Is gluten the hidden cause of your family health problems?

Coeliac disease is one of the most common, long-term health issues. Though erroneously believed to be prevalent only in Europe and other western countries, it has been convincingly reported in India, mostly in the North. A chameleon-like health problem, it is likely to be missed and misdiagnosed. 

Non-Coeliac gluten sensitivity is, however, more common. Gluten sensitivity is often hereditary, so could it be the hidden cause of your family’s health problems?

Gluten is the name given to a type of storage protein found in grains. All grains contain these storage proteins, but the specific ones found in wheat, barley and rye trigger an immune reaction in susceptible people when they are eaten. This immune reaction produces antibodies that can damage the lining of the small intestine, causing bloating, wind, abdominal pain, bulky stools, poor absorption of nutrients and weight loss.

If eating a gluten-grain affects or damages other parts of the body, other than the gut, it’s referred to as non-Coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) including tiredness and recurrent mouth ulcers.

Less is known about NCGS at present, but it is estimated to affect between 7-35% of the population, depending on how it is defined. If the part of the cell that makes energy (the mitochondria) is affected, fatigue that can range in severity from feeling ‘tired all the time’ through to chronic fatigue can result. If the inflammation manifests in the joints, it can cause arthritic symptoms and severe pain. In children, gluten sensitivity is linked to attention deficit disorders, aggression, autistic spectrum behaviours and a myriad of common conditions such as asthma, eczema and ‘failure to thrive’. The list goes on!

The great news is that gluten exposure is something you can control. If gluten is underlying your health problems, then cutting it out of your diet can have a dramatic impact on your life and health. The Gluten Free Diet has gained a lot of press recently, both positive and negative, as it is hailed by some as contributing to weight loss and health improvements, while others condemn it as an extreme, faddy diet. But for those with coeliac disease, or gluten sensitivity, eating gluten free is a medical necessity. Foods that should be avoided include ordinary (gluten-containing) wheat, rye, barley and flours/products containing these.

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