Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease: 12 Warning Signs

Manfred's Story

Manfred, at 80 years old, has enviable health and an infectious zest for life. He has always been an active man who exercises daily, operates a landscaping business, and bakes delicious and crispy rye bread. He fell ill suddenly with ulcerative colitis,a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that affects the large intestine. Manfred was hospitalized and given steroids to reduce intestinal inflammation. When his condition finally stabilized, Manfred still experienced terrible bouts of diarrhea. Having lived healthfully until this point, Manfred did not want to spend the rest of his life on medications which left him physically unsettled, but there seemed to be no other choice.

Working with the appropriate holistic practitioner, Manfred realized his condition was a direct result of being of gluten intolerant. The ulcerative colitis was healed, and Manfred is back to building, gardening, and baking, though now he bakes gluten-free!

What is gluten?

Gluten and gliadin are proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye that give flour its elasticity and is also a popular food additive. This is why gluten is such a heavily used additive in baked goods, cereals, malt, caramel flavorings, and pastas. Gluten and gliadin can be found in cookies, breads, pastas, anything that uses flour and even certain types of alcohol.

Warning Signs of Gluten Intolerance and Celiac disease

This may surprise you, but 60 percent of people with gluten intolerance do not have digestive problems. This is why it is important to be aware of other potential symptoms and talk with your health care provider if you have any concerns.

1. Diarrhea, flatulence, bloating, constipation, nausea, vomiting. These digestive symptoms, along with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) are among the most widely known reactions to gluten intolerance, though surprisingly not the most common.

2. Crohn's disease, Ulcerative Colitis and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Most gastroenterologists believe there is no known cure for these conditions, yet many people diagnosed with IBS or discovering they are gluten intolerant have complete recoveries after removing gluten from their diets.

3. Implicated in neurological disorders such as unexplained numbness and tingling in the extremities, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and even epilepsy. Undetected gluten intolerance can affect the body neurologically and can trigger the onset of many related disorders.

4. Implicated in autoimmune conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus and Type I Diabetes among others.

5. Mouth ulcers, are a clear sign of an exhausted immune system. When your body is combating an allergen, it has limited reserves left to protect against viruses and infections.

6. Gradual weight change. Undiagnosed gluten intolerance can affect the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. Thyroid function regulates the body’s ability to burn and utilize calories.

7. Fibromyalgia, bone and joint pain. A reaction to gluten can affect even the bones and joints.

8. Frequent headaches or migraines. Digestive inflammation due to an allergen can result in headaches. The headaches may not disappear until the dietary issue is addressed.

9. Chronic fatigue. Feeling under the weather is often a direct result of an unresolved gluten intolerance. The body exhausts itself fighting off the allergen, and little energy remains to carry out day-to-day activities.

10. Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder disease has also been connected to undetected gluten intolerance.

11. Psoriasis and other skin disorders. Surprisingly, gluten intolerance can manifest even in our skin.

12. Abnormal menses, infertility, miscarriage. Gluten intolerance can affect women’s reproductive systems and ability to carry a child to term. Past miscarriages for unknown reasons, could be a sign of an undetected gluten intolerance.

Implications of Gluten Intolerance: Important Things to Know

It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in the U.S. are gluten intolerant.

Discovering and treating gluten intolerance early is extremely important. Besides the symptoms mentioned above, those with gluten intolerances run the risk of the following complications, often due to the fact that gluten intolerance is usually left undiagnosed until most people are 50 years old or older.

  • Gluten intolerance has a genetics connection. Most people do not inherit a trait for gluten intolerance. It is usually an acquired allergy.  However, by becoming gluten intolerant, it is possible to change genetic expression in a single generation and pass that tendency on to children.
  • On average it takes about 5 practitioners to diagnose a gluten intolerance.
  • 60 percent of those with gluten intolerance do not exhibit symptoms of a     compromised digestive system.
  • If diagnosed after 10 years old, there is a 1 in 4 chance of developing an autoimmune disorder like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hachimoto's Thyroidistis, Parksinson's disease or lupus.
  • Implicated in dental enamel defects, lower neo-natal weight in children, shorter life span, osteoporosis, schizophrenia, depression, A.D.D.

Celiac disease

Celiac diseaseis the most severe form of gluten intolerance. Inflammation caused by the allergic reaction to gluten and gliadin permanently erodes the lining (villi) of the small intestine, severely impeding nutrient absorption.

Though Celiac disease often begins during childhood, it is usually not diagnosed until adulthood. The longer the condition continues unchecked, the more susceptible the body is to other autoimmune disorders. Celiac disease can be diagnosed through a biopsy of the small intestine which shows the atrophy of the villi (see image below). It can also be diagnosed by testing for an allergen-specific blood test. 

An image highlighting a healthy digestive tract on the left, and a digestive tract that has been worn down due to gluten consumption in someone who suffers from Celiac disease. The villi, which are the seaweed-like structures in the left figure, are responsible for capturing and transmitting nutrients to the rest of the body. Since the entire trunk-like body of the villi is utilized in this process, when they are worn down they are much less functional. Celiac disease sufferers are defined as those who have unhealthy, deteriorated villi.

Gluten Sensitivity, Intolerance and Celiac Disease are delayed allergic responses to the proteins gluten and gliadin. This allergic reaction inflames the small intestine, the effects of which can be felt all throughout the entire body. Over time, this inflammation causes the villi, which line the small intestines, to atrophy. The villi, which look like shag carpeting, are primarily responsible for nutrient absorption. If the villi deteriorate, the body will be challenged to absorb nutrients. When the villi are severely compromised, Gluten Intolerance becomes Celiac Disease. Therefore, a gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease are the same illness, differing only in severity. A Gluten sensitivity or intolerance is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all because most doctors only test for Celiac disease. This is why most people who are gluten intolerant do not test positive for Celiac disease.  The treatments for Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are the same- the complete elimination of gluten from your diet.

Leaky Gut syndrome & its effect on food allergies

Gluten intolerance creates inflammation. This inflammation leads to leaky gut syndrome and creates an environment for secondary food allergies.Leaky gut syndrome refers to digestive disturbances and infections caused by severe inflammation of the intestine. This inflammation affects the integrity of the “gut” wall and allows for increased permeability in the intestinal walls. Partially digested food enters into the blood stream through small openings between the cells in the intestinal lining where it is then met by a hostile immune system. The body produces an increasing amount of antibodies to fight the food we eat, and the food bound with the antibody continually pass from the intestine to the blood stream. Thus, gluten intolerance may lead to the development of other food allergens. Only by removing the allergen can “leaky” guts heal, beginning the process of improved health. Leaky gut syndrome can be due to many different food allergies, but gluten intolerance is particularly damaging.

Your Pathway to Healing:

A. Identify. We cannot begin to heal until we know what ails us. There are many different paths to discovery.

1. Food elimination: a cost-effective, yet slow and cumbersome tool. By removing gluten from your diet for a month or two you can discover whether or not you have a gluten intolerance.

2. Biopsy: A biopsy of the small intestine is effective in testing for Celiac disease and is one of the most common screening tools, but does not detect gluten intolerance nor other potential food allergens that may have developed due to Leaky Gut syndrome. Since the effects and treatments of gluten intolerance and Celiac disease are ultimately the same, this test is extremely ineffective.

3. Blood test: Ann Arbor Holistic Health recommends a comprehensive 96 food allergy panel. This blood test checks for allergic reactions to gluten, gliadin as well as wheat, rye and barley. It also screens for any other secondary food allergies that can result from Leaky Gut Syndrome. There are other blood tests available that can screen for Celiac disease as well as other aspects of gluten intolerance.

B. Eliminate. After we discover gluten intolerance and other secondary food allergies, the appropriate foods can be removed from the diet for amazing results.

C. Heal with appropriate supplements

1. Vitamin D.  A Vitamin D deficiency may compromise the small intestine’s mucosal barrier, leading to increased susceptibility to mucosal damage and increased risk of Leaky Gut Syndrome. Supplements restore low Vitamin D levels.

2. Enteric coated essential fatty acids help to decrease inflammation. An enteric coating prevents the supplement from being digested until it reaches the desired anatomical destination- in this case, the small intestine.

3. Probiotics and Colustrum based supplements are essential in helping to reestablish healthy immune systems.

4. Plant-based anti-inflammatory supplements such as quercetin, curcumin, boswellia, ashwaganda, ginger and L-Glutatamine.  Ask a health professional about other types of plant-based supplements that may be beneficial to you.

Please call (734) 726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation.

At Ann Arbor Holistic Health we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.