Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other related grains such as barley, rye and triticale (a cross product of wheat and rye). Wheat is the prime source of gluten. Gluten intolerance, also known as gluten sensitivity is a very common disorder, which can bring significant harm to people.
Gluten intolerance can be linked to 55 diseases, thus cannot be termed as a single disorder. It is the cumulative outcome of a multitude of disorders.
Gluten Intolerance or sensitivity
Gluten intolerance is a sensitivity of the digestive system toward the gluten containing products characterized by Bloating, Gas, Abdominal pain, Diarrhea and sometimes, severe constipation.
Gluten intolerance can be defined as a condition that induces a person to react to gluten after ingestion. Gluten creates adverse effects in the body of a gluten intolerant person. Wheat allergy and gluten intolerance are not same. Gluten intolerance is broadly categorized into two types- Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.
Gluten intolerance occurs due to immunochemistry reactions of gluten. The immune reactions can be divided into innate response, class I mediated response, class II mediated response and antibody recognition. The immune response to gluten protein’s polypeptide chains varies on the basis of the type of gluten intolerance one has.
Both gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy are immune reactions but the mechanisms differ largely.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance
The symptoms of gluten intolerance include the following:
- Fatigue or exhaustion after eating gluten containing diet
- A feeling of irritability
- Difficulty to concentrate
- Abdominal pain
- Hormone imbalance
- Unreasoned infertility
- Joint pain
- Inflammation or swelling in joints
- Anxiety, mood swing, depression or ADD
The onset of the symptoms mentioned above occurs within few minutes to hours after consuming gluten containing products. There are some long-term symptoms as well. To detect the long-term signs and symptoms, one should be highly vigilant. Such symptoms include:
- Fluctuation in weight- either weight loss or weight gain
- Change in psychological conditions- mood swings, depression or behavioral changes
- Hives, itchy or painful rashes
Gluten intolerance has become an emerging problem in the recent days. Who are at risk of being afflicted with gluten intolerance? We will have a look at the possible risk factors:
- Heredity:Gluten intolerance has been proved by researchers to be hereditary. The risk genes are inherited from one or both the parents. So, analysis of the family history closely throws light on this aspect and confirms the fact that you are at considerable risk if gluten sensitivity is common in your family.
- Viral infection:Recent findings have established a link between viral infections and gluten intolerance. The risk genes that have been identified are connected with human immune defense against virus. Therefore, any sort of viral infection activates the genes and leads to the onset of gluten intolerance or increases the likeliness for the onset of gluten intolerance signs and symptoms.
- Plant genetic modifications:The genetic modification techniques employed in improving the quality of wheat and enhancing gluten strength heighten the risk of being intolerant to gluten.
Diseases associated with celiac gluten sensitivity
Celiac gluten sensitivity is related to several other diseases such as:
- Intestinal cancer
- Liver disorders
- Dermatitis Herpetiformis
- Down Syndrome
- Turner Syndrome
- William’s Syndrome
- Sjogren’s Disease
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Type 1 Diabetes
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity poses more complications as compared to celiac gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease can be detected with the help of medical tests. If the tests are repeatedly found negative in spite of gluten signs and symptoms, you are supposedly a victim of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
If not treated on time, gluten intolerance can bring several other complications along with it. Besides the usual symptoms, it might lead to cancer of the small intestine, ulcerative jejunoileitis, lactose intolerance and collagenous celiac disease.
Tests & Diagnosis
Since the signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance are quite similar to other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal infections, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease and chronic fatigue syndrome; gluten intolerance is often misunderstood. Hence, it is very important to get it diagnosed properly. The methods of diagnosis include the following:
Doctors test blood for the presence of high level of anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies or anti-endomysium antibodies, if found positive, gluten intolerance is confirmed. In case of negative results, if the symptoms still direct towards gluten intolerance, further tests should be carried out for confirmation.
This is a test usually carried out after gluten intolerance is confirmed in blood test. In this method, tissue sample is collected from the small intestine to check for the damage done to the villi.
This is a test where the presence of autoantibodies is checked in the blood of people without any symptom of gluten intolerance. The people who are at considerable risk of developing this disorder should get routine screening done to ensure themselves if they are healthy or not.
Treatment of Gluten intolerance
The one and only treatment for gluten intolerance is surviving on a gluten-free diet. The gluten intolerant people should follow this for the rest of their lives. People with severe intestinal injury might not be able to ingest nutrients orally; in that case, gluten-free nutrients should be administered intravenously. Drug treatments for gluten intolerance are at their research stages.
Diet, nutrition and caution
A gluten-free diet means a diet that is devoid of wheat, rye, barley and triticale. A gluten intolerant person should maintain high level of caution in avoiding products that contain any of these. Gluten is also an essential constituent in some medications. A person having gluten intolerance should avoid those medicines and consult the doctor for alternatives.
One should keep an eye on every food label while purchasing to ensure themselves that they are not inviting any danger home. A gluten intolerant person can consume legumes, nuts, millet, arrowroot, soy, tapioca, rice, corn, flax, potatoes, sorghum, cassava and buckwheat. The family wherein any member has developed gluten intolerance should maintain slight changes in their lifestyle to prevent the hazardous outcome and lead a healthy life.