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What Is Gluten?


Wikipedia says...

"Gluten is a protein composite that appears in foods processed from wheat and related species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture...  Gluten is used as a stabilizing agent in products like ice cream and ketchup, where it may be unexpected.  Foods of this kind present a problem because the hidden gluten constitutes a hazard for people with celiac disease. In the United States, at least, gluten might not be listed on the labels of such foods because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has classified gluten as GRAS", that is, generally recognized as safe.

Gluten sensitivity is on the increase all over the world.  Many foods are now labeled, "Gluten Free", in our local grocery stores, indicating they are safe for consumption by the growing number of those who are affected by it.

Gluten sensitivity is the result of a genetic tendency of the immune system to overreact to substances called, HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8.  Almost all gluten sensitive patients (estimated at 98%) have at least one of these proteins, which is responsible for presenting gluten fragments to the immune system.  This leads to a direct attack on the intestinal lining, which in a worst case scenario, leads to celiac disease, or other symptoms (see a partial list below).

Where do these gluten fragments come from?  Usually the result of an over permeable, or leaky small intestine, also known as "leaky gut".  In most people, links known as tight junctions, provide the "glue" that holds intestinal cells together.  In some, these junctions come apart, allowing indigestible gluten to seep into outlying tissue, where it excites an immune response.  Treatments that reduce this leakiness can ease not only celiac disease, but also many other autoimmune disorders.  We carry a broad range of products that can help.

Interestingly, gluten affects the majority of people "silently", meaning not digestively.  Too often doctors and patients assume that if food is a problem, digestive symptoms will be present.  With gluten, non-digestive symptoms outnumber digestive symptoms 3 or 4:1, with nervous system problems being especially prevalent.

Why Gluten Free?

Celiac disease - In genetically predisposed people of all ages, symptoms may include chronic diarrhea, failure to thrive (in children), and fatigue, but these may be absent or silent, and symptoms in other organ systems have been described (see a partial list below). A growing portion of diagnoses are being made in asymptomatic persons as a result of increased screening, using the HLA-DQ typing mentioned above.

Gluten intolerance - A condition where ingesting gluten creates a variety of health problems.  Includes both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

Gluten sensitivity - A non-celiac condition where the individual reacts negatively to gluten.

1% of the population develops celiac disease and their intestinal villi are destroyed from the heightened immune response to gliadin.

Conservatively, 30-40% of the population develops gluten sensitivity, with a huge diversity of symptoms (see a partial list below), not including the villi destruction associated with celiac disease.

Could I Have a Gluten Problem?

There is an easy and reliable way to find out!  Eliminating the possibility of gluten sensitivity can generally be done by a blood test, HLA-DQ typing, in which DQ2 and DQ8 are found in enteropathy (intestinal pathology) 98% of the time.  We perform this test.  Call for an appointment today!  210-490-9169

...and about the possible symptoms of gluten sensitivity?  Well, let's see, depression, anxiety or mood swings, infertility/miscarriages, neurological disorders, memory loss, headaches/migraines, unexplained chronic fatigue, liver problems, iron deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, many autoimmune diseases, obesity, diarrhea and/or constipation, acid reflux, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, frequent canker sores, dental problems, hyperactivity and many skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis and others. How's that for a short list? And, it is certainly not all-inclusive!

Sign up using the form or call 210-490-9169 to make your appointment.

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