Gluten is a protein that naturally occurs in a variety of grains, including wheat, rye and barley. Certain individuals can be sensitive to this protein. Those who have a gluten intolerance can experience an assortment of symptoms whenever it is ingested, including diarrhea, upset stomach, bloating, abdominal pain, headaches and fatigue.
If you suffer from these symptoms, you may unknowingly have a gluten sensitivity. Following a gluten-free diet may help to relieve your symptoms. Continue reading to learn more about the multitude of benefits you can experience by embracing a lifestyle free from gluten
Gluten intolerance, celiac disease and gluten allergies
Did you know that gluten allergies, gluten intolerances, and celiac disease are different from one another? Let’s look at the difference between these and the symptoms they can cause.
- Gluten intolerance – A gluten intolerance is sometimes referred to as a non-celiac gluten sensitivity or simply gluten sensitivity. It causes a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including depression, abdominal pain, headaches, joint pain, chronic fatigue, and diarrhea. However it does not cause any damage to your intestinal tract.
- Gluten allergy – A gluten allergy occurs when the body's immune system reacts to the gluten found in rye, barley, and wheat. These allergies can cause a skin rash, runny nose, nausea, headaches, asthma, and even anaphylaxis, a potential life threatening allergic reaction that can cause breathing difficulties and shock.
- Celiac disease – Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is sometimes called gluten sensitive enteropathy or celiac sprue. When gluten is consumed, it activates the immune system. This immune response damages the lining of the small intestine, decreasing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Celiac disease causes many of the same symptoms as a gluten intolerance or a gluten allergy.
How enzymes can help heal the intestinal tract
Digestion begins as soon as you put food in your mouth. Your saliva contains enzymes that are used to help break down food. Chewing crushes the food and mixes it with the enzymes to aid in digestion. If your body cannot produce enough enzymes, the food that you eat sits in your digestive tract and begins to rot, causing a multitude of problems, including food sensitivities and food allergies. Food intolerances, such as celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivities, and food allergies cause many uncomfortable symptoms.
To help you better understand how food intolerance can lead to health issues, we need to take a look at the small intestine and what it does. First, the majority of your immune system is located in the gastrointestinal tract, specifically the small intestine. The lining of the small intestine contains special cells that act as a barrier to keep toxins, microscopic food particles, and pathogens like viruses and bacteria from entering the bloodstream. When this lining becomes damaged, the immune system can become compromised. As food particles, toxins, and pathogens enter the bloodstream systemic inflammation can occur and lead to a number of health issues.
When your digestive system becomes compromised due to food intolerances, illness, and chronic stress, it is unable to produce the enzymes necessary to digest food and keep the digestive tract functioning properly. Digestive enzymes can help improve the digestive tract, heal the lining of the intestinal tract, and increase immunity.
Detox for your health
Detoxification is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It helps rid the body of toxic substances, which cleans the intestinal tract, the bloodstream, and the tissues and organs in the body. If you suffer from a gluten intolerance, a detox program can help heal the body and restore it to optimal health. Detoxification involves resting, removing toxins, and filling the body with healthy nutrients. A detoxification program often includes:
- Fasting – Fasting is defined as the practice of abstaining from eating foods or drinking beverages for a period of time. As you fast, the body begins pulling toxins and free radicals from your organs and tissues. It also allows the organs to rest and recover from the damage caused by poor health choices, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors.
- Stimulate your liver – Stimulating your liver can help remove toxins from your body. Drinking plenty of water and eating fresh fruits and vegetablesempowers your body to detoxify. During a detox program, you should avoid eating meats, fats, caffeine, and alcohol. A detoxification program also purges toxins from our liver and bloodstream, which promotes good health.
- Promote elimination – An important part of the detoxification process is elimination. Elimination removes impurities from the body. Drink plenty of water and fluids to help your kidneys filter impurities from your bloodstream. Sweating is another way to remove toxins from your body. Daily exercise is a great way to promote elimination. Finally, eating plenty of fiber will help you eliminate toxins through the digestive tract.
- Improve your nutrition – Once you have detoxified the body, you will need to renourish your body. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, nuts, and whole eggs) helps provide your body with the nutrients it needs. In addition to this, you should take a vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure that the body has the nutrients it needs to promote health and healing.
How to avoid gluten
Gluten naturally occurs in a variety of grains, including wheat, barley, and rye. Oats are naturally gluten-free; however, if it is processed at a factory where wheat, rye, or barley are processed, it could be contaminated with gluten. In addition to these grains, many different foods may contain gluten, including cereals, types of bread, pasta, baked goods (cookies, cakes, bread crumbs, muffins, pastries, and pizza), and snack foods (prepackaged convenience foods, popcorn, flavored chips, crackers, roasted nuts, and candy); therefore, it is vital that you read food labels carefully. Finally, the easiest way to avoid consuming gluten is to eat single ingredient foods.
Certain condiments like barbecue sauce, soy sauce, marinade, cream sauces, salad dressings, ketchup, malt vinegar, and gravy mixes can also contain gluten. You can also find gluten in a number of drinks, including chocolate milk, premade coffee drinks, wine coolers, drink mixes, and beer. Finally, several processed foods like meat substitutes, processed lunch meats and cheeses, canned soups or soup mixes, egg substitutes, ice cream, flavored tofu, and puddings can contain gluten.
Other everyday items including lipstick and cosmetics, oral and dental care products, and playdough may contain gluten as well. Be careful and read labels on herbal supplements, vitamins, minerals, and over the counter medications. Finally, if you take any prescription medications, ask your pharmacist if they contain gluten.
Many people find that they feel much better once they begin following a gluten-free diet, even if they do not have a gluten allergy, gluten intolerance, or celiac disease. Oftentimes, gluten can cause inflammation in the small intestines, which can cause a number of digestive disturbances. With time, this damage can lead to other health issues, including nutritional deficiencies, skin problems, decreased immunity, and much more.
Following a gluten-free diet is difficult; however, it is possible if you thoughtfully plan out your menu. Eat single item foods, read labels carefully, and choose gluten-free cosmetics, nutritional supplements, and oral care products to protect your small intestine and overall health and well-being.