A listener from the recent virtual book tour asks: Are there degrees of gluten sensitivity, or is it an all or nothing thing?
I really liked this question because all too often I hear people say: "I don't have celiac disease, I'm JUST gluten sensitive." This statement usually is part of a conversation justifying why they don’t feel the need to be perfect on their diet.
At this time, based on all the research to hand, gluten sensitivity seems to be an “all or nothing” proposition. The reason, I believe, that some people think they can have some gluten with impunity goes to how their body reacts to it. We are often wedded to the concept that if a food bothers us we’ll undoubtedly suffer from digestive problems. But this is only true about 25% of the time. So the with the other 75%, people develop symptoms that are non-digestive and often take many hours and up to a few days to develop. If you “cheat” on Monday and Wednesday you develop brain fog or achy joints, are you immediately going to attribute those symptoms to the gluten you ate two days prior? Unlikely. But such things occur regularly AND are more common than the digestive complaints that people expect from eating a problematic food.
Even more insidious are the nervous system complaints such as irritability, depression or anxiety. When these occur we readily feel that they are “due” to some environmental issue. Bills in the mail, an upset spouse or boss, etc are more likely going to be the suspected cause. But what we see over and over again is that a patient’s ability to deal with life’s stresses improves dramatically when their nervous system isn’t being irritated by gluten.
There are a multitude of examples of this. Sometimes I think it’s better when a patient suffers immediate and debilitating symptoms as a result of gluten, only because they are certain of the culprit.
The bottom line is this. If you know that you are intolerant to gluten either from a lab test or personal observation, it is my opinion that you avoid it at all costs. If you “cheat” and you can’t tell, don’t think that means that your body isn’t being harmed. Some irritations occur on a deeper level that you can’t feel until you develop something severe like an autoimmune disease.
I have seen such things occur in patients because they wanted to believe that they could cheat with impunity. It seems to always catch up with them and I don’t want that to happen to you.
I hope this helps and please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”