For those who suffer from it daily, gluten intolerance is no joke.
I’m so sick of reading articles written by people — who have not personally experienced gluten intolerance — calling it a “fad diet” or a mostly mental “self-fulfilling prophecy” for those who have decided to exclude wheat from their diets based on some random “food anxiety”.
First, let’s sum up what we’re talking about here. Celiac Disease is an an autoimmune disease; that means the body has an immune reaction to eating the protein gluten. The person ends up getting attacked by their own immune system. Sufferer Jordan Reasoner summed it up really well:
Celiac Disease triggers a war inside your body. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases “arise from inappropriate immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body.”
I really like that word “inappropriate”… I agree it’s inappropriate that my immune system, which is supposed to protect me from the outside world, is actually mistaking some part of my body as an evil pathogen and attacking my healthy tissue.
For people who have been diagnosed with the full-blown disease, not eating gluten to a Celiac is like a diabetic’s insulin requirement. If a Celiac eats gluten, it could literally kill them.
Being gluten intolerant is not quite to that level, but it can also make a person very ill when they eat gluten. Food Renegade‘s Kristen Michaelis explains gluten intolerance clearly:
It isn’t a food allergy. It’s a physical condition in your gut. Basically, undigested gluten proteins (prevalent in wheat and other grains) hang out in your intestines and are treated by your body like a foreign invader, irritating your gut and flattening the microvilli along the small intestine wall. Without those microvilli, you have considerably less surface area with which to absorb the nutrients from your food. This leads sufferers to experience symptoms of malabsorption, including chronic fatigue, neurological disorders, nutrient deficiencies, anemia, nausea, skin rashes, depression, and more.
If you remove gluten from the diet, the gut heals and the myriad of symptoms disappears. (source)
In short, if the lining of your small intestine is damaged, you have a much harder time absorbing nutrients from your food. When that happens, it can make you all kinds of sick, manifesting itself with a glorious array of flat-out horrible health problems that continue to get worse and worse the longer gluten is consumed.
The Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
While many people primarily connect gluten issues with digestive problems such as acid reflux, bloating, cramping, extreme or persistent flatulence, diarrhea and even nausea after eating it, in reality, there are a whopping 200-plus symptoms that can manifest as a result of gluten intolerance.
For example, did you know gluten intolerance can also show up also show up as:
- extreme fatigue, tiredness and exhaustion
- weakness (due to vitamin/mineral deficiencies)
- mood swings, chronic irritability, depression and/or anxiety
- headaches, leading to migraines
- poor concentration and/or brain fog, or a “clouding of the thinking process”
- eczema or other types of skin rashes
- hair loss
- weight gain or loss
- joint pain and muscle cramps
- fertility issues (such as abnormal menstrual cycles), PMS issues, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis
- neurological issues, including dizziness, tingling in the extremities, difficulty balancing, “clumsiness” and even seizures
- frequent canker sores (apthus ulcers) and dental enamel deficiencies
- urinary tract infections
- bruising easily
- blood sugar irregularities
- night blindness
- respiratory problems and asthma
…and the list, literally, goes on and on.