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The Gluten Phenomenon
Subclinical gluten intolerance is possibly the most undiagnosed condition that close to 50% of the population suffers from. Current research shows that only about 3% of gluten intolerant individuals ever find out that they have it. Do you know if you are gluten intolerant? If not, your odds are close to a flip of a coin.Gluten intolerance is frequently found to be the cause of many undesirable health conditions. The extent (and intensity) of conditions an individual may experience is vast. Some of these are listed below. In addition to acute conditions, the long term effects of gluten intolerance on general health can lead to more serious and avoidable degenerative conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis.
Why are symptoms all over the map?
After you eat, food is broken down into small particles that the body can use as fuel. This is what should happen to gluten, but does not for those who are intolerant to it. Those people are missing a digestive enzyme which breaks down gluten proteins. While these proteins are not broken down, they are still small enough to be absorbed by the small intestine. The immune system of a gluten intolerant individual sees these gluten proteins as something it needs to attack and destroy, in very much the same way it would attack a virus or bacteria. Just like civilian casualties or the innocent bystander, this attack also damages and destroys nearby healthy cells.The result is that the lining of the small intestines gets damaged and erodes. Like a fly screen that gets torn and allows bugs to pass, over time the damage opens paths for the gluten proteins to enter the blood stream where they can travel to any cell in the body. The type of symptoms you experience depends on which tissues react most negatively to it. That is why some people get constant skin lesions, while others just get headaches. Strange but true.Even though it is common for gluten intolerance to be thought of as an allergy, the effects are quite different. An allergen is usually met with a histamine reaction, where the body tries to flush the foreign matter away. The effects of gluten intolerance are closer to an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks itself. This explains why symptoms can be quite severe, and why gluten intolerance is such a serious problem. One common example of gluten intolerance is called celiac disease, where the small intestine is so severely damaged that it cannot absorb food properly, and can lead to malnutrition and even death.
How gluten intolerance is treated
Since the symptoms of gluten intolerance vary so much for each individual, so does the treatment. The most critical treatment that all sufferers need, though, is life-long avoidance of gluten. Gluten intolerant people possess certain genes that recognize gluten as foreign matter, and this cannot be changed with today’s medicine.Many people find that while eliminating gluten from their diet makes them feel better, they still continue to experience problems. Damage to the small intestines and the intestinal immune system is universal in gluten intolerant individuals. This results in being susceptible to intestinal infections and parasites, which can cause ulcers and digestive problems in addition to many other diseases. The symptoms of these infections are often cyclical, which means you can feel bad and then feel good before cycling into feeling bad again. This cyclical nature also makes diagnosis of problems difficult. Therefore, while ceasing to eat gluten can relieve some of the problems, diagnosing and treating infections is critical to resolving all the problems. Just like recovery from the flu, recovering from the effects of years of consuming gluten requires time and care. Another important aspect of a good treatment program should address restoration. Lastly, since this is a genetic condition, it is highly recommended that relatives also seek diagnosis. Simply put, the condition does ‘run in the family’, and is always shared by at least one parent of a sufferer.