What is Gluten Intolerance?

Chosen Team

What is Gluten Intolerance?

Gluten Intolerance is...

...an auto-immune, allergic reaction to gluten. Most commonly, gluten intolerance manifests itself into Celiac Disease (CD) or Non-Celiac Gluten-Sensitivity (NCGS). To anyone with one of these conditions eating gluten is serious and can even be life-threatening. The allergic reaction in the gut leads to a wasting away of the intestinal lining, which varies in intensity depending on the severity of the allergy. This wasting, or atrophying, weakens the intestinal lining. In some cases the intestinal track can become exposed and allow food particles to move into the blood stream. This is known as “leaky gut” (or intestinal permeability), and can cause symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, abdominal cramping, and more (1).

Where did Gluten Intolerance come from?

The history and potential causes of Gluten Intolerance are detailed in our first gluten article, Understanding Celiac Disease.

What are the symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?

1. Food Allergies
As we mentioned in part 1, many people do not develop gluten intolerance until later in life. This is due mostly to environmental factors. This explains how children, teens, and adults can develop food allergies they did not have when born. The most common allergies we develop are to the proteins in nuts, dairy, and of course, wheat.

2. Improper nutrient absorption
When the intestinal lining is damaged (as it is in Gluten Intolerance), the body’s ability to absorb nutrients is impaired.  So while you may be eating nutrient-dense foods, the vitamins in the foods you eat will not be absorbed into the body as they should. CD and NCGS sufferers are proven to have lower than recommended levels of various vitamins and minerals, particularly folate (vitamin B12) and iron (3).

3. Chronic Fatigue
The ongoing malabsorption of B vitamins can lead to high homocysteine levels (4), which impacts the assimilation of both nutrients and hormones in the body. Higher than normal homocysteine levels can cause a person to feel tired and achy, and increases as time goes on.

4. Depression
While research is still being done on this connection, there is a correlation that suggests that consuming gluten while intolerant can cause depressive feelings (6). This is because those with elevated IgG markers (the antibody currently used to gauge NCGS) report more depressive episodes (6).

The above list is a fraction of the research showing the potential damaging effects of gluten on those with a gluten sensitivity. If you feel that you are experiencing any symptoms of gluten intolerance, you should requesting a tests from your doctor. If you are just looking for a boost in your energy levels, trying a gluten elimination challenge for 2-4 weeks could be a place to start.

Though life without gluten can seem like a life doomed to suffering through unfavorable foods,  an array of gluten-free products make this suffering a thing of the past.

How to Go Gluten Free:

  1. Switch to proven gluten-conscious brands
    Our products, Enjoy Life Foods, and even New Planet Beer are all examples of companies that are 100% gluten-free. Experiment with different brands to find your favorites; some make products taste so great that you hardly know what you’re missing.
  1. Learn to read labels
    This one takes a bit more time and effort but has a quick learning curve. Watch for the “gluten-free” guarantee on oats, for example, to ensure they were not processed in a facility where gluten-filled grains were also processed.
  1. Online resources, Support Groups, and Magazines:
    a feeling of community always helps when endeavoring a big change.  Facebook has a number of open groups to join where members share recipes and struggles. Pick up magazines like Living Without or Simply Gluten Free for inspiration and guidance.
  1. Start cooking from scratch:
    We’ve saved the best for last! Making more foods homemade can go a long way in eliminating gluten from your diet. Learning to cook with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and protein is the foundation to a balanced and healing diet. Check out our Recipe Index for delicious and simple recipes to get you started on your gluten-free journey.

Gluten Intolerance 

  1. Intestinal Permeability, Leaky Gut, and Intestinal Disorders, Curr Gastroenterol Rep, 1999: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10980980
  2. Transport of Pru p 3 Across Gastrointestinal Epithelium…, Clin Exp Allergy, 2013: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24261947
  3. Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Untreated Celiac Disease, American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2001: http://www.nature.com/ajg/journal/v96/n3/abs/ajg2001172a.html
  4. Are Vitamin Supplements Effective in Celiac Disease Patients? World Journal of Gastroenterology, 2009: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090303102612.htm
  5. Hyperhomocysteinemia and Neurologic Disorders: A Review, J Clinical Neurology, 2014: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25324876
  6. The Role of IgG Hypersensitivity in the Pathogenisis and Therapy of Depressive Disorders, Nutri Neuroscience, 2014: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25268936
  7. Randomised Clinical Trial: Gluten May Cause Depression in Subjects with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity…, Ailment Pharmacol Ther., 2014: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24689456