Let’s Talk About Gluten

Let's Talk about Gluten
Learn all about gluten, the potential health risks that can happen if you have celiac disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity, and more!

Hi, I’m Dr. Emily Parke with your Functional Health Minute for today. Today I would like to talk to you about gluten, and the potential health risks that can happen if you do have celiac disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity, and we will talk about the differences between the two. But first let’s talk about what is gluten? Gluten is a protein in wheat, and it is a relatively large protein and it is more difficult for the human digestive track to digest.

Gluten Sensitivity vs. Celiac Disease

So there are some people that have a sensitivity to gluten that don’t have celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease of the small intestine that’s triggered by eating gluten. And so what happens is the small intestines get very, very inflamed.  The villi are the little fingers that are in the small intestine. They have a large surface area, and they do help with nutrient absorption.

What happens when you have celiac disease, the small intestine gets inflamed. And what happens is all that surface area gets blunted. And so by blunted it means like all of it closes up, it’s so inflamed that the surface area for absorption has now decreased. And that does lead to, of course, symptoms of diarrhea and malabsorption of nutrients. So you’re going to see some nutrient deficiencies, fatigue and potentially anemia and things like that. That is celiac disease. But then there’s a whole category of non celiac gluten sensitivity, meaning you do not have celiac disease but you get a symptom, and you don’t feel well when you eat gluten. And the symptoms can be anything by the way. They don’t necessarily have to be in the GI track. But certainly, when you eat a food it makes you think, okay, is my stomach upset? Do I have diarrhea or constipation, gas and bloating, stomach cramping, heartburn or acid reflux? You first think of the GI symptoms first. But it can be any symptom from head to toe because there are different areas specifically for gluten that get attacked more commonly than others.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

So there’s three different main categories. There is of course small intestine, like we discussed with celiac disease. Then there’s skin and then also brain. And these are tissue transglutaminase 2, 3, and 6. And those are the specific antibodies that can get turned on that can create symptoms in patients that don’t necessarily even have celiac disease in the case of 3 or 6. But they may have skin manifestations or they may have brain and central nervous system manifestations when they eat gluten. Then there’s a gluten intolerance in which they don’t have the more serious manifestations that I was just telling you about, but you might get headaches or get fatigue, or you might get some mild bloating or you may retain water for example. There’s some sign to your body that it might not be a great food for you.

So can everyone eat gluten or should everyone eliminate gluten? And the answer is truly not everyone has to eliminate gluten from their diet forever. If you are perfectly healthy, you don’t have an autoimmune disease, you don’t have gut symptoms, you don’t have any other symptoms, your digestive track is working beautifully–can you tolerate gluten or wheat? Sure, you can. We’ve proven that. There was actually a recent study that just came out that looked at healthy volunteers doing gluten versus gluten free diet, and they there was no difference in symptoms. But the patients coming to seek out functional medicine of course have some symptoms.

So what I recommend is just do an elimination trial. Eliminating any food from your diet for 30 days is certainly not going to be harmful, and can be potentially helpful. And I have done previous videos on what food sensitivities, allergies and intolerances are, and how to properly do a food reintroduction. You can go back and look at those if you’re curious, and if you want to try a 30 day gluten elimination for yourself. So I hope this helped shed a little bit of light on the topic of gluten. This is Dr. Emily Parke with your Functional Health Minute for today.

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