What Exactly Is Gluten Sensitivity?

Gluten Sensitivity is an autoimmune reaction in the body to the consumption of the proteins contained in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is the common name given to the protein part of these grains. It gives the dough the elasticity necessary for making things like bread.

It is the protein in wheat that gives bread it's structure. In wheat there are two components of this protein on the molecular level that can cause problems. They are called gliadin and glutenin. Glutenins are in wheat starch, and some people do react to them. It is gliadin that causes most reactions though. In barley the protein is hordein, and in rye it is secalin. wheat in hands

In those people who are born with the genes associated with gluten sensitivity, these molecules cause an immune reaction in the body. The body begins to produce anti-gliadin antibodies, which can be measured on tests.

If they inherited the genes for celiac disease, the antibodies will cause the person's own immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine, destroying the little finger-like projections, (villi), that absorb nutrients from food. This damage will lead to malabsorption of nutrients and cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

What About Oats?

Wheat, barley, and rye definitely must be avoided. Oats raised commercially are also processed on the same equipment as wheat, barley and rye, and therefore they are cross contaminated.

There is some controversy about oats in the diet as some people with celiac disease seem to tolerate them, while others react.

It is best to avoid them at least until you have healed, and then only to consume them in limited quantities, provided that they are certified gluten free, and as long as your doctor approves. You may need monitoring for antibody levels to see if you are having an immune reaction to them.

Recent studies show most celiacs are able to tolerate them after healing, in moderate amounts (up to 3/4 cup for adults, and 1/4 cup for children per day). There is still a certain percentage of celiacs that do have an immune reaction to the avenin protein in oats, even those certified as gluten free.

oatmeal clip

A recent test has shown that a high percentage of oats labeled as pure or clean are still cross contaminated at various levels.

There is no cure for celiac disease or a gluten/gliadin sensitivity. There is only control. The only way to stop the immune reaction is by complete avoidance in the diet.

The gluten free diet must be maintained for life. Even a tiny amount of wheat, barley or rye can cause an immune reaction, and create more damage. For the person with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, eating it is like swallowing a toxic substance.

The Spectrum Of Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten Sensitivity can provoke all sorts of Symptoms that are not even intestinal. Some people get headaches, memory problems or even Chronic Fatigue rather than abdominal pain. Others can be hyperactive, or have gait problems. The spectrum can range from no symptoms at all to those that are so severe the person cannot function. These reactions are not limited to those with the genes for celiac disease.

Most people who are sensitive to gluten but do not carry the celiac gene tend to have more neurological symptoms than the typical gastrointestinal ones. Because their symptoms present in other parts of the body, the connection to gluten is not easily made.

A home gluten sensitivity test might be necessary to get an answer.

Related Pages

Related Pages that may also be helpful to you include Gluten Free Products which has sauces, condiments and other items, and Gluten Sensitivity Symptoms For a list of symptoms of gluten sensitivity. The hub page that lists all the pages of foods acceptable on the diet is Gluten Free Shopping. Be sure to take a look at them as well.

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