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We have said it over and over again, gluten is bad news for many people– not just those with Celiac Disease. If you have an unexplained digestive problems; bloating, gas, constipation, skin problems or autoimmune issues, like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (hypothyroidism), Crohn’s Disease, etc then it is definitely worth going completely gluten free for 30 days to see how your body responds. You’ll never know how much better off you could be without giving it a shot.
Awareness of the negative health effects of gluten has increased in the past few years.
One 2013 survey shows that a third of Americans are actively trying to eliminate gluten from their diets.
But gluten-free is more than just the latest fad… there are multiple studies showing that gluten can cause harmful effects.
Here are 6 shocking reasons to avoid gluten.
1. Celiac Disease is on The Rise and Most People Remain Undiagnosed
Gluten is a protein composite found in several types of grains, including wheat, spelt, rye and barley.
Gluten consists of two proteins… gliadin and glutenin. It is the gliadin part that people react negatively to.
Actually, the name gluten is derived from these glue-like properties.
When gluten reaches the digestive tract and is exposed to the cells of the immune system, they mistakenly believe that it is coming from some sort of foreign invader, like a bacteria.
In certain people who are sensitive to gluten, this causes the immune system to mount an attack against it.
In celiac disease (the most severe form of gluten sensitivity), the immune system attacks the gluten proteins, but it also attacks an enzyme in the cells of the digestive tract called tissue transglutaminase.
Therefore, gluten exposure in celiacs causes the immune system to attack both the gluten as well as the intestinal wall itself. For this reason, celiac disease is classified as an autoimmune disease.
The immune reaction can cause degeneration of the intestinal wall, which leads to nutrient deficiencies, various digestive issues, anemia, fatigue, failure to thrive as well as an increased risk of many serious diseases.
Celiac disease is believed to afflict about 1% of people, but it may be more common (over 2%) in the elderly (2, 3, 4). There are also studies showing that the rate of celiac disease is increasing rapidly in the population (5, 6).
Keep in mind that a large percentage of celiacs don’t even have abdominal symptoms, making diagnosis on clinical grounds very difficult.
According to one study, over 80% of people with celiac disease don’t even know that they have it (9).
Bottom Line: Celiac disease currently afflicts about 1% of the population, but the prevalence is increasing. 80% of people with celiac disease are unaware of it.
2. Gluten Sensitivity is Much More Common and Can Also Have Serious Consequences
You don’t need to have full-blown celiac disease to have adverse reactions to gluten.
There is another disorder called gluten sensitivity (or gluten intolerance), which is much more common.
Although there is no clear definition of gluten sensitivity, it basically means having some sort of adverse reaction to gluten and an improvement in symptoms on a gluten-free diet.
If you have adverse reactions to gluten, but celiac disease is ruled out, then it is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
In non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there is no attack on the body’s own tissues. However, many of the symptoms are similar to those in celiac disease, including bloating, stomach pain, fatigue, diarrhea, as well as pain in the bones and joints.
Unfortunately… because there is no clear way of diagnosing gluten sensitivity, reliable numbers on how common it is are impossible to find.
However, one gastroenterologist found that 11% of people had antibodies against gluten in their blood and 29% of people had antibodies against it in stool samples (12).
About 40% of people carry the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes, which make people susceptible to gluten sensitivity (13).
Given that there is no clear definition of gluten sensitivity, or a good way to diagnose it, the only true way of knowing is by eliminating gluten temporarily from your diet, then reintroducing it to see if you have symptoms.
Bottom Line: Gluten sensitivity is much more common than celiac disease, also leading to multiple adverse effects. However, there is no clear way of diagnosing it yet.