If you’ve been to a grocery store at any point in the last few years, chances are you’ve come across a section of “gluten-free” products. What’s more, you’ve likely seen new labeling on your usual purchases declaring it to be a gluten free food. Gluten, which occurs naturally in grains like rye, wheat and barley, can cause frustrating medical issues for some individuals, hence the recent increase in gluten-free goods. Friends, family and media outlets alike have probably already told you about Aunt Mary’s Celiac Disease, the new gluten free snack, and so on. But what is gluten intolerance, really?
Genuine gluten intolerance (like Celiac Disease) is an auto-immune disorder that causes your gastrointestinal tract to react to gluten by attacking otherwise healthy intestinal tissue. As a result, sufferers find themselves dealing with symptoms like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and others. If the nutrient-absorbing villi of the intestines are severely damaged, the patient may suffer malnutrition, leading to serious health concerns like depression, anxiety, infertility, osteoporosis, anemia and more. Infants and children who struggle with gluten intolerance can also suffer from failure to thrive, stunted growth, tooth enamel defects and even a marked delay in puberty.
It’s important to note, however, that not all sensitivity to gluten-containing foods represents a true intolerance. To determine whether your body is genuinely gluten intolerant, you’ll want to leverage the expertise of a licensed gastroenterologist. Through a thorough examination and a series of appropriate tests, your gastroenterologist can help you determine whether you have a true gluten intolerance—and find an optimal solution.