Ask someone on the street if they know what foods contain gluten, they will 9 out 10 times tell you bread. This is great considering that only a decade ago, 9 out of 10 people would have said, “Glu-what? No way is that in my food!” So we have come a really long way, in a short period of time, when it comes to awareness of gluten, gluten sensitivity, and Celiac disease. At the same time, we still have a long way to go, as bread is just one of hundreds of foods in which you will find this problematic protein.
As every other article discussing a gluten free diet, I must mention that despite all of the gluten containing foods on the market, there are only three ingredients that naturally contain it: wheat (tarwe), rye (rogge), and barley (gerst). The grains from these three grasses contain slightly different versions of the protein gluten, which all elicit the same negative response in the gut. And here is where most people draw a blank… they know that gluten is probably not a great thing for their health, but they have no idea why… unless of course, they have Celiac disease.
For those with Celiac disease, it is very clear what happens in the body when they eat gluten. It’s an autoimmune disease that has been well researched. When someone with Celiac disease consumes even a microscopic amount of gluten, the body attacks its own tissue in the intestinal tract. A damaged intestinal tract is a very bad thing as it has two very essential roles in ensuring a healthy body overall.
The first being that the small intestines are the gateway for nutrition to enter the body; if this tissue is damaged, then it will have a very hard time transporting essential vitamins and minerals from the food we eat into the body. This is why many Celiacs develop nutritional deficiencies prior to diagnosis and total abstention from gluten containing foods. Secondly, the intestinal tract also happens to be our first line of defense against pathogens and other foreign invaders. It is estimated to hold about 70% of the body’s immune defenses (1.). That is why those with Celiac disease are at an increased risk for all sorts of disorders including malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility, iron deficiency anemia, lactose intolerance, and intestinal cancer.
It’s very clear that if you have Celiac, you should not touch gluten with a 10-foot pole. The grey area is for everyone else that seems to feel better upon removal of gluten from the diet, but are not Celiac. This is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), which is a condition that requires a lot more research before we have definitive answers about its impacts on the body. And actually, it’s not even universally agreed upon by experts that gluten is the real problem in NCGS. Some research suggests it may be FODMAPs, another type of compound commonly found in gluten containing foods, which are the real culprits. Perhaps both gluten and FODMAPs are causing problems, in different ways, in different people.
Or maybe you are not sensitive to gluten at all, but another food such as soy or corn. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to pinpoint what food or foods are causing your symptoms since food sensitivities can show up 24-48 hours after consuming the problematic food.
Some of the symptoms associated with food sensitivities include:
Gas, cramps or bloating
Irritability or nervousness
When we consume foods that we are sensitive to, we trigger a systemic immune response; that is why we see so many symptoms that seem to be unrelated to gut health, Inflammation in the gut, and throughout the body, is not something we want!
Gut health is critical to overall health. When the gut is inflamed, we become susceptible to developing leaky gut. When this happens, the body is at an increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases (2). So if you are often bloated, frequently experience constipation or diarrhea, or suffer from other digestive problems, then you probably need to take a long hard look at your diet. The long-term effects of an unhealthy digestive tract are much more severe than a bit of abdominal discomfort after meals.
So what do you do if you suspect you have food sensitivies? The best course of action is to commit to doing an elimination diet. This entails removing all of the foods that are most likely to be causing a problem, and gradually reintroducing them. I have a food sensitivity program where I walk you through the steps and how to do this correctly.
We also offer food allergy and sensitivity testing at Back to Balance, if you are not ready to commit to the full on elimination diet. IGG tests, while not considered the gold standard for determining food sensitivities, can still be a very effective way of determining what foods are causing your symptoms.
Ready to try an elimination diet?
Foods To Eliminate
· Wheat, rye and barley (gluten containing grains)
· Dairy Products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
· Refined Sugar
· Night Shades (not necessary for everyone)
While undergoing the elimination diet, make sure to carefully read food labels and keep tract of what foods you are eating and how they make you feel. I also suggest taking a multi-vitamin during this time and focus on filling your belly with highly nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruits, meat, and fish. If you still feel poorly after a few weeks on the elimination diet, I would highly encourage you to look into FODMAPS and switch over to a FODMAP diet to see if your symptoms improve.
If you do find that you are feeling better on the elimination diet, then you can gradually start adding back in the eliminated food groups, allowing for at least three days between re-introductions. If for instance, you add dairy back into your diet and see the symptoms return the next day, immediately stop eating dairy products, wait three days and then try eliminating another one of the food types. This will allow you to determine how your body is responding to the individual food items.
If you would like some support in getting to the bottom of your food sensitivities, I would love to help you and become a part of your wellness journey. I have been on the food sensitivity journey myself and helped many others do the same.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the contact form on my website and schedule your free 20 minute consult.