In this installment, we will discuss one of the most interesting and current topics in our field: food allergies and sensitivities. Over recent years, gluten-free groceries and menus have become increasingly available and widespread, following the demand to cater for gluten-free diets. Here, we will review the difference between Celiac Disease and Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity while examining current literature on adopting a gluten free diet to aid in symptoms.
First off, lets define the word gluten. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is the general name for the proteins found in wheat that help foods maintain their shape or elastic consistency. The big three products that contain gluten are wheat, barley and rye. These ingredients are usually found in the most staple foods in our society, including pastas, cereals, beer and bread. While this posed a serious problem to people in the past, gluten free options have grown immensely in recent years.
So what exactly is Celiac Disease and Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity? Who suffers from these conditions? What are the symptoms?
Celiac Disease affects roughly 1% of the general population and is a chronic immune mediated disease of the small intestine. Celiac Disease generally occurs in patients who have a genetic predisposition for the disease and have been exposed to gluten. While the disease was originally thought to occur in a younger population, recent data suggests that the loss of gluten tolerance can occur at any point due to unknown environmental triggers. Symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, abdominal pain and fatigue. Celiac Disease is diagnosed with blood tests, as well as small bowel biopsy and treated with a gluten free diet.
While the medical community has recognized Celiac Disease for years, Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) has been an emerging area of interest for researchers, practitioners, and the general public. Classically, Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity includes symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Other symptoms include rash, headache, fatigue, foggy mind, and depression. NCGS differs from CD in diagnosis. While CD has particular biopsy and blood work results, NCGS does not. The diagnosis is mostly clinical, with patients noting the benefits of a gluten free diet. NCGS is an increasingly popular research topic, as the prevalence is estimated to 3%-6% of the general public, with some reports estimating up to 10%. The “US Perspective on Gluten-Related Diseases” notes the importance of recognizing Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and its growing role in clinical medicine. At the Center of Natural and Integrative Medicine, we have had the privilege to help hundreds of patients with simple dietary modifications. Patients that once presented with non-specific symptoms such as diarrhea, foggy mind and depression have improved greatly with the changes suggested by our practitioners.
This review merely grazes the surface of these subjects. We hope you can join us for a free seminar on April 16th, 2015 at our office to delve deeper and learn more regarding this topic.