Many of us are ticking time bombs when it comes to eating gluten and have no clue. I, personally, found out after 50+ years of age that I was sensitive. The general population and even traditional practitioners have many misconceptions on how diet and food sensitivity plays into autoimmune disease and symptoms.
Why is this important? Just because you don’t have gut symptoms, doesn’t mean you don’t have celiac disease (CD) or gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease often, but not always, presents as total gut lining atrophy due to immune sensitivity to the protein gliadin, which then leads to autoimmune antibodies to the gut lining. However, many people with CD are not diagnosed because they do not have gut symptoms but present with fatigue, bone pain, migraines, depression, weakness, or other symptoms.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) however, is missed by current celiac testing because of the other possible gluten proteins that are not tested. Also, as NCGS only results in partial atrophy of the gut lining, many people will experience symptoms that are outside of the gut. This is because food particles that normally cannot get through the gut lining and antibodies leak into the circulation and set up house in other organs, creating autoimmune reactions and disease of those tissues.
Many people with autoimmune disease often have gluten sensitivity as a root cause issue. As there are no true “allergic” reactions from eating gluten, it can take 10, 20, 30 or more years for a diagnosis of disease and experience of gut and/or non-gut symptoms before learning that you have a sensitivity to gluten. Unfortunately, most physicians only test people for the true allergic reactions, which will not show the immune responses to NCGS or CD.
In fact, many people never learn that they have a gluten sensitivity which is setting up all sorts of autoimmune issues, because traditional medicine does not test for this gluten sensitivity. Unfortunately, once an autoimmune disease develops, individuals are even more susceptible to developing additional autoimmune disease because the root cause, in this case, gluten, has never been identified and eliminated. In my case, neither my endocrinologist nor primary physician even thought to test for this, which could have put me at greater risk to develop additional autoimmune disease.
So, exactly how do you find out if you have gluten sensitivity? Here are some cues as when you should consider testing:
- Do you have any family members with a history of celiac disease or autoimmune disease?
- Do you have chronic symptoms such as migraines, fatigue, weakness, depression, etc.?
- Do you have a diagnosed autoimmune disease such as but not limited to Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Why should you consider gluten sensitivity testing if you think you have any risk factors? It is estimated that the mortality rates are higher in CD and even higher in NCGS populations and that the risk of not following a gluten-free diet increases risk of mortality 6-fold. It is also known that once you develop one autoimmune disease, your risks are significantly higher of developing additional autoimmune diseases. This is due to the uncontrolled inflammation that results from gluten sensitivity that leads to disease(s).
It took developing Hashimoto’s Disease before I learned that I was gluten sensitive. As my provider would not test, I did my own testing to learn that not only was I gluten sensitive but that the inflammation had led to other imbalances such as gut bugs and nutrient deficiencies that I needed to fix. While I was a nurse and knew that I had a history of autoimmune disease within my family, I had no idea that eating gluten was a root cause of my disease.
Once learning this, I went gluten free, and expanded my knowledge by becoming a Certified Gluten-Free Practitioner (CGP). Then, I became a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P) to help others by providing access to testing for gluten sensitivity, gluten exposure, as well as other food sensitivities that are known to cross-react with gluten.
If you feel that you may have gluten sensitivity and are interested in exploring your history, symptoms, and testing to explore whether you have gluten sensitivity, I provide both testing and online health coaching. My goal is to help gluten-sensitive individuals with individualized healing protocols and resources such as diet apps to support them with following a gluten-free diet as well as other testing and protocols to reduce inflammation and/or pain. Click this link for a free discovery call.
O’Bryan, T. (2016). Ten Facts About Autoimmune Disease and the Role of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. TheDr.com.