Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and related grains such as spelt and kamut. Gluten has received more media attention in recent years, and a growing body of research has implicated gluten in digestive problems and other medical conditions.
Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder in which the body reacts to the ingestion of gluten by causing the lining of the small intestine to become inflamed, thus affecting its ability to absorb nutrients. Though CD is often thought of as a gastrointestinal disorder, it is actually a complex autoimmune disorder characterized by a wide variety of symptoms, many of which are not immediately associated with digestion.
Common symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and iron deficiency anemia. Until recently, CD was thought to be rare in the United States. Then in 2003, a landmark study conducted at the University of Maryland demonstrated high rates of undiagnosed CD, approaching 1 percent of the population.
A growing segment of the population defines itself as gluten “sensitive.” These people have negative tests for CD but have improved health on a gluten-free diet. Researchers at the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland have just published intriguing research demonstrating that gluten sensitivity is a separate disorder from celiac disease.
The research provides the first scientific evidence that gluten sensitivity is a true medical disorder characterized by an immune response and specific genetic markers.
Gluten sensitivity is thought to affect 6 percent of the U.S. population. Common symptoms include fatigue, headaches, abdominal pain and alternating diarrhea and constipation. There is also evidence that some people with schizophrenia and autistic children might be affected by gluten sensitivity.
While the symptoms of CD and gluten sensitivity can be similar, those with gluten sensitivity don’t exhibit intestinal inflammation or nutrient malabsorption. The only treatment for both conditions remains a gluten-free diet. While following a gluten-free diet can seem daunting at first, there are resources to help.
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180 Superfood is gluten-free, learn more here.