These days people are becoming more aware of the adverse effects that elements of their diets are having on their bodies, largely due to the increasing amount of press on these issues, and also thanks to a heightened public interest in general health and wellbeing.
pH health are more than happy to see this happen, but we know that there are still many people out there who are still unaware of the impact that diet is having on their health. Even if you shop mainly in supermarket giants like Tesco or Sainsbury’s for your staple food items, you’ll probably have noticed by now the presence of ‘free from’ or health food sections. If you’ve taken a look at what is on offer there, you’ll have spotted the gluten-free range.
The fact remains though, that being aware of ‘gluten-free’ products, or hearing others’ talking about their gluten intolerance doesn’t equal an education in the functions of the body. Another point is that people have different constitutions and will therefore notice different symptoms; this doesn’t mean they don’t have the same intolerance. We have become conditioned to view minor ailments or upsets as normal, especially if they only cause a slight discomfort or anomaly. For example, having excess or trapped wind in your abdomen most afternoons could be something you have become so accustomed to that you haven’t thought about whether there’s something in that daily lunchtime sandwich affecting your body negatively.
The above example doesn’t necessarily mean you have a gluten intolerance, but it is a sign that your body is having problems digesting something. We should perhaps be questioning why that is and what else it might mean for our long term health, rather than just ploughing on through it because it’s only a minor irritation and we love the taste of our sandwiches.
Reacting to wheat gluten does not make you coeliac...
As with many conditions, there are degrees. Most people who eat bread or pasta and have a bodily reaction such as bloating can not be considered a celiac sufferer. Coeliac sufferers have a severe intolerance to gluten, tantamount to danger. They can not eat anything at all that contains gluten, as they’re likely to have a serious negative reaction to it.
Coeliac disease is severe gluten intolerance and is classed as an autoimmune disorder. It is thought to be genetic, and for these people ingesting gluten can result in the small intestine sustaining damage. Around 1 in 100 people globally are thought to be affected by it.
True gluten intolerance can result in an array of symptoms once gluten is consumed, such as:
Severe problems with digestion
Coeliac sufferers will know all about this one. Digestive issues are very common with gluten intolerance, due to an allergic reaction occurring within the stomach. The gluten can cause irritation within your gastro-intestinal tract, and excessive mucus is then produced. At this point you will notice the wind and bloating, but there are other symptoms of digestive dysfunction that can range in severity; you may find that you experience cramps and diarrhea, but it can even result in nausea and vomiting. Not nice!
When this allergic reaction is severe, it is also prone to challenge the nervous system; this can result in dizziness, loss of concentration and/or physical coordination. More serious symptoms can include pain in the hands and feet, or a sensation of numbness. Any of the latter symptoms requires medical attention.
Skin rashes are typical symptoms of many different allergies. In response to the presence of gluten, the body will start to create antibodies that can cause itchy skin, blotches and even blisters. Gluten intolerance is known to cause this kind of reaction. Fortunately the rash isn’t permanent and will subside, but it’s almost certainly a deterrent to eating gluten in the future.
An intolerance of gluten can cause damage in the lining of the intestines. Essentially it destroys the villi (responsible for absorption of nutrients from your food). As a result, your body does not receive the full nutrition and cannot function as normal; hence the tiredness, and low immunity. Again, the villi damage is not necessarily permanent and will likely heal, but this is a major reason to avoid products containing gluten.
Your diet is linked to your emotional and mental state in so many ways. When your blood sugar levels are spiking and dropping incessantly, and your absorption of nutrients is minimal, this can really upset the body. The production of hormones can also be disrupted, all of which can result in changes in your mood. Feeling irritable, nervous, depressed, anxious or restless are all common when gluten intolerance is in full swing.
It is also important to assess the likelihood of a candida overgrowth in the body. Many of the symptoms described above can be attributed to candida. The difference is that symptoms like mood swings, fatigue, skin problems, digestive issues and others on this list, are likely to be ongoing whereas with gluten intolerance this will happen soon after consumption of products containing gluten.
If you feel that you may have gluten intolerance, you can verify it easily enough by removing all gluten from your diet for a period of time, and then reintroducing it, and you’ll notice the difference clearly. If you feel that you may have a candida problem, it could be worth testing for it; pH health are experts in candida overgrowth and will be happy to help you treat it and create a more sustainable diet and lifestyle.