Gluten is a protein found mostly in wheat and also in rye, oats and barley. So, all products containing wheat or these other cereals contain gluten. It is the staff that makes the bread chewy. Gluten is one of the main ingredients of the American staple food. How would you make those wonder breads and extra large bagels without gluten? However, recent research shows that gluten can have significant health impact; so much so that it has been marked as the culprit in being one of the causative factors of as many as fifty five diseases including osteoporosis, schizophrenia, epilepsy, lupus, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, anemia and even cancer.
The dimensions of the gluten problem
The problem of gluten intolerance ranging from mild sensitivity to full blown celiac disease has recently been brought to light by a series of research papers. In order to understand the dimension of the gluten problem, you should know the following:
- Celiac disease is diagnosed in one in every one hundred Americans. This means, celiac disease affects three million Americans every year, though many may remain unaware of it. In addition, there is milder form of gluten intolerance which has not yet developed into celiac disease. Taken altogether, one third of the American population may be said to be suffering from some form of gluten related problem.
- A recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association compared the deaths in three groups of people numbering 30000 in total. The three groups were those diagnosed with celiac disease, those with inflamed intestine often causing pain where celiac disease has not developed fully and those with gluten sensitivity. This does include people that have simply pronounced them selves gluten-free. This is not the meaning of gluten-free. It was found that the groups experienced increase in the risk of death by 39%, 72% and 35% respectively. This data clearly shows how gluten intolerance can cause serious complications.
- In another study, it was seen that the incidence of full blown celiac disease have increased by 400% in the last fifty years, but people are hardly aware of it! This is the reason why you can easily call gluten the silent killer.
- This gluten sensitivity is costing the American health care system millions of dollars. The reason why you are not alarmed by gluten related problems is because this is a silent epidemic whose symptoms can often not be identified. In most cases, gluten sensitivity masquerades as a series of unrelated and inexplicable health problems. Different remedies are prescribed and thousands of dollars are spent without ever identifying gluten intolerance as the true root of the problem.
How to find out if you have a gluten problem and deal with it?
If you suffer from chronic ill health which is seemingly unrelated but persistent, it is prudent to check yourself for gluten intolerance. Moreover, there is a myth that only malnourished children who are underweight have celiac disease. Actually, obesity has also been linked to gluten sensitivity.
When you go to the doctor to check for gluten sensitivity, a number of different tests can be prescribed for you. Some of these tests include IgA anti gliadin antibodies, IgA anti endomysial antibodies, IgG anti gliadin antibodies, total IgA antibodies, intestinal biopsy etc. With this array of tests, you can be sure of finding out if you suffer from gluten sensitivity.
However, before you go to the doctor, there is a simple yet highly effective way of identifying gluten intolerance. This is the elimination reintegration diet. This works in the following way:
- If you decide to check yourself for gluten intolerance, then eliminate every source of gluten from your diet for four to six weeks. This means no breads, pasta, wraps, soy sauce(unless gluten free soy sauce)pizzas or processed foods or anything which contains gluten. Keep in mind that even a little bit of gluten will lead to failure of the test.
- Watch your own health during the diet. If you are really gluten intolerant, then you will begin to see small but noticeable changes in your health when you eliminate gluten. All those unexplained health problems may decrease significantly.
- After a month and a half, introduce a little gluten in your diet. Eat bread at one of your meals. If you are indeed gluten intolerant, your body will react and let you know immediately.
So, how are you going to deal with this silent killer? Gluten intolerance is a genetic autoimmune disorder and you cannot take any preventive steps against it. However, it is not very difficult or expensive to tackle the problem once it is identified. You will just have to eliminate every scrap of gluten from your diet. In addition to such obvious sources like breads, pizzas and pasta, gluten is also present in lipsticks, sauces, soup mixes, stamps you lick etc. So, you have to find out about all the sources of gluten and cut them out completely from your diet. A few weeks of gluten free diet will help you enjoy health that you never knew before.
Does Gluten Cause Cancer?
The simple answer is, no it does not cause cancer. There is no proven study that can link gluten to increase the risk of cancer.
However there is an exception to this and that is if a person has Celiac Disease or true gluten intolerance. This will increase chances but only by a little bit.
Actually there are quite a lot of studies that show whole grains in a diet can actually lower your risk for cancer. These would include: wheat, barley, triticale and barley. This is not true for all cancers but it is for common cancers such as prostate, colon, breast and many other lesser known cancers.
The key point to take away from this are fibers are a good thing and great to keep in your diet.