The previous post had to do with Gluten not being an allergy. After receiving some feedback I felt the need to go further in depth. The sources used for all the information I present comes from a variety of academic journals. Here are but some I reviewed. Gastroenterology & Hepatology from Bed to Bench; Apr2012 Supplement 1, Vol. 5, pS1-S7, 7p, and Harvard_Health_Letter.June 2009.Getting-out-the-gluten.
Gluten is a valuable protein. It is what causes dough to be sticky and moist. It helps it rise and gives it that airy feel after being baked. Gluten is also in all grass grains. It is a composite of gliadin and glutenin with starch and other elements make up 80 percent or more of the protein found in grains. Gluten can be found in many products including a lot of foods and cosmetics. About a decade ago awareness was being spread about a genetic disorder call Celiac Disease. In Celiac the villa in the small intestine can not process gluten. About 1 in 133 people have the chance to become Celiac active. Some people the disease is active from birth and for others it can be come active after surgery, pregnancy or damage to the intestinal tract. Yet it will only become active in people with the gene disposition that causes Celiac. This awareness concerning Celiac let some to begin to advocate for gluten free foods and gluten free labeling. This will come into play shortly.
Now, in an allergic reaction as I mentioned in the previous article the body produces excessive white blood cells called mast cells and basophils. These are set off by an antibody called Immunoglobulin E. When this occurs the body initiates a inflammatory response. This response can be seen in the form of a runny nose, headache, hives, eczema up to anaphylactic shock and asthma attacks. Basically it is a histamine reaction which is why in minor cases you take a anti histamine and steroids for the inflammation. People with a gluten allergy don’t ascribe to these symptoms but report symptoms of digestive distress. Of the studies I found that seemed to indicate that a negative gluten reaction existed the studies were condemned as flawed as they did not exclude for Celiac disease. This was mentioned in the Bed to Bench paper sourced above.
In the Harvard Health Letter it described a reaction to the market that I personally feel is very close to the mark. As awareness increased of Celiac disease and the need for gluten free products for people who suffered from the disease hit the market many people saw the “Gluten Free” label and started to think that gluten free products signified better goods or goods that were better for you. Some companies took advantage of the situation and started marketing their product directly as gluten free due to the fact that their product had always been free of the gluten protein and wanted to tap into the new craze. As this labeling grew the average consumer began to see gluten as public health issue number one. As time grew more and more folks suffering from intestinal distress began using gluten free items and in turn developed a psychosomatic reaction where they seemed to feel better or had less symptoms. In turn they would tell their friends and as we all know… word of mouth spread.
Which brings us to doctors. As the people who reported intestinal distress and did not respond to traditional therapy or show indications through testing of Celiac disease it was labeled as a gluten sensitivity. The reason for the labeling of it as a sensitivity is these same people did not show indications in testing of Irritable Bowel Syndrome which shares most of the symptoms of Celiac disease. This brings us back to part of the previous article. The average time with a patient according to the AMA is 15 minutes. Meaning from the time the doctor comes into the room, listens to your symptoms and reviews any tests or plans any tests is 15 minutes. In that short amount of time he has to diagnose or plan to a regimen of tests looking for a diagnosis. Intestinal distress is a spectrum of symptoms. These include, pain and stool satisfaction, bloating and tiredness. These occur due to many factors not limited to Celiac disease and can even be brought on by environmental factors such as stress. So when the tests show an absence of Celiac and IBS unless the patient wants to go through a battery of invasive tests which are not always conclusive or cost effective then the doctor normally treats the symptoms and not the underlying causes. This causes things to be labeled as a spectrum of sensitivity. Most doctors will recommend a change in diet which in turns leads to more people trying gluten free foods and again back to the psychosomatic results.
At this point it is an important note that while a person may not be sensitive to gluten their symptoms are not necessarily in their head. Like I said above intestinal distress can be caused by a lot of factors. Distress can be caused by something as simple as eating to fast. Now chewing properly. Evidence of other diseases up to and including cancer, and stress. Remember not all things like stress is obvious. For many people, stress is a factor in many things even if they don’t at that moment feel stressed out. Also I want to make a personal statement to the effect that I am not opposed to people who want to purchase gluten free foods where my complaint lies is when people claim to have a gluten allergy where none exists. Gluten is an important protein for the body. People with Celiac miss out on important vitamins such as folic acid due to their intolerance for gluten. It would be a shame if people who stuck to only eating gluten free foods develop other issues due to a lack of appropriate proteins and vitamins.