that contain gluten, experts say that you should be avoiding them.

In a previous article, I discussed whether or not a gluten-free diet is a truth or a trend because this is a question that is often asked and leaves room for speculation about its legitimacy. "The gluten-free diet appears to be moving away from trend because as time goes we are seeing increases in Celiac diagnoses and people who are trying a GF diet noticing positive changes in their health," says Solar. In an effort to clarify the situation, a group of 15 experts from seven countries is proposing a new classification system for the gluten-related disorders plaguing a growing number of people around the world for unknown reasons, according to The Wall Street Journal.

I've heard individuals complain that when they are tested for Celiac Disease and their results come back negative, doctors will brush aside indicators of a gluten-allergy and will make them feel like they are crazy and creating false symptoms. While some people may be on a gluten-free diet for unnecessary reasons, "It's only now that studies are coming out showing that there's something real about gluten sensitivity" says Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and a co-author of the proposal. In fact, he notes that patients with gluten sensitivity often have even more severe symptoms than those with celiac disease, which is frequently "silent" or asymptomatic, even though antibodies to gluten are slowly damaging their intestinal tracts. That's partly why celiac disease is under-diagnosed, he says.

These experts are hoping to find a biomarker that can officially diagnose gluten sensitivity. But until then, they have come up with a chart for both the patient and the physician to classify gluten-related disorder symptoms. Below is the guide:

Classifying the Symptoms

Wheat Allergy: Can affect skin, gastrointestinal tract or respiratory tract

Symptoms: Hives, nasal and chest congestion, nausea, vomiting, anaphylaxis

Prevalence: Less than 1% of children, most outgrow it

Diagnosis: Blood and skin prick reveal IgE antibodies; food challenge

Treatment: Avoid wheat products

Celiac Disease: Antibodies to gluten damage intestinal villi needed to absorb food

Symptoms: Abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, osteoporosis, cancer; can also be asymptomatic

Prevalence: 1% of adults of European descent, up fourfold in 50 years

Diagnosis: Gene tests show HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 variations; blood tests reveal tTGA or EMA antibodies; biopsy shows villi damage

Treatment: Strict gluten-free diet can reverse symptoms

Gluten Ataxia: Antibodies to gluten attack cerebellum

Symptoms: Loss of balance and coordination; few GI symptoms

Prevalence: Gluten may be the cause of ataxia in a fifth of all sufferers of the ailment

Diagnosis: Blood tests show tTG6 and AGA antibodies; brain images are abnormal

Treatment: Gluten-free diet may stabilize ataxia but some damage may be irreversible

Gluten Sensitivity: Gluten may trigger a primitive immune defense

Symptoms: Similar to celiac disease without villi damage; foggy thinking, mood swings

Prevalence: Unknown

Diagnosis: Rule out celiac disease and wheat allergies; possible AGA antibodies in blood; symptoms ease when avoiding gluten

Treatment: Avoiding gluten, though small amounts on occasion may not cause problems (Sources: BMC Medicine, WSJ reporting)

"Undiagnosed and untreated Celiac can lead to higher incidences of other autoimmune diseases," says Solar. Making educated choices and reading labels is very important, not only for those with food allergies, but also for anybody willing to follow a healthier way of eating. Solar also states that "There is a healthy way to eat Gluten-free, which includes whole foods that are naturally gluten-free and gluten-free grains, versus an unhealthy way that revolves around a lot of processed gluten-free products that contain more sugar, calories and carbs than their gluten-containing counterparts." Solar Wellness is an excellent and reliable company to check out if you or a loved one is experiencing any issues with gluten-related intolerances.

It is also imperative that physicians suspect gluten sensitivity when patients complain of abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, anemia and other celiac symptoms, even if they don't have wheat allergies or the antibodies seen with Celiac disease.

Michele Wolfson is a graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute and is passionate about all areas of food, from writing about it, to photographing, growing, cooking, and consuming it. A vegetarian since she was seven years old, Michele knows the ins and outs of enjoying a healthy vegetarian lifestyle in Manhattan, which she writes about for as its Manhattan Vegetarian Examiner.

Photos: Meredith_Farmer

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