By J. Manuel Cordova, M. D.
Internal Medicine & Geriatric Specialist
(Edited by Maria Montenegro)
You might have heard about ‘Gluten’ and the importance of a ‘Gluten-Free’ diet. Gluten consists of the proteins glutenen and gliadin and is found in grass-like grains such as wheat, barley and rye. It is a chewing gum-like substance used in many foods that you eat on a daily basis and is part of the outer covering around rice and wheat. It is used as an additive for protein in food and also to add texture and elasticity in foods.
Like many other foods, the pesticides, antibiotics and other products added in the production process today are different than it was 15 years ago. Many of these additives are directly linked to cancer, disease and allergic reactions that we were never exposed to in the past. Gluten is part of that process.
Unfortunately, too many decisions involving food processing are motivated by profit instead of health and nutrition.
Certain people react to gluten as to an allergy, but the negative impact to everyone from an auto-immune standpoint is what you need to understand better. Medical studies in recent years show that our bodies do not digest gluten properly.
As adults, you can become allergic to foods or environmental exposures that were previously no problem for you. There are three types of Gluten health issues that you should be aware of:
Non Celiac – Gluten Sensitivity
Wheat Allergy or Wheat Intolerance
Celiac disease involves the lower digestive tract and can be diagnosed by a blood test and clinical data. The body reacts to Gluten and creates tiny hairs on the intestinal wall that absorb nutrients, not allowing them to pass on to other parts of your body or be absorbed in the blood stream. This can eventually result in serious health problems if not treated properly.
Non Celiac or Gluten Sensitivity is harder to diagnose, but if symptoms are present, a Gluten-Free diet is probably best to confirm or rule out the condition. Some minor symptoms may include bloating, gas and bowel irregularity. Major symptoms consist of severe headache, anemia and, ultimately, various cancers if not treated early.
Wheat Allergy can manifest itself in many ways and is sometimes confused with Gluten Sensitivity. You may have stomach pain or many other symptoms, even hives. Normally a wheat allergy will create sudden response or reaction to a product, whereas gluten reaction to the body is experienced over a longer period of time.
Also, if you are Lactose Intolerant, adding gluten to the diet can cause additional health problems.
Candida is a fungus that occurs in the mouth, intestines, vagina and skin. It is a common problem and is usually not serious unless the growth becomes extensive. If you have Candida, Gluten may worsen the condition.
Try to avoid foods and drinks unless labeled ‘Gluten-Free’.
Some Items to Avoid:
Products with Barley,
Good Items not containing Gluten:
Fresh meats, fish & poultry
(not breaded or marinated)
Fruits, Potatoes, Vegetables,
Most Dairy Products
Wine & Distilled liquors
Certain other products may contain gluten such as lipstick, lip balm, medications and vitamins that use gluten as a binding agent, and certain toothpaste.
Trace amounts in the diet can cause damage even though you may not have signs or symptoms.
Stay Healthy! The more you know about products, foods and drinks that can cause harm to your body, the healthier you will be. If you have gastrointestinal disorders first see your Physician.
Comments and questions are always welcome.
Dr. Cordova is an Internal Medicine and Geriatric Specialist who lives full-time in Lakeside.