I believe that every one is unique, and has a unique set of foods that promote health and equally has foods which encourage disease. I don’t believe that gluten is the root of all evil and that everyone should stop eating it, but ignoring a gluten intolerance could have long-term consequences.
I have spoken with a lot of people who know that gluten doesn’t agree with them. They get bloated after they eat it, they have aches and pains and sometimes get cramps, yet they don’t want to stop eating “like a normal person”. I hear this time and time again, and I can completely relate to it. Change is difficult. It takes energy and effort, and when we are ill or fatigued – or suffering from the symptoms of gluten intolerance – it’s difficult to muster the will power.
I get it. I’ve been there. I have also been desperately ill. I was virtually housebound at 27 years old for nearly 18 months. I ached all over, I had no energy and simply talking was draining. All the doctors I went to said that I was a healthy 27 year old. I needed to make a big change and to take matters into my own hands. I drastically changed my diet, my lifestyle and grew as a person. Going entirely gluten free was a significant part of getting my health – and my life – back.
You may not be as ill as I was and you may find your symptoms manageable. But what is it doing to your body? If you have symptoms of dis-ease, your body is telling you something.
If you ignore your gluten intolerance, you may be setting yourself up for future health problems. Here are a few things to consider:
- Increased risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes
Our digestive system is responsible for absorbing food as well as detecting and mounting an immune response to things that may harm us – usually bacteria or other mircoorganisms.
70% of our immune system is located in our gastrointestinal tract (Faria and Weiner 2005).
If you are gluten intolerant, immune mechanisms in your gut recognize gluten as an invader that needs eliminating and so your body activates an immune response designed to kill-off the invader. It’s a misdirected response as gluten is not an infectious agent. Mounting such an immune response is not only exhausting, but also dangerous – these first immune responses are designed to be temporary toxic storms to efficiently protect us from infection. Constantly or repeatedly activating this system leads to chronic inflammation – something that is directly related to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes.
- Nutrient deficiencies – malnourishment
Continuing to eat gluten when you are intolerant to it can cause the lining of your digestive tract to become inflamed, damaged and stripped of the protective mucous coating (villous atrophy). This damage stops nutrients from being absorbed properly and can lead to malnutrition, usually in the form of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Symptoms can include fatigue, dry skin, brittle hair, poor concentration, frequent illness and failure to thrive in children – the list extensive. It’s worth bearing in mind that you can be nutrient deficient and over weight.
- Increased risk of autoimmune disease
In addition to being inflamed an unable to absorb nutrients effectively, zonulin (derived from gluten) can cause gaps to form in your gut lining. This is known as intestinal hyperpermeability or leaky gut. It means that food particles and bacteria can pass through your gut wall straight into your blood stream. If this happens, your immune system will go into overdrive to get rid of the invaders – and it stays on high alert for weeks, which is exhausting, depleting and potentially harmful. Leaky gut can lead to chronic poor health and the development of more intolerances, such as to the milk protein casein, and autoimmune diseases – where the immune system attacks the body. Most people with an autoimmune condition feel better on a gluten-free diet. Interestingly, components of gluten have a similar structure to protein structures in our bodies – particularly those within the thyroid. If you have an autoimmune disease, consuming gluten will cause your immune system to attack your body – there is a well-studied link between Celiac disease and thyroid conditions.
Autoimmune diseases include:
And many, many more!
I hope you’ve found this informative! If you’re considering going gluten-free, check out my Go Gluten-Free online coaching package. For just £10 (US$14.50) a week, this 4-week package provides you with the tools and guidance so you can make informed choices about your health and instigate positive and lasting change.
Launching June 24th 2016! Early Birds get a 25% Discount, so register today by emailing me now: firstname.lastname@example.org!
Look after yourself!