Is gluten intolerance real or not? For some reason, the media has been making it sound like gluten intolerance (or gluten sensitivity) is nothing but a figment of our imagination. This is probably because so many names in Hollywood have begun professing that they are switching to gluten-free diets. The truth is this condition is more than just a “craze.”
Is Gluten Intolerance Real or Not?
Researchers are currently still working on clarifying the phenomenon, since it still is unknown as to what exactly triggers the response. We know enough though to say that there are clear biological changes happening after gluten ingestion.
Gluten Intolerance vs Celiac Disease
Researchers hope to increase awareness about gluten intolerance, because it is a very real condition. The commonality between the two seems to be that they are a type of negative response after eating gluten protein (rye, barley, or wheat).
This is true even with people who do not have celiac disease. Leaky gut is said to play a role. These people exhibit signs of a weak intestinal barrier, such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and other symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, fatigue, and problems with concentration and memory.
It is important to clarify that these symptoms exist in the patients WITHOUT celiac disease (a condition where immune cells attack the small intestinal lining after gluten exposure) or wheat allergy (a condition leading to hypersensitivity reactions like difficulty breathing and hives).
There is only one cure for gluten intolerance – eliminate gluten from your diet. See: How To Do An Elimination Diet.
The Issue with Gluten
People somewhere between 0.5-6 percent of the population have this intolerance, although we still lack proper ways of diagnosing the condition. Based on several controlled group studies, patients with gluten intolerance showcase signs of acute and systemic immune reactions even if they do not have celiac disease.
With celiac disease, there is evidence of damage to the villi of the intestinal wall. What these results suggest is that the patient’s intestines experience great damage when food particles and microbes are able to “seep through” the already weakened intestinal barrier, later on flowing to the bloodstream. Likewise, the patient has a difficult time processing vital minerals and nutrients from their food.
Something similar happens with gluten intolerance – there is a condition called leaky gut (also referred to as intestinal permeability) and food particles, microbes and toxins are able to enter the bloodstream because the tight junctions of the intestinal lining malfunction. The difference between celiac disease and leaky gut, however, is that the intestinal villi are not damaged in a leaky gut scenario, whereas they are damaged in a person with celiac disease.
In this light, it is important to make the case for the intestinal barrier. Why is it so important? This barrier acts a shield against food molecules and bacteria, keeping these particles in the gut away from the rest of the body. Doing so prevents the triggering of immune reactions that lead to symptoms.
Diagnosing Gluten Intolerance
There are tests presently available to determine whether you have gluten intolerance (and other food intolerances as well.) For example, one such test is the ALCAT test. It is done by testing your blood against a variety of foods. If your result is positive, you are indeed sensitive to the food. The problem is that countless people have taken the test with a negative reaction towards gluten, but feel much better when gluten is eliminated from their diet.
There are markers suggesting that gluten intolerance (non-celiac) shows some reactive effects in the small intestine’s middle part including gaps in the lining of the intestinal barrier, ulcerations and erosions. Similar to blood tests though, an intestinal biopsy may show normal results for leaky gut, but leaky gut still exists.
Currently, there are still no identifiable biomarkers to diagnose gluten sensitivity, making it very challenging for physicians to diagnose patients with the condition accurately. The best way to figure out whether gluten intolerance exists is to embark on an elimination diet.
Researchers plan on continuing their investigations through future studies to finally determine what is responsible for the weakening of the intestinal barrier. There is hope that a more comprehensive review can be provided regarding the immune response that happens once a weakening of the intestines is triggered.
We are yet to fully understand gluten intolerance, but it is real – this is much that we know is true (for now).