Thursday, March 22, 2012

What the heck is " gluten"???

Isn't "gluten" the strangest word? I never said it until 11 years ago, and now I say it all the time! So if your new to being gluten free or if your wondering what it means, I'll happily fill you in on what that strange word is.

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye , kamut and spelt. The last two grains you don't see too often but the first three your probably familiar with. Gluten is the " glue" basically of those grains. It helps things stick together and why it makes such great breads and rolls. Since it is the glue, it literately sticks to your gut! It has that same stickiness that it has to hold the flour together as it does when it hits your stomach's intestines! If you have Celiacs, this is what it does to you. Inside your intestines are small villi ( think a piece of carpet that has the little pieces sticking up) that grab your nutrients as they are digested. However, if the villi are coated with gluten, then your nutrition is basically lost because the body isn't able to grab that nutrition! This is very serious because it causes the villi to die and the damage to the gut can be so destroyed that some of it may never return to a healthy state. This of course, can lead to a myriad of diseases since 90% of our health is in the gut. If you have Celiacs, it is imperative that you are especially careful since this autoimmune disease is often paired with others such as thyroid disease, arthritis and even cancer.

Years ago the gold standard for determining if you had Celiacs disease was to take out a piece of your small intestine and colon. If there was damage there in those two pieces, then you had it! But what if you didn't have damage to that little part did they took out? Did that mean you didn't have the disease? Well, the new standard is just blood tests. Simple, easy and painless! However, still 95% percent of people are still misdiagnosed . I have read where the statistics are as high as 97%. That is a lot of people who are taking drugs for something else or feeling awful a whole lot when they could easily be feeling much better. If you read about this on the internet you will find many different ideas of what and how and when but the basics are the gluten!

 Now non Celiac, gluten sensitivity is seen as a different issue though the treatment is basically the same. No gluten! Biopsy tests can't find the same intestinal damage but they do know that the gut has a reaction to the gluten as does so many other places in the body. It is seen as more of an allergy to the gut. Not the same kind of damage but could it be that these are " pre- Celiac's" symptoms? Since so many more adults then children are diagnosed it would seem possible that they could have started with sensitivities but since we eat wheat so much, ( the government wants us eating that more then any other food group) then it developed into Celiacs? There is much to learn on this still and it is hard to find firm findings. Though it is said that allergies can be inherited as is Celiacs! I have read where the assumption is that this is a European decent issue because wheat was introduced in the Middle Ages in Europe and so the ancestors passed this on since this is genetic. However, where there used to be no Celiacs or gluten intolerance, in North Africa and the Middle East, there now is! Recently I read where a Saharawi refugee camp had tested 65 children positive for gluten sensitivity, 71 did not have it. The main food they were eating was  bread.  They had distended, painful bellies!  I hope as the science for this continues that we will learn more about the hows and why's to stop this from being so misunderstood and misdiagnosed.

 As of now, the rate of having gluten sensitivity is six times that of having Celiacs disease and growing. It is estimated that in 2019, 50-60 % of the population will be diagnosed with Celiacs or gluten sensitivity or pre- Celiac, or light Celiac as it being referred as now. The reason they expect the numbers to increase is because Dr.'s are now more aware of the more then 300 symptoms , tons of autoimmune diseases and learning that more then 50 diseases are direct causes. This coupled with better and easier testing methods. And the fact that patients like you and I are asking these questions. Is it gluten?

Now more celebrities are coming out with their issues with Gluten and making it more public in Hollywood and that is encouraging more people to pay attention to it . To name a few would be Zooey DeSchanel, Rachel Weisz, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Gwyenth Paltrow. And I am sure as more and more people are diagnosed it will become far more popular and there will be more awareness raised. Next blog, where is the gluten?

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