If you haven’t already heard about gluten sensitivity and gluten-free eating then simply turn on the television or browse the internet or latest health magazine. Yes, gluten is everywhere! So what’s the big deal about gluten and why is it getting so much press these days? In short, because it’s a big deal – and not just for those of us with intestinal symptoms.
History of Gluten
Historically, medicine understood gluten sensitivity to be a manifestation of celiac disease. A severe gastrointestinal response to the consumption of any food product containing wheat resulting in cramping, bloating, pain and diarrhea. Early testing was developed to identify this sort of response to gluten and for decades this has been the primary methodology of testing available
Testing for gluten
Early testing for gluten sensitivity was focused around detecting the mechanisms of celiac disease or gluten enteropathy. The development and implementation of this testing led to the successful diagnosis of many individuals who otherwise suffered gastrointestinal symptoms throughout their lives without an understanding of what was causing them. In the past 20 years we have seen a dramatic rise in cases of celiac as well as a host of other gastrointestinal and extra-gastrointestinal disorders that seem to be related to gluten consumption. For years astute physicians have successfully prescribed gluten-free diets for patients who suffered a range of symptoms from migraine headaches to joint pain to eczema. However, the ability to provide laboratory proof of a connection between gluten exposure and these varied symptoms was difficult as many such individuals would test negative using the original celiac panels. Today we understand that this is because there are several subtypes of the gluten molecule – each relating to a different system in the body – and as such the celiac testing was only screening for the gastrointestinal subtype. We now have access to testing that screens for several subtypes of gliadin and gluten compounds that are associated with neurological, skin and endocrine disorders.
Autoimmune reactions v. autoimmune disease
A loss of function without complete destruction of tissue.
Multiple tissue antibody screen
A rare chance at real preventive medicine.
What has changed?
Genetically modified proteins (gliadin) are several times more reactive than the original form. Deamination process. Ubiquitous exposure. Design of the immune system. Toxic environment. Prevalence of leaky gut syndrome. Poor diet and lifestyle.