When Your Body Goes Against the Grain: Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity
How did gluten, a naturally-occurring protein found in wheat, barley and rye – sources of nutrition for people over thousands of years, become so unhealthy?
Many scientists attribute the increase in Celiac Disease (CD) and non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (GS) to alternations in wheat’s biological structure, the result of modern farming and bread-making practices and the chemicals used today. The result: wheat crops that are biochemically different from the virgin wheat of agrarian society. Because our bodies have not adapted to these chemically treated crops, we’re unable to digest them properly.
Modern bread-making has gone from being a simple four-ingredient wholesome loaf of sustenance to being a less-nutrient dense squishy loaf of preservatives. Old-fashioned baking involved giving flour time to absorb as much water as possible, and waiting for yeast and bacteria to activate the dough (fermentation). Today, industrialized baking replaces natural hydration, fermentation and kneading with artificial additives and massive mixers to accelerate dough formation. To endure commercial processing and increase shelf life, additional concentrated vital wheat gluten and preservatives are stuffed into bread products.
One in 133 adults and children have Celiac Disease, a genetic, autoimmune disorder that occurs in response to ingesting gluten, triggering the immune system to attack the delicate lining of the small intestine. This creates inflammation and can lead to nutrient malabsorption and secondary health problems. There are over 200 symptoms for Celiac Disease, including:
- extreme abdominal pain
- nausea, vomiting
- gas, constipation, diarrhea
- joint pain, anemia, fatigue
- stunted growth, skin rashes
- behavior disorders, mood disturbances
Symptoms can begin immediately and last from a few hours to several days. The primary treatment for Celiac Disease is a life-long gluten-free diet.
Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity
Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity (GS) affects 6-7% of the U.S. population. It’s an adverse food-induced reaction that has an immune component. Gluten activates an inflammatory response that can affect tissues anywhere in the body. Symptoms vary based upon individual and environmental factors. Dr Fenske uses a Food Sensitivity Panel to identify reactions to wheat and gluten. Also, an elimination diet with symptom monitoring can assess GS.
Testing for Celiac Disease
A genetic test (Celiac HLA) indicates your risk for developing Celiac Disease. If a first-degree family member has Celiac Disease, a negative gene test excludes you from the possibility of developing it.
Blood tests require that you continue eating gluten products in order to get an accurate result. (Abstaining from gluten will skew the results.) Your practitioner will determine the amount of time required to eat gluten prior to testing. The tTg-IgA (Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies) test looks for antibodies toward gluten. Dr Fenske may order a panel of antibody tests to assess if you are deficient in antibodies the body needs, or if the body is creating antibodies against its own tissues.
An endoscopic biopsy might be ordered to obtain a definitive diagnosis of Celiac Disease. In this procedure, performed by an M.D. who specializes in digestive disorders, a part of the small intestine is removed and examined for damage.
Based on your symptoms and test results, your holistic physician can determine the type of testing you need and design an appropriate, personalized treatment plan.
Delicious Gluten-Free Pasta – Finally!
Yes, it’s true! Pasta made from lentils is one of the tastiest and most nutritious gluten-free options for many people. Typically made from red lentils, also known as pulses, lentil pasta is more than just naturally gluten-free … it’s also
– rich in dietary fiber (as much as 11 g per serving)
– high in protein (between 14-21 g per 3 oz serving depending on brand)
– a low-glycemic index food
– a great source of calcium, potassium, zinc, and iron.
Lentil pastas are calorie dense (up to 100 calories per oz), so a little goes a long way toward filling your belly. For lunch or dinner, these pastas can be a great meatless meal accompanied by assorted veggies and topped with your choice of sauce or a vinaigrette.
When you cook lentil pasta, the water may appear cloudy. This is due to the starches cooking out of the legumes. Lentil pasta expands as it cooks: be sure to use a large pot with ample water as the water may foam (check instructions) and you want to give your noodles breathing room.
When choosing legume pasta, if affordable, opt for organic varieties. You also want to make sure the brand does not harvest from genetically modified crops (GMO crops), so look for the “NO_GMO” label on the package. Some brands to look for include Tolerant, Modern Table, Pow! And Explore Cuisine.
Gut Protection with L-Glutamine
When you have a digestive illness, like celiac disease, it essentially means that your delicate intestinal lining (the mucosa) is damaged, making it impossible to extract nutrients and other substances crucial for your body’s biological processes. The amino acid L-Glutamine is one of these substances. A protein building block, L-Glutamine is stored in muscle where it’s vital to tissue growth and repair. It’s involved in the formation of other amino acids and glucose (sugar), as well as the body’s adaptive response to stress and the optimal functioning of the immune and digestive systems.
The mucosa requires maintenance to protect and repair itself from the effects of stress, toxins, and a poor diet. When the mucosa breaks down, inflammation results and this is associated with a variety of chronic health conditions. Further, when illness, chronic or severe stress, inflammation, or food sensitivity/allergies cause the gut to fail at effectively breaking down food to acquire nutrients, deficiency results. A lack of sufficient glutamine in the gut creates a cycle of wear and tear on the mucosa.
Clinical research shows that L-Glutamine supplements can break that cycle by helping repair damage and potentially help the lining regrow. This connection between glutamine and intestinal maintenance has led researchers to examine its role in Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity.
L-Glutamine supplements are available in both pill and powder form. Proper dose is crucial to its effectiveness. It’s not recommended for children under age 10 or for people with certain health conditions, including kidney or liver disease. Consult with Dr Fenske to find out if L-Glutamine is right for you.
Tips & Tools for Easy, Delicious Gluten-Free Living
Today’s options for a gluten-free lifestyle are better than ever. You still want your food choices to be wholesome, organic, and fresh so remember: Just because a product carries the GF food logo, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Read ingredients and watch out for high sugar content and processed ingredients.
We hope this list of resources helps you make gluten-free living easy and delicious.
Use apps to help you buy groceries, find a restaurant, view a GF menu, or verify allergen content. There’s even an app to help you translate dietary preferences into another language!
Celiac Disease Foundation: education, resources and support for those living with CD. Learn how to live GF, monitor symptoms; explore the GF marketplace – packed with recipes, news, and tips.
Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG): industry leader in the certification of gluten-free products and food services. Provides support, advocacy and education resources. You can join a local branch, research products and restaurants, browse recipes, and find helpful tips for kids and families. Offers an e-magazine.
Beyond Celiac: awareness and advocacy organization, covering research, news, events, lifestyle and dietary support.
Gluten-Free Living: one of the longest running publications and websites on gluten-free diet and lifestyle.
Elana’s Pantry: one of the longest running websites dedicated to great tasting GF and allergen-free recipes. Elana walks her talk and has overcome challenging medical diagnoses through wholesome living and dietary solutions.
Glutenista: hip, fun GF lifestyle brand providing resources, tips, and fashion for your wardrobe and kitchen.
Find healthy GF recipes and tips by visiting the website for your favorite GF brands (e.g., Udi, Smart Flour Foods, Bob’s Red Mill, and Canyon BakeHouse to name just a few). Google “gluten free food companies” to find brands and food services including those in your local area.