Gluten is a protein found mainly in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten intolerance is sometimes confused with celiac disease or a food allergy to wheat.
What does gluten intolerance mean?
Gluten intolerance is a digestive disorder in which the inner lining of the small intestine is affected by the body’s allergic reaction to gluten-containing foods. Gluten intolerance can cause considerable discomfort, which is why patients are advised to resort to lifestyle changes to more easily manage the symptoms of the condition.
This intolerance is different from celiac disease and is less severe than this. Celiac disease is a severe genetic autoimmune disease. In this case, there are two factors that trigger the disease, on the one hand gluten intolerance, on the other hand the genetic factor. Celiac disease can be diagnosed in either children or adults and affects the digestive system. The symptoms may not manifest in the case of celiac disease, so the patient may live for many years without knowing that he is ill. Celiac disease can manifest itself in case of stressful or major events (pregnancy, surgery).
Unlike celiac disease, it is not clear why the symptoms of gluten intolerance occur, but it does not appear to involve the immune system, or damage the gastrointestinal tract.
Gluten intolerance can be confused with wheat allergy. Wheat allergy can be life-threatening, because some allergy symptoms can affect breathing, or cause loss of consciousness. The same does not happen with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. The symptoms of gluten intolerance are less severe than celiac disease or wheat allergy.
Causes of gluten intolerance
The causes of gluten intolerance are not very clear, even if at first glance gluten is the main trigger. In 2011, researcher Alessio Fasano published the results of a landmark study on non-celiac gluten intolerance, results that indicate gluten as the cause of this condition. It would irritate the gut causing celiac disease-like symptoms without it being triggered.
More recent studies say other wheat compounds are to blame, which are also found in other foods, such as onions or garlic.
Foods to avoid
Gluten is a protein that allows wheat and other grains to absorb water, stick together, and remain viscous and elastic.
Wheat, barley and rye contain gluten, can be present in bread, cookies and biscuits, pasta, semolina products, couscous, beer. Gluten can also be included in products that are not obviously based on cereals, such as: spices, sauces, soups, preserves.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance
There are no medications you can take to treat gluten intolerance. To get rid of unwanted symptoms, you need to adopt a diet that excludes this protein. If you only have a gluten sensitivity, you may be able to follow a diet that contains gluten, but in very small amounts. Consult a clinical dietitian or physicist to find out for sure if you have this intolerance and how you can change your diet.
Among the most common symptoms are:
- Distension, pain and abdominal cramps
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Loss of bone density
- Depression, anxiety and irritability
- Herpetiform dermatitis (rash accompanied by itching, itching, stings and blisters)
- Hair loss
- Headaches and migraines
- Joint pain or osteoporosis
- Lactose intolerance
- Wounds or ulcers in the mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Deficiency of minerals and vitamins
- Unexplained weight loss
Foods that can be eaten
Gluten-free foods include: fruits and vegetables, poultry and fish products, legumes such as beans and lentils, rice, quinoa, potatoes, some oat products.
A person who wants to avoid gluten must carefully check food labels. Products with “gluten-free” labels do not contain enough gluten to trigger symptoms of celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Manufacturers can remove gluten from wheat flour or use a substitute, such as oatmeal or chickpea flour.
How can it be treated?
The treatment is based on a gluten-free diet that leads to the remission of symptoms and histological changes. The permitted cereals are corn, rice, millet, tapioca and sorghum. It is recommended to administer vitamin supplements, iron and calcium, to correct nutritional deficiencies. The prognosis of the patient with celiac disease diagnosed early and adhering to the gluten-free diet is very good.