Gluten Intolerance

How many times have we heard, you are what you eat? How many times have you heard me say, the gut is the second brain? For years now I have said to my patients that if you want to feel better quickly, start by eliminating gluten.

For those of you who don’t know what gluten is, it’s a protein found in wheat, barley and rye products. Most cereals and breads contain gluten. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease resulting in a true intolerance to gluten. Mark Hyman, MD stated in his article Gluten: What you don’t know might kill you, “a recent large study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with diagnosed, undiagnosed, and “latent” celiac disease or gluten sensitivity had a higher risk of death from heart disease or cancer”. He also states, “The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 “diseases” that can be caused by eating gluten. These include osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, and rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, neuropathy (nerve damage) and, autism”. People who suffer from gluten insensitivity may exhibit the classic symptoms of celiac disease, yet have no detectable intestinal damage, and test negative for certain key antibodies.

How does gluten intolerance/sensitivity specifically relate to brain function? Once gluten is ingested, a biochemical process occurs ultimately causing an inflammatory response that is detrimental to brain health. Alzheimer’s, parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and autism all are associated with inflammatory brain function.

So how do you know if you have gluten intolerance? There are gluten allergy/celiac disease tests that are available through Labcorp or Quest Diagnostics. The testing may be expensive and may not always show the true picture of gluten intolerance or sensitivity. I generally recommend elimination of gluten and then see how you feel. Most people report a significant improvement in how they think and feel in a relatively short period of time.

If you are struggling with finding foods to replace your gluten products, here is a short list that hopefully will make the transition easier.
Udi’s Gluten Free Foods-Breads
Against the Grain-Breads
Van’s Waffles
Pamela’s-Cookies
Ian’s –Chicken Nuggets
Kinnikinnick Donuts
Sam Mills-GF pasta

References:
Is Gluten Free Diet Really Healthier, Susan B. Dopart, MS, RD
Gluten: What you don’t know may kill you, Mark Hyman, MD
Gluten sensitivity and the impact on the brain, David Perlmutter, MD

Resources:
Gluten Free Society-www.glutenfreesociety.org
Gluten Free Links-www.GFlinks.com
Gluten Free Recipes-www.simplygluten-free.com

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