Why is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity So Hard to Diagnose?
To many people, gluten sensitivity is a “made-up disease” and, while it’s true that Science has yet to determine exactly what makes people react to gluten (is it really gluten? is it a protein in the wheat? Pesticides and fertilizers used on wheat?), the fact remains that millions of people have gotten relief from symptoms by going gluten-free. So, regardless of the specific cause, there is something in the content or processing of our bread products that is a problem for many people. And the longer you ignore it, the more health problems you can accumulate as the inflammatory dominoes start to cascade.
- Consistently high levels of inflammation begin to damage cells
- Damaged cells lead to tissue damage
- Prolonged tissue damage inflames the organs
- Symptoms become noticeably worse at this point
- Antibodies increase in the affected organs to try to contain damage
- If this cycle continues, organs can become damaged
Obviously, if you are experiencing severe symptoms, you should go to the doctor and get tested for the root illnesses, but do be aware that inflammation from one problem can lead to more symptoms and more problems, so if your doctor advises you of lifestyle changes you can make that will reduce inflammation, do not ignore this advice until it’s too late to reverse the symptoms.
Even if you aren’t Celiac or diagnosed with a gluten allergy or sensitivity, a gluten-free diet can indirectly relieve symptoms by reducing the inflammation in your body. Below is an article by Dr. Joe Tatta that describes the benefits of trying out a gluten-free diet.
5 Ways Gluten Causes Pain
Dr. Joe Tatta April 27, 2016
The clinical picture of people with NCGS and celiac disease overlap. GI issues, foggy mind, skin rash, depression, anxiety and “fibromyalgia-like” joint pain, muscle pain, leg or arm numbness can arise anywhere from an hour to a day after eating gluten. Neurological problems can develop as well.
The media wrestles with the idea of removing gluten from the diet as a good thing. “No proof,” they say. Others suggest the type of wheat we grow today or the glyphosates (a pesticide used on wheat crops) could be what is disrupting our digestion, and not “gluten” per se. Whatever the exact reason, removing gluten from the diet has been scientifically linked to pain relief.
5 Reasons to Ditch Gluten
- Heals the Gut. You may have heard of the gut-brain connection, and there is also something called the Gut Joint Axis, the connection between our gut and joint health. Eating gluten can trigger the release of zonulin, a protein that causes intestinal permeability, which results in systemic inflammation and immune complexes. Immune complexes then circulate and can cross the synovial membrane, entering joint spaces and depositing in the synovial membranes, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. This cascade leads to more inflammation. Removing the gluten eliminates the inflammatory trigger, and restores gut health.
- Helps Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a disabling condition and one that most doctors can only treat symptomatically because its root cause goes unrecognized. In one study, however, patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain removed gluten from their diets. There was a remarkable clinical improvement with a gluten-free diet in patients with fibromyalgia, completely unrelated to celiac disease.
- Calms the Inflammatory Process. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a chronic and disabling condition marked by pain and inflammation in the gut, has been directly linked to consumption of gluten. IBS patients also report joint pain because gut inflammation is intimately linked with the triggering of joint pain. Getting rid of gluten calms down the immune-mediated inflammatory response, which is that relationship between gut and joint pain.
- Clears the Brain. Our brains are the command centers of our bodies. Healthy brains provide us with clarity and help us perform better in the world. Gluten causes “fog brain,” which has a domino effect on our lives because our synapses aren’t working to their potential and our neurotransmitter communication breaks down. Clear the command centers from gluten that can cross that blood-brain barrier and you’ll lose the fog, enabling you to think and move more swiftly in the world.
- Promotes Weight Loss. One study suggests that gluten intake reduces fat metabolism, making it more difficult to burn energy to lose. To keep our joints healthy and moving, we always appreciate less strain from unnecessary weight. Lose the gluten and lose the added weight.
Gluten can cause pain to persist and its elimination might be the key that unlocks you from a prison of pain. If you’re suffering from muscle pain, joint pain, back pain, autoimmunity try eliminating gluten from the diet for 3-weeks and see how you feel.
Dr. Joe Tatta, DPT, CCN
If You Decide to Try a Gluten-free Diet…
- Be sure to stick to it very strictly for 2-3 weeks to get all of it out of your system
- Don’t just eliminate bread and wheat products — replace them with tasty substitutes so you aren’t miserable and deprived
- Document what you eat and how you feel; an experiment isn’t that helpful if you don’t have any data to show for it
- Don’t be afraid to reach out for support, recipes, and to let others know of your new food preferences — it’s way more common to request gluten-free than it used to be.