The answer is yes!
Gluten sensitivity is being diagnosed more often as we are discovering that it is responsible for many health problems.
Gluten sensitivity occurs when the immune system reacts to gluten contained in wheat, barley, rye and oats. The body actually believes that this protein, gluten, is a toxin. The immune system causes inflammation in the intestine and damages the villi, which are tiny finger-like projections in the small intestine, and produces a process called villous atrophy. This results in the inability to absorb nutrients in our foods and supplements, otherwise known as malabsorption.
The genetic disorder that results in a permanent gluten allergy is called celiac sprue. This disorder is actually a chronic condition that is known as an autoimmune disease.
The intestinal symptoms consist mainly of gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, malabsorption and even constipation. Celiac disease used to only be diagnosed in infants and young children when they had weight loss, fatigue, diarrhea and failure to thrive. Now I am diagnosing celiac disease almost monthly!
Research has shown that celiac disease is much more common than previously suspected and affects one in 100-200 Americans and Europeans. Yet the most interesting thing is that celiac disease accounts for only a small portion of the broader gluten-sensitive spectrum. In other words, the majority of people that are gluten sensitive do not have villous atrophy to have the diagnoses of celiac sprue yet they certainly have many symptoms caused by gluten sensitivity. Many of these symptoms are not intestinal in nature.
This has been the most surprising discovery that I have noticed with my patients.
These are patients that have chronic fatigue, skin rashes, diabetes, hepatitis C, asthma, liver disease, osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia, Down’s syndrome, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, lupus, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, attention deficit disorder (ADHD) and many others.
Be sure to ask your practitoner about getting tested for gluten-sensitivity if you have any of the above health symptoms. It is best to get tested where the damage begins which would be a stool test. I recommend a lab test from Enterolab.com which you can order on-line. It will also include a gene test to identify if you have the main gene for celiac sprue. Make sure to follow up with a practitioner because interpretation can be confusing.
Don’t assume celiac sprue is only a children’s disease. It is an autoimmune disease that we are starting to see in adults too.