What is gluten sensitivity and how do I know if I have it?
I routinely recommend to my patients who have frequent migraines to try going gluten-free. Often the first response is that they have been tested and they do not have Celiac disease. Well, that may be true but, unfortunately, that does not exclude the possibility that their frequent migraines are not from underlying gluten sensitivity.
So what is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is found in grains (wheat, barley, and rye). It is the component of wheat that makes it doughy. It is often added to foods to help foods maintain their shape. It is found in many foods but also in some other unexpected places. For a list of where gluten is found, check out a recent post SOURCES OF GLUTEN.
What is Celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is seen in a small number of people who have an inherited susceptibility. When people who have celiac disease eat gluten, their body mounts an antigen-specific immune response to their body’s own tissue. This response, in turn, causes damage to the small intestine so that their body has a hard time absorbing nutrients. If left untreated celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems.
What then is gluten sensitivity?
Gluten sensitivity is much more common than celiac disease. Research estimates that 18 million Americans or 1 out 20 may have gluten sensitivity. People who have gluten sensitivity often report the same symptoms as those with celiac disease but lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease. Gluten sensitivity is a normal response to the abnormal appearance of gluten in the body. It is not a true food allergy nor is it an antigen-specific immune response like celiac disease. It, instead, is a response of the innate immune system, i.e., it is nonspecific and does not have immunological memory to invading organisms.
What are some signs that you might have a sensitivity to Gluten?
- Frequent migraine headaches
- Chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Brain fog or lack of focus
- Fatigue or lack of energy despite getting a good night sleep
- Mood swings, anxiety, depression, or irritability
- Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis or Scleroderma
- Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS
- Inflammation, swelling or pain in joints
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation
How can I find out if I have Gluten sensitivity?
There are blood tests that show the antibodies that are specific in celiac disease including; anti-gliadin, anti-tissue transglutaminase, and endomysial antibody. However, since gluten sensitivity is not antigen-specific, these tests are often negative in gluten sensitivity. Also, since it mediated by the innate immune system, it is not mediated by IgE; thus, most laboratory or skin tests will miss it. The test that I use in my office is the Mediator Release Test. It looks at the endpoint of the innate immune response or the hypersensitivity reactions, thus catching the food/gluten sensitivities that are not mediated by IgE. This test is expensive, though it is cheaper through a physician’s office, but not widely available.
How do you treat Gluten sensitivity?
The best way is just completely eliminating it from your diet. For best results I would recommend doing this in conjunction with a clinically proven safe detox such as the Ultimate Reset, to remove other toxins as well. Of note, gluten is a very large protein, meaning that it may take months to get it out of your system and, therefore, it may be months before you see any benefits with your headaches or other symptoms. I typically recommend being off of it for at least 2 months before you reintroduce it back into your diet.
So if you have frequent migraines or any of the symptoms listed above I would recommend a trial of several months of going gluten-free to see how you feel. What harm can it do and it just might help. You might be surprised just how great your body can once again feel and that’s worth any sacrifice you are making in giving up certain foods.
If you would like me to help you get off Gluten contact me I will be happy to help.
This information is for education only, it is not intended to replace the advice of your physician.