A Gluten Free Lifestyle | February Series | Week 2

This week's post will address HOW GLUTEN AFFECTS YOUR BODY, including common symptoms by system, the effects on your intestines and long-term complications, the difference between celiac disease and a gluten intolerance, and other related health information. If you missed last week's post, you can read it HERE

First off, I want to discuss how gluten becomes an enemy to the body if a person has a gluten sensitivity/intolerance or celiac disease.

According to medical research, gluten most likely gets changed by one of our human enzymes called tTg (tissue transglutaminase) - so it becomes more antigenic - that is, it looks like a foreign invader. Then the T cells get hold of it, traffic it to the lymph nodes, and set up an aggressive immune response. Put another way, when someone who cannot digest gluten consumes it, the molecules enter the bloodstream and the immune system recognizes them as invaders, activating an immune response that increases inflammation, which in turn can result in a wide variety of symptoms.

If you have CELIAC DISEASE or a GLUTEN INTOLERANCE and you consume gluten, the damage it does to your body (by reacting with the tTg) accelerates and chronic inflammation occurs. In response to the inflammation, the body produces CYTOKINES, or chemical messengers. To put it simply, the cytokines just leave you feeling real crummy. People may not even point to their gut, which is where the problem is coming from. They often just notice or say, “I feel terrible.”

A lot of people think that because they aren't experiencing GI symptoms, they don't have a problem with gluten. However, this is a myth. Because tTg is in ALL your cells -- including your skin, your bones, your heart, your intestines, your head and your ovaries -- the symptoms can manifest in SO many areas. Additionally, because the gluten damages the villi in your intestines, altering the integrity of your gut, your body has difficulty absorbing nutrients from the food you do eat - even key nutrients that are vital to daily functioning. It takes many years to repair a damaged gut and rebuild up healthy villi. 

For my mom (who is gluten intolerant), her symptoms primarily manifest in her joints - when she eats gluten, her legs and arms ache - not the muscles, but the bones. For a lot of women (who most probably don’t even know it), they have difficulty getting pregnant because tTg is in the ovaries. I have heard so many stories of women going gluten free for 6 months and then conceiving without a problem! 

For me, it was my head and intestines - migraines, cramping, constipation, etc. For some, it is their skin - eczema, psoriasis or even just terrible acne. The inflammation I was discussing earlier leads to an increased secretion of insulin in the body, which results in raised hormone levels, which is often a cause of worsening acne. A lot of people with skin issues (who have tried every cream and antibiotic on the market) go gluten free and experience freedom from all their skin problems. For everyone, it is a little different. Sometimes in conversation I share about being GF and people say, “Oh, I don’t have a problem, I don’t have digestive issues.” That may be true, but that still doesn’t mean you are not gluten intolerant. Additionally, you may not think you have any digestive problems, and then you live GF for a year, and what you thought was normal was nothing compared to how you feel now.

Finally, a lot of people wonder if there is a mild version of celiac disease. 

According to various articles about gluten, there’s a celiac-like condition. By medical professionals, it is called non-celiac gluten intolerance (NCGI) -- also referred to as GLUTEN SENSITIVITY -- which is what I have and what many in my family have. Every time I refer to a “gluten intolerance,” this is what I am referring to. 

Basically, people have symptoms that look like celiac disease, and those symptoms improve once they go on a gluten-free diet. They don’t always have the genes for celiac disease, but my opinion is - who cares what is it called, just do what works best for your body! There is so much hype now about eating GF. People think its just the “healthy” thing to do, it's a trend. Something that blows so many peoples minds? Just because it is labeled “GLUTEN FREE” does NOT mean it is healthy! In fact, a lot of GF pre-packaged products on shelves these days are SO highly processed that they are worse for you! Don’t be fooled into thinking “gluten free” is healthy - the truth is that it definitely CAN BE - but when I go shopping or plan meals, I use my knowledge and discernment and base my choices on that, more than what the front of a package says. 

More on my diet, how I eat, where I shop and meal plans coming next week!

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