(WellnessNova.com) - Adopting a gluten-free lifestyle isn’t just for those with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease affecting about 1 percent of the population causing damage to the small intestine and affecting the absorption of nutrients from food. As the gluten-free food industry grows by leaps and bounds, millions of individuals around the world are adopting a gluten-free lifestyle to improve various aspects of their health, and not just as part of a temporary “fad diet.”
There are many reasons a gluten-free lifestyle may be right for you:
Those with chronic headaches or migraines with no known origin may test negative for celiac disease yet after being advised to try a gluten-free diet, find their pain abates. Tests for many with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) aren’t always conclusive, therefore healthcare practitioners may advise patients to completely remove gluten from their diets for several weeks in order to discover if the head pain lessens. Many find that long-term headaches disappear within weeks on the gluten-free diet.
That painful, bloated belly you are experiencing may be caused by gluten. A study of people who thought they might be gluten-sensitive showed an increase in bloating when subjects were exposed to gluten. Bloating can be quite uncomfortable and sudden for those with gluten sensitivity and cause one’s abdomen to swell much larger than normal.
3. Skin Conditions
Some people live for years with painful and irritating skin conditions and find relief once going gluten-free. Some with rashes and psoriasis respond well to the new diet. Many with painful blisters visit one dermatologist after another trying to find relief, but to eventually find out they have autoimmune Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH), which is linked with celiac – but not as widely known to the general public. A strict gluten-free lifestyle will help keep the painful blisters from reoccurring.
It’s believed that a larger percentage of the population has NCGS than celiac but the majority don’t know it. They may test negative for celiac but still experience depression. A study using subjects who had been on a gluten-free diet for irritable bowel syndrome proved that depression rates were higher after consuming gluten than the placebos. Holistic practitioners often work with patients to eliminate gluten and other triggers from food to see if there is a change in mental health.
5. Better Brain Function
There are many brain-related symptoms that can clear up on a gluten-free diet. Brain fog and forgetfulness are two of them. Some neurologists put patients with various brain health issues on gluten-free diets to help alleviate their symptoms. Some conditions that have responded well to a change in diet include autism, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and ataxias of no known origin.
Ataxias affect one’s balance, walking, talking and often swallowing, among other symptoms. It generally makes the affected person look and sound drunk. Gluten Ataxia is directly caused by ingesting gluten. It’s an autoimmune disease affecting the cerebellum, the brain’s motor control center, and an individual could be rendered incapacitated if it is not discovered in time or if he or she continues to ingest gluten. A strict gluten-free diet is necessary for life and if diagnosed in time, full brain and body function is possible.
6. Wheat Allergy
It’s possible to have some similar symptoms to those with celiac or NCGS and have it be an allergic reaction. Some symptoms may include hives or skin rash, sneezing, stuffy nose, stomach cramps or vomitting and in severe cases, anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that can interrupt breathing and send the body into shock. It’s important for individuals to get a proper diagnosis with a doctor or allergist to pinpoint the exact gluten issue. Eating gluten-free would be necessary as would using strictly gluten-free hair and beauty products.
7. Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases are often triggered by a leaky gut and research shows that gluten triggers the release of zonulin, a chemical which signals the intestinal wall to open up thus allowing food particles and toxins into the bloodstream. When this happens, the immune system goes on high alert against these unrecognized foreign invaders. Eliminating gluten helps to strengthen the gut so it heals, keeping inflammation levels down in the body.
Keeping healthy and having a strong gut creates a strong immune system thus helping stave off autoimmune diseases from developing for those who are genetically prone. Once someone develops one autoimmune disease, the chances increase of developing two to three more. Therefore, anyone with any type of autoimmunity should consider adopting a gluten-free lifestyle.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid which is seven times more common in women than men. One’s body mistakenly views the thyroid as a foreign invader and tries to attack it. This study demonstrates a strong link between those with Hashimoto’s and gluten intolerance and advises those with the thyroid disease be tested for celiac.
The body’s reaction is called molecular mimicry in which gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles the molecular structure of the thyroid gland. Once the body senses this in the bloodstream, it launches an attack, yet it also begins to attack the thyroid tissue too. Going gluten-free will help lessen the inflammation in the body and dampen the autoimmune attack.
9. A History of Gluten-related Disease in Your Immediate Family
Five to 22 percent of people with celiac disease have an immediate family member with it as well. Therefore, many direct blood relatives decide to go gluten-free if one or more family members have celiac even if they have tested negative. The hope is to keep one’s body healthy and not trigger one or more autoimmune diseases. Often gluten can do damage to the body over many years, sometimes irreversible, so the goal is to stave off disease.
10. If Your Loved One or Family Member Has to Be Gluten-free
Gluten cross-contamination is something someone with a gluten-related autoimmune disease or NCGS always needs to be aware of. This means a few gluten-filled crumbs on a cutting board that hasn’t been properly cleaned could make an individual really sick as could sharing the same toaster. Even sharing a kiss with a loved one after consuming a gluten product could cause severe illness.
Many families choose to be completely gluten-free in their homes if one member is diagnosed with a gluten issue, especially if it’s a child. This makes meal preparation and cooking easier since separate meals don’t have to be made, but also keeps the entire household safe. And the partners of people with gluten issues, whether dating or married, often adopt the same lifestyle out of support, convenience and safety.
There are many reasons people are going gluten-free. They may not have an exact medical diagnosis much of the time, but simply feeling better is enough of a reason to make a lifestyle switch. There is little availability for NCGS testing and many go undiagnosed. It’s estimated that 83 percent of Americans with celiac disease have been misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, with 6 to 10 years being the average time somebody waits for a correct diagnosis.
It’s important if adopting a gluten-free diet to keep it healthy. Simply eating sugar-laden, processed products that are marked gluten-free is not a positive food alternative. Try to buy foods from the outer aisles of grocery stores which are usually in their natural forms with no processing and limited packaging – fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, and etc.
If you suspect you’re having a reaction to gluten, visit a doctor, holistic doctor or naturopath for more in-depth testing before you remove gluten from your life. You will want answers on how exactly gluten is affecting you, and it’s important to know going forward whether you are dealing with an autoimmune disease, an intolerance, or an allergy.