I am frequently asked how ‘careful’ someone has to be if they have gluten sensitivity. Those individuals suffering from celiac disease know, or should, that ANY gluten is too much. Their immune systems are highly sensitive and reactive, and dangerous contamination can literally be in the form of a crumb.
Those with gluten sensitivity are in a better condition. Gluten sensitivity is not considered an autoimmune disease; celiac, of course, is. Those with gluten sensitivity are often not reactive to small amounts of contamination… or are they?
In my opinion, there is no such thing as a ‘mild’ gluten sensitivity. You either are or you are not. And if you are sensitive, gluten in any form can be very deleterious to your health. The slightly insidious thing with gluten sensitivity, and sometimes for celiac sufferers as well, is that the reaction to gluten can be ‘silent’. But just because you can’t feel it, doesn't mean it isn't still having its evil way with you.
Sadly, irritation and inflammation to the nervous system and major organs of the body (yes, there is no organ spared according to research) can be free of obvious symptoms…initially. Once the damage progresses beyond a certain point, however you will then develop symptoms, but at the beginning you can be ignorant and by the time symptoms develop some major damage has occurred – meaning you can be formally diagnosed with a disease.
Obviously no one wants insidious, silent damage to be occurring to their body. That’s why it’s so critical to discover if you are really celiac or gluten sensitive. If you are, then there is no middle ground – you are and that means zero gluten.
What about individuals who aren't suffering from either condition but just notice they ‘feel better’ when they don’t eat gluten? In this case they either do have one of the conditions and it just hasn't been properly diagnosed, or the refined carbohydrate aspect of the grain is bothering them.
Do realize that:
1. Gluten is a protein that no human properly digests, even if they don’t have celiac or gluten sensitivity. This is complete fact, not my opinion.
2. The quality of gluten we tend to eat in this country is highly refined, processed and often laden with chemicals. It’s just not good quality food for anyone.
While in a perfect world I would love to have you tested while you are still eating gluten, I would never recommend a reintroduction if you have already stopped and notice that you feel better. My favorite test is a blood test from Cyrex Labs (I have no personal affiliation with this lab) because it is the most comprehensive one on the market.
If you have already stopped eating gluten, EnteroLab (I have no personal affiliation with this lab either) offers an online test that is easy to do and you don’t need to be eating gluten in order to achieve accurate results.
EnteroLab also offers a genetic test so you can find out if you carry the genes associated with celiac or gluten sensitivity.
Testing is my first choice, but if that’s not possible then conduct your own test – it’s free. Avoid gluten completely (100%) for 30 days. Make sure you know all the places gluten can hide such that your 30 day trial contains no slip-ups. Feel free to visit my website where I delineate the most common places gluten can hide.
Once your 30 days is complete, see how you feel. If you’ve noticed no change, then likely you aren’t sensitive. If you have noticed improvement in your symptoms, consider that you likely have one of these conditions. Remember, you can use the tests that don’t require you to eat gluten to be sure your analysis is correct – if that’s affordable for you. When you’re considering a permanent lifestyle change, saving a bit of money for the test that might provide you with the validation you need to continue your gluten-free life, could be worth it.
I hope this helps to answer this very common question. Gluten is just not something to play around with. If you’re sensitive and you eat a small amount even once per month, that’s too much. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Please realize that you aren’t doing yourself any favors being 80 or 90% gluten-free – at least not if you’re sensitive to it.
Honestly, I think it’s easier to completely stay away from it than continuing to torment yourself with occasional cheating.
Let me know if you have any questions. This is an important area to understand and I hope this post clears some things up. Remember that we are here to help. Regardless of where you live, we can offer you assistance. HealthNOW is a destination clinic and we treat patients from across the country and internationally.
If you want assistance consider calling us for a free health analysis – 408-733-0400.
I look forward to hearing from you.
To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Gluten Free Doctor of the Year 2013
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”