GLUTEN: A SERIOUS PROBLEM FOR YOUR HEALTH AND YOUR HORMONES
by Dr. Marianne Beck, DC
|What is Gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and malt which can have a profound negative impact on your health. Gluten is the "glue" that makes bread and dough sticky. It is found in breads, cakes, cookies, pies, bagels, cereals, sauces and gravies, frozen dinners, pasta, boxed rice mixes, soy sauce, beer-the list goes on and on.||
Eating gluten and gluten containing products, in those of us who are sensitive or intolerant to it, causes inflammation in the intestines and atrophy of the villi lining the intestines that are responsible for absorbing nutrients. This causes your body to be unable to absorb essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fats from the food you eat and the supplements you take. If your body can not absorb these critical nutrients, it will not function properly-regardless of how well you eat or how many supplements you ingest!
People who are gluten sensitive may experience a wide variety of symptoms when they consume gluten containing products including bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, nausea, acid reflux and intestinal cramping. It is estimated that 60% of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients have been misdiagnosed and are actually gluten sensitive! However, approximately only 2 in 10 people who are gluten sensitive suffer from gastrointestinal disturbances. Most people suffer from gluten sensitivity without even knowing it! Herein lies the problem! If you suffer with fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, psoriasis, eczema and other skin rashes, constant muscle and joint pain, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome, multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches, osteopenia and osteoporosis, diabetes, thyroid disease, cardiomyopathy, chronic anemia, coordination problems and asthma, gluten sensitivity may be at the root of your symptoms! Current medical research now links ADD, ADHD, OCD and dementia to gluten sensitivity!
There is a lot of confusion regarding gluten sensitivity and how it relates to celiac disease. First of all both are genetic disorders and autoimmune in nature. You can think of celiac disease as the "ultimate" in gluten sensitivity. Or to put it this way, everyone with celiac disease is gluten sensitive, but not everyone who is gluten sensitive has celiac disease. For example, if a person with celiac disease ordered a salad and there were croutons on the salad touching the lettuce, this person would become violently ill even by eating the lettuce that was touching the croutons. Not to mention eating the croutons! A person with gluten sensitivity may eat a crouton or two by mistake but would not get violently ill. However, it is interesting to note that if a gluten sensitive person continues to eat gluten containing foods, that person is prone to developing the more serious consequences of gluten sensitivity which include the host of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases previously mentioned as well as full blown celiac disease!
GLUTEN SENSITIVITY AND THE HORMONE CONNECTION:
Not only can gluten sensitivity impact your skin, muscles, bones, brain and neurological system and gastrointestinal tract, but it can also impact your endocrine (hormonal) system. Gluten sensitivity can place stress on your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands sit above your kidneys and are the stress buffering glands of your body. The adrenal glands produce hormones that repair the body and cope with daily stressors. They also produce our sex hormones as women age and start to enter peri-menopause. When our adrenals become exhausted and can not keep up with the demands placed upon them, a breakdown of bodily systems occurs. Your body systems do not function optimally and become unable to repair themselves. Body function slows down and this leads to fatigue and depression, loss of libido, hot flashes, PMS etc. When you are under chronic stress, your adrenal glands will produce stress hormones at the expense of your sex hormones, especially progesterone. This will lead to estrogen dominance with symptoms such as heavy bleeding, irregular menses, fibroids, endometriosis, breast tenderness, depression and infertility.
When you are gluten sensitive and continue to eat gluten containing foods, you place your adrenal glands under chronic stress from on going intestinal inflammation. This leads to chronic adrenal exhaustion which is a factor in depression, fatigue, hypothyroidism, increased arthritis, fibromyalgia, premature menopause and hormone imbalances. Gluten sensitivity and the resultant stress upon the adrenal glands seems to be quite common but it is rarely diagnosed. Many people are suffering needlessly because they have not been tested for gluten sensitivity.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM GLUTEN SENSITIVE?
If you are suffering from any type of gastrointestinal problems, testing for gluten sensitivity is a must. And, because gluten sensitivity is a genetic disorder, if you have family members with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), thyroid disease, autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis etc, testing for gluten sensitivity may help you to uncover the cause of any problems you are having. Gluten sensitivity can be diagnosed from infancy to the last decade of life. It is unfortunate that many people suffer for many years or their entire lives before being diagnosed. In the United States it is estimated that people suffer for up to ten years prior to a diagnosis where as in Europe, where doctors have more awareness of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, the average time to arrive at a diagnosis is typically within one year! Most medical doctors in our country are "behind the times" when it comes to being aware about gluten sensitivity and the "cutting edge" testing methods for diagnosing gluten sensitivity. Most think only in terms of celiac disease despite recent public awareness campaigns.
If you have one, several or many of the diseases mentioned here, you owe it to yourself to rule out gluten as the culprit! If you are fatigued, suffer from chronic anemia or specific vitamin deficiencies, even though you are taking supplements, you should be tested for gluten intolerance. Recently a patient I consulted with was taking vitamin D3 for over three years yet his blood tests for vitamin D3 never changed!! He was tested and found to be gluten sensitive and not absorbing his D3 supplement!
Testing for gluten can be done with a salvia or stool sample test. These tests will pick up gluten antibodies in the saliva or stool. Keep in mind that blood tests are not accurate in the diagnosis of gluten sensitivity/intolerance. Blood tests are only useful for diagnosing full blown celiac disease.
As you can see, gluten sensitivity is often mistaken for other disorders. The "other disorders" such as thyroid disease, osteoporosis, lupus, diabetes, anemia, dementia, ADD, psoriasis, depression and fibromyalgia are then treated with various drugs. These drugs do nothing for the disease because the underlying cause of the disease is gluten sensitivity. If your condition is caused by gluten sensitivity, no medication will help it.
If you have osteoporosis due to gluten sensitivity and the resultant malabsorption of calcium, no amount of calcium supplementation will help you!
You owe it to yourself to get tested for the now epidemic health threat of gluten sensitivity. Should you discover that your condition is caused by gluten sensitivity, a gluten free diet is a necessity as is correcting the basic problem in your intestine by restoring proper bowel function with an individualized "gut restoration program" and a targeted vitamin and nutrient strategy to restore your health and well being.
If you are finally tired of being "sick and tired", contact Dr. Marianne Beck at Women's BestHealth today. Call 954-782-4855to to set up an appointment.
Women's BestHealth is a functional medicine and nutritional health center specializing in women's health issues and wellness. Dr. Marianne Beck, founder and director, provides natural treatment for menopause, perimenopause, adrenal fatigue/stress, thyroid problems, Hashimoto's, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal problems and autoimmune disease. We offer our services locally inBroward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.
Serving: South Florida (South Fl), Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Sunrise, Oakland park, Pompano Beach, Deerfield, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Miramar, Coral Springs, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coconut Creek, Weston, Hollywood, Plantation, Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.
Marianne Beck, D.C., Functional Medicine Practitioner and Director, Women's BestHealth