EHS Corporate Care
Busy executives often suffer from stress, exhaustion, headaches and other common maladies – yet, these can also signal gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
While gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are considered inherited conditions, sadly, both seem to be on the rise with researchers finding that this dietary staple negatively affects approximately 15 percent of the U.S. population. This may be due to findings that both celiac disease and gluten intolerance can be exacerbated by emotional stress, infection, surgery, pregnancy and childbirth.
In the Western diet, it’s tough to avoid gluten. Gluten is a protein composite that appears in foods processed from wheat and related species, including barley and rye. True gluten, with gliadin and glutenin, is limited to certain members of the grass family, and while the stored proteins of maize (corn) and rice are sometimes called glutens, their proteins differ from wheat gluten because they lack gliadin.
While dietary wheat-based staples such as bread and pasta are easy to spot, gluten is also included in everything from beer and pudding to salad dressing and cold cuts. Plus, labels don’t always tell the full story. Although some gluten can be removed from the wheat flour, it’s impossible to remove 100 percent. Yet, according the Food and Drug Administration, if a certain amount of gluten is removed, the food product can be labeled “gluten free.” This categorization is comparable to the ability to label food products as zero calories even though a serving contains 4 or fewer calories.
There is a significant difference between gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Gluten intolerance is considered sensitivity without much measurable damage, while celiac disease is an immune reaction, a severe, sudden onset allergic reaction to the protein gluten. Celiac is also a disease of malabsorbtion because essential nutrients are not absorbed due to a damaged intestinal mucosa. This is why one of the most devastating symptoms of long-term undiagnosed celiac disease is malnutrition. Sadly, some people with celiac disease may not have symptoms, but malabsorbtion and malnutrition can erode health over years.
Along with minimal symptoms, until recently it was challenging to diagnose celiac disease because symptoms are varied and similar to other diseases. Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, iron deficiency, irritable bowel syndrome, candidiasis, and intestinal infections can all have similar symptoms. In fact, there may be a cross over between gluten intolerance, and some of these illnesses causing a combination of issues made worse by the daily diet.
The only way to resolve this condition is to avoid consuming gluten. If you think you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, make an appointment with your doctor at EHS Corporate Care. Prior to your appointment, continue to eat an ordinary diet including gluten so we can accurately test for raised levels of certain antibodies in the blood. If the results indicate an allergy to gluten, we will evaluate the need to refer you to a gastroenterologist for a small bowel biopsy via upper GI endoscopy to reveal if there is any damage to the villi in the small intestine. From there, we can develop a diet and nutrition plan to heal and protect your future health.
John P. Mamana, M.D.
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