I’m sure you’ve noticed over the last several years the rise in discussion about “gluten intolerance”. More parents are looking into gluten-free alternatives for their family. More people announce that they are intolerant to gluten, although they were not tested or diagnosed. So the real questions are: is gluten intolerance actually real or just a popular thing to say you have? If it is real, what does it look like? And, how do I know if I have it or not?
Firstly, we must provide a definition for gluten intolerance. It is not a food allergy. You should not confuse an intolerance with having an allergic reaction to something. Gluten intolerance is a physical condition that occurs in your stomach. So to answer the first question, yes, gluten intolerance is very real and I’ll share some numbers shortly to back that claim up. Essentially, undigested (as a result from poor quality and over synthesized grain) gluten proteins stick to your intestines and the body doesn’t recognize the substance. It treats it as a foreign invader, irritating the affected area. The proteins flatten out cells called microvilli that stick out from your intestines to absorb the nutrients from your food. When those microvilli are covered up, you have less surface area to absorb those nutrients. Therefore, your body actually goes through a state of malnutrition called malabsorption, which can cause side effects like chronic fatigue, neurological disorders, nutrient deficiencies, anemia, nausea, skin rashes, depression, and more. I’m positive you, the reader, have experienced one or more of those symptoms.
If you choose to remove gluten from your diet as many have recently, it gives the stomach a chance to heal. Depending on the severity of the intolerance, whether it’s just a mild sensitivity or celiac disease, it may be possible to consume grains that aren’t as processed as most we eat today. Others may not be as lucky. The stomach heals but the body may never allow for them to tolerate gluten. This usually occurs in those that have a genetic disorder that causes that sensitivity.
There are multiple theories as to how this sensitivity can be passed down through genes. Our environment and diet can affect how our genes and traits function. Some people may possess an unidentified gene that causes their immune system to think an undigested piece of gluten protein is invading the system. Another theory is that some people who eat gluten may have dysbiosis, damaged gut flora, from antibiotic use or consuming indigestible foods. Feeding infants grains before they are able to digest them may raise the risk for this condition. Low nutrient diets also may interfere with the body’s ability to suppress immune cells that are capable of attacking proteins.
Surveys suggest that 1 out of 133 people in the general population is gluten intolerant. Just a decade ago, those numbers were 1 in 2500 worldwide. That’s an astronomical rise over such a short period of time. That number may never go down but it’s up to you on whether or not you want that number to continue rising. When you feed your children food that’s nearly impossible to digest, you cause that statistic to rise. I don’t need to go into detail on what those foods are, I know you’re well aware of what they all are. Taking practical, hard steps is the only solution to a problem like this that requires effort.