Wondering if Eating Gluten-Free is Really Good for You?

Do have friends who are “gluten-free”?  Are you wondering if you should be too?

Maybe you are thinking of jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon because you’re trying to lose weight or because you think it’s the right thing to do.

Let’s look at 4 key areas so you can make an informed decision: What it Is; Symptoms; Causes; and How do you Know if You Have it?

First, let me tell you that when I noticed how trendy gluten-free diets were becoming about 10 years ago I was skeptical that it was anything more than a marketing gimmick. After all, I grew up with a sister who was diagnosed with Celiac Disease as an infant. So I KNEW the symptoms of gluten intolerance:  gas and bloating, cramping, diarrhea and stomach pain after eating gluten. Since I didn’t have those symptoms I didn’t think I had to worry about gluten.

Then came my personal experience. I didn’t know you could develop gluten intolerance – until it happened to me. I went in for a minor out-patient knee surgery and woke up with gluten intolerance!

What is it?

Gluten is part of certain grains (wheat, barley and rye) that makes them sticky and gives baked goods a chewy texture. It is a large molecule that your body can have trouble breaking down.

Gluten Intolerance, Gluten Allergy and Celiac Disease can be thought of as separate conditions but they are all on the same spectrum. What they have in common is that your body has an inflammatory immune response to gluten.

What are the Symptoms?

Gluten sensitivity of any type causes malabsorption – your body becomes deficient in minerals and vitamins. That’s why there is an increased risk for anemia, osteoporosis and other conditions such as these symptoms that I have seen in my practice:

  • joint pain (could be just one, or multiple)
  • fuzzy thinking, foggy brain, poor memory
  • psoriasis
  • gas, bloating, stomach pain
  • irritability, anxiety
  • indigestion, heartburn
  • thyroid problems

The reason I was so surprised to find out that I had gluten intolerance is because I didn’t have any digestive symptoms. The only symptom I had was knee pain.  My knee was swollen and I was limping 3 months after what was a very minor surgery so we ran a battery of tests.

When I saw the positive test for gluten I immediately changed my diet – and within a couple days the pain, swelling and limping were gone.

Then I began a nutrition program to repair the damage. And I jumped into researching The Causes of gluten intolerance. I was surprised to discover that it can be ACQUIRED from stressful events that impact the intestinal tract and immune system and ANY surgery includes 3 big hitters:

  • stress
  • antibiotics (always given by IV during surgeries)
  • anesthesia

Researchers are still debating whether you need to have a genetic component in order for these triggers to initiate an intolerance to gluten or if it can be caused in anyone with repeated exposures to triggers. Animal studies have shown that gluten intolerance acquired by a mother can be passed onto to her offspring!

How do you Know if you Should go Gluten Free?

There are several types of tests – from a questionnaire to a biopsy of your small intestine!

1. Since surgery and the associated required medication are known risk factors I don’t recommend biopsy. It is nice from a researcher’s point of view to validate that there is damage to the intestinal lining but why create more damage in the process?

2. There is a less invasive test that looks for the immune markers in a blood sample. These tests can be expensive and there can be false negatives if you have other health conditions.

3. The simplest (although not easiest) way to see if you are gluten intolerant to do a Avoidance and Challenge Diet. Here is what I recommend to my patients:

  • Avoid gluten products 100% for 3 weeks. There can be hidden sources so you will really want to prepare before hand. Check here for the most Common Gluten Foods you’ll want to avoid.
  • After 3 weeks – have ONE day in which you eat wheat or a form of gluten at each meal. Symptoms can be delayed for 48 or even 72 hours so after your Gluten Day wait 3 days to see if symptoms appear.

4. The last test is one that many of my patients choose based on cost and convenience. It’s a simple saliva test that looks at overall immune levels as well as a gluten-specific marker.

If you find that any one of these tests are positive you will want to work with an experienced practitioner to help you recover from the damage caused by gluten intake.

For a limited time I am offering a Free 20-Minute Discovery Session. Click here to apply.
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  • Kimmer Sue

    Reply Reply September 22, 2013

    Thanks for the information on gluten free. I hear so much bantered around all the time. This was useful to me.

    • Marina Rose

      Reply Reply September 22, 2013

      Great, thanks, I’m glad it helped.

  • Linda Bertaut

    Reply Reply September 22, 2013

    Great article! I have been having some issues with my weight and thyroid for the past few years. I had no idea it could be caused by gluten intolerance. I will have to sign up for your free discovery session to learn more. Thanks!

    • Marina Rose

      Reply Reply September 22, 2013

      Linda, I can relate to your surprise. I’d be happy to talk to you more. Click on the button at the bottom of the blog and then you’ll get a link to schedule an appointment.

  • Mary Botham

    Reply Reply September 22, 2013

    Dr. Marina, Thank you for explaining this topic. I have noticed a marked improvement in my knee pain since going gluten free and the inching on my knuckles has gone away.

    • Marina Rose

      Reply Reply September 22, 2013

      It’s amazing isn’t it? Once you know it causes you symptoms that is really motivating to avoid it completely. For maximum benefit make sure you also follow a program to heal the gut lining.

  • Mary E Knippel

    Reply Reply September 23, 2013

    Wow! I had no idea gluten was in make-up! Just may have to experiment a little with this new information.

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