First of all, what is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an auto-immune condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged and affects absorption of nutrients. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye. When the immune system of a person with celiac disease detects gluten in the body, it sends out a kill order for the gluten. Unfortunately, it gets a bit confused and thinks the villi (lining) of the small intestine is also gluten, so starts attacking that too.
Symptoms of celiac disease include bloating, gas, itchy skin, delayed growth, headaches, diarrhea, tingling or numbness, weight loss, depression, constipation, mouth sores, osteoporosis, joint pain, irritability, fatigue, brain fog and infertility. It’s a pretty broad range of possible symptoms, and a lot of people will only have one or two of these symptoms. Your doctor can order a blood test to check for specific antigens in your blood to see if you have celiac disease.
So what is non-celiac gluten sensitivity?
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) can display all of the same symptoms as celiac disease, but the blood tests will come back negative, and there is usually no intestinal damage. So many people are tested for celiac, told that the tests were negative, continue to eat gluten, and go round and round in painful circles looking for a diagnosis. Unlike celiac disease, NCGS is not auto-immune, so it does not cause the body to attack itself, but a person with NCGS can still have a severe reaction whenever they eat gluten.
The only way (with current medical science at the time of writing this article) to diagnose NCGS is by a process of exclusion: excluding celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, lactose intolerance, or another inflammatory bowel process. If you’ve already been tested for celiac and have been told that the results were negative, it may be beneficial to try an exclusion diet to see if life is better without gluten.
How to eliminate gluten from your diet
Simple: cut out all gluten-containing foods, and replace them with gluten-free alternatives. Do not let even the smallest crumb of gluten pass your lips for 4 weeks. Monitor your symptoms by keeping a diary, and see if anything clears up. Then try re-introducing a small amount of gluten to your diet and see if the symptoms come back.
Gluten is found in wheat, rye, spelt, oats and barley. The obvious foods containing gluten are bread, pizza, pasta, cakes, biscuits and a lot of processed foods. The less-obvious places that gluten could be hiding is in soy sauce (use tamari instead, it’s naturally gluten free), sausages, sauces, soups, chocolate, certain colas, beer and some sweets. You can find a full list of foods to avoid and resources to live gluten free here. The good news is that most supermarkets now have a good variety of gluten free foods available, and most of it tastes pretty good. There is a wealth of resources available on the internet, just type “gluten free” into google to start exploring.
I hope that you’ve found this post useful and informative. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible. Wishing you the very best of health! 🙂