Three ways to treat your gluten intolerance naturally
Gluten is a form of protein which is typically found in barley, rye and other different types of grains. It makes up for around 80% of the building blocks of proteins, amino acids.
Gluten is now made to help produce many processed chemical additives which are found in packaged foods which come in all forms. On top of this, manufacturing can lead to cross-contamination which means that traces of gluten can commonly wind up in food products which would you think to be gluten-free such as condiments, deli meats and salad dressings. This makes giving up gluten a lot more challenging than it might seem.
What differences are there between Gluten intolerance and celiac disease?
Despite what many people think, gluten intolerance and celiac disease are two separate things. Celiac disease is a disorder which is diagnosed when an individual has a true intolerance to gluten, so it’s understandable why the two are mistaken for each other, however, celiac disease is believed to be quite rare as it only affects up to 1% of adults. Some research has even suggested that for every person that is diagnosed with celiac disease, another six patients remain undiagnosed from the disease.
The symptoms of celiac disease include things like, malnutrition, psychiatric illness, cancer, severe neurological illness, stunted growth and even death. Even if someone has tested negative for celiac disease, they still have a chance of having a gluten intolerance, which on its own poses many risks.
For many years now, the Western medical field has had the popular view on gluten intolerances as that you either have it or you don’t. Or in other words, you are either tested positive for celiac disease which means you are allergic to gluten or you test comes back negative which means there is no need to avoid foods which have gluten. Despite this, there are studies going on which have shown that gluten intolerances aren’t as straightforward as it was once thought.
We now know that the symptoms of gluten intolerances fall along a spectrum. This means that those who are intolerant to gluten doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all or nothing. It is possible to have the symptoms of a gluten intolerance without having celiac disease, which having been given a new medical term known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
Those who suffer from NCGS are around the middle of the spectrum, even though they don’t have celiac disease, they still find that they feel better when they ignore consuming gluten. This doesn’t apply to everyone who has NCGS as everyone is different, so it usually depends on the specific person(s), since everyone can react negatively to gluten to certain extents.
Studies have shown that those who do have gluten intolerances or NCGS, these factors usually apply:
- When put on a gluten-free diet, you will experience your symptoms to improve
- Despite having similar symptoms, you may test negative for celiac disease
- Experiencing gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal symptoms (bloating, brain fog, leaky gut syndrome)
The most common gluten intolerance symptoms
Damage which is done through gluten-related disorders, including NCGS and celiac disease, goes much further than just the gastrointestinal tract. In fact, recent research has shown that over the past several
, gluten intolerance symptoms show up in most of the bodies systems including, the cardiovascular system, the central nervous system, skeletal system, reproductive system and more.
Due to gluten intolerances being known to lead to increased inflammation levels and autoimmune reactions, it is associated with several different diseases.
Common symptoms of NCGS and gluten intolerance can include:
- Frequent headaches
- Skin problems (rashes, eczema, dermatitis etc.)
- Joint and muscle pains
- Mood swings
- Brain fog (difficulty remembering information and concentrating)
- Numbness in arms and legs
- Digestive and IBS symptoms include abdominal pain, constipation, bloating, diarrhoea etc.
- Infertility and other reproductive issues
- A higher risk of dementia and other neurological diseases
But how is a gluten intolerance capable of doing all of this to one person?
Despite what many people may believe, gluten intolerance, and therefore celiac disease, is more than just a problem for the digestive system. This is due to recent studies that have suggested that gluten can actually cause notable changes in the gut. This is, of course, a huge issue because our overall health depends massively on how healthy our gut is.
Gluten intolerances affect almost every bit of tissue, system and cell in the body since the bacteria in the gut provides control to everything from hormone production, absorbing nutrients, cognitive processes and metabolic functions.
A natural treatment plan for your gluten intolerance
There are three main steps in order for a natural treatment plan to help you with your gluten intolerance. Since there is no cure for gluten intolerances, a treatment plan is the closest you can get to relieving your symptoms.
1 – Try a new diet
If you go to your doctor regarding your gluten intolerance symptoms, your doctor might be hesitant to attribute your symptoms when they could be caused by other disorders. If this is the case, you’ll have to take matters into your own hands. If you try out a new diet, specifically an elimination diet, then you are utilising the best way to test your reaction to gluten.
An elimination diet includes removing gluten from your diet completely for around three months (at least 30 days) and then adding it back in. If your symptoms go away during this period of not consuming any gluten and then crop back up when you add back into your diet, then this is a strong sign of being intolerant to gluten.
2 – Start a diet that’s gluten-free
After you have tested out whether you are intolerant to gluten or not through an elimination diet, you should be able to determine how good (or bad) your intolerance is. From here you’ll be able to start yourself on a gluten-free diet. If you are unfortunate enough to have a serious intolerance to gluten after you add it back into your diet after the elimination period we would recommend getting tested for celiac disease, which has been explained above. Even if you don’t have celiac disease, you should still consider avoiding as much gluten as much as you can, so you can minimise irritation in the gut as well as risking further digestive issues.
If you’re heading onto a gluten-free diet then you should know that you are cutting out foods like barley, rye and wheat. This means that you need to avoid:
- The majority of baked products, that you would find in supermarkets
- Most packaged foods (cereals, cookies, cakes, bread, pasta etc.)
- Foods which contain flour such as, pizza or pasta at restaurants.
- Certain types of alcohol
If you are unsure about gluten in certain products then check the labels as many products contain gluten and depending on how bad your intolerance is, even a sprinkle could make your symptoms worse.
If you don’t have celiac disease, but still have somewhat of a gluten intolerance then consuming the odd bit of gluten here and there shouldn’t do you any long-term problems and it shouldn’t be anything to call the doctor about. But even if this applies to you, you should still stick to a diet which is gluten-free as it will make you feel better. You will also get more accustomed to the diet the longer to stick to it.
3 – Get tested
Scientists have reason to believe that individuals that test negative for the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes are less likely to get NCGS or an intolerance to gluten in later life. If a gluten intolerance runs in the family, then it would be wise to book an appointment with your doctor to find out for certain whether you have the gene or not.
Also, it’s worth noting that celiac disease is an autoimmune disease and so it will show a high level of specific antibodies. However, if you have a gluten intolerance this might not be the case, or the levels of antibodies might be a lot lower. Either way, it’s good to know what your situation is and where you stand.
So, to summarise, here is what we know so far:
- Gluten makes up for around 80% of the building blocks of proteins, amino acids
- Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are two different things
- Common symptoms include frequent headaches, anxiety, joint and muscle pains, mood swings etc.
- Starting a natural treatment plan can really help relieve symptoms over time
- Unfortunately, there is no cure for celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, so gluten-free diets are the best way to aid your symptoms
If you believe you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, get your doctor’s advice on what you can do to ease your symptoms.