Friday, May 21, 2010

Living WIth a Gluten Intolerance


Do you suffer from diarrhea? Gas? Bloating? Abdominal pain? Some people live with these symptoms on a daily basis and don’t even realize that they are suffering from food intolerance, one of the most common being gluten.

Gluten is the combination of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, which exist in varying amounts in the endosperm (the inside) of most grass related grains, such as wheat and rye. These proteins give dough its elasticity, allow leavening, and keeps baked goods chewy and cohesive.

Gluten intolerance varies in severity, from mild to a severe intolerance, called Celiac’s disease. Symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, cramping, abdominal pain and vomiting 1-3 hours after consumption of gluten containing foods. Gluten is considered a complex protein, meaning it contains two or more chains of individual proteins. It is a large molecule, one of the reasons that it is difficult for our digestive systems to handle. When gluten molecules reach the small intestine, they can actually cause small holes in the mucosal lining, creating something called Leaky gut syndrome. Normally the lining of our gut selectively filters through the contents of the intestine, absorbing the nutrients we need and allows everything else to pass through to be eliminated as waste. When the gut lining is compromised, foreign particles are able to pass through and into the bloodstream. This causes the immune system to get involved, as it sets out to attack these foreign materials. The intestinal damage causes malnutrition, deficient absorption of nutrients and fat. Symptoms such as rash, anemia, weight loss, steatorrhea (smelly and shiny stool), bone pain and osteoporosis, frequent colds, mood swings, and a host of others, are all due to a lack of nutrients.

Gluten is also an additive and acts as a stabilizing agent in products where it is unexpected, such as ice cream, and ketchup. It is these products that can make gluten free diets so challenging for those who suffer from intolerances.Gluten containing foods are as follows: barley, oats, rye, wheat, spelt, kamut, hydrolysed vegetable protein, texturized vegetable protein, hydrolysed plant protein malt, modified food starch, some soy sauces, grain vinegars, binders, fillers, some natural flavours, hot dogs, gravies, luncheon meat, beer, mustard, ketchup, non-dairy creamer, white vinegar, processed foods, bouillon cubes, chocolate, bottled salad dressing, curry powder and seasonings. Be cautious with oats. Although there are now many brands that certify their oats as gluten free, many other companies transport, prepare and package their oats alongside many gluten containing grains. Cross-contamination is very common.

Gluten intolerance is a genetically inherited disorder. Symptoms may first be noticed in infancy, as it causes failure to thrive. Less severe intolerances may not develop until adulthood. These are often triggered by physical or mental-emotional stress. Once gluten is eliminated from the diet, the gut lining will heal and symptoms will cease. Some adults with mild intolerance may find they can reintroduce small amounts of gluten back into their diet without symptoms returning. Others must continue to follow very strict gluten free diets for the remainder of their lives.

Individuals with gluten intolerance are advised to eat a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, lean protein such as fish and poultry, healthy fats and gluten free grains, including rice, corn, millet, quinoa, potato and soy.

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