Headache, migraine, joint pain, fatigue, irritability, bloating and digestion problems: these are just a few of the common symptoms that may arise from an intolerance to gluten. This condition is fast gaining recognition as a key factor in the presentation of chronic health issues.
Consumption of the gluten protein (found in wheat, rye, barley and oat products) ultimately results in damage to the absorptive lining of the small intestine, inducing the body’s natural immune response. It is this inflammatory reaction that generally leads to digestive disturbances and nutritional deficiencies, however in a vast majority of cases we are beginning to understand that gluten can be detrimental not only to the digestive system but also the entire body.
Not to be confused with the less common but more severe Coeliac Disease (an autoimmune malabsorption disorder), gluten intolerances and their autoimmune, inflammatory nature may also play a role in the development and progression of such systemic conditions as anaemia, chronic fatigue, neurological disorders, thyroid dysfunctions, type 1 diabetes, asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, infertility and depression.
Similarly, signs and symptoms in a child may include abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence, poor weight gain, delayed growth/puberty, fatigue, irritability and behavioral problems. With research currently suggesting that at least one in three Australians have gluten sensitivity or and one in one hundred and fifty have diagnosed coeliac disease, the recognition of a gluten-related problem is vital to ensure optimum growth and development of children.
The good news is that such intolerances can be easily reversed through eliminating gluten from the diet. The mucosal lining of the small bowel, including the tiny finger-like projections lining its surface (villli) are then able to repair and absorb nutrients without the repeated irritation caused as a result of the body’s inability to digest the gluten protein.
Gluten sensitivities are most easily identified via elimination, so if you suspect a gluten sensitivity or are simply interested in achieving a healthier way of life, why not experiment with at least one month of a gluten-free diet? Gluten-free bread, pasta, flour and other products are readily available from any organic food store and are currently being stocked in most mainstream grocery stores. While a gluten-free diet certainly demands commitment and discipline, the benefits of improved health and well-being far outweigh the disadvantages.
Coeliac Awareness Week is from the 13th -20th March 2011. To learn more about gluten sensitivities and the effect they may be having on your general health, simply ask any of the practitioners at Shirley Rd Chiropractic at Crows Nest or Norwest or visit www.coeliacsociety.com.au
For more information regarding migraines and gluten sensitivities click here.
Helms, S. (2005) Coeliac Disease and Gluten-Associated Diseases. Altern Med Rev. 10(3): 172-192.
Hadjivassillou, M. et al. (2004) The Immunology of Gluten Sensitivity: Beyond the Gut. Trends in Immunology. 25(11): 578-582.