There are many reasons for people to follow a gluten-free diet: The Paleo diet advocates for a gluten-free diet. Gluten-containing foods contain lectins, which may not be good for us. Gluten is in a lot of processed foods that aren’t good for us. Gluten is a difficult to digest protein, which may cause digestive upset and inflammation.
I acknowledge that celiac is not the only reason to follow a gluten-free diet. However, celiac disease is a very unique condition. If you feel that your overall health and well-being is improved on a gluten-free diet, you absolutely need to pursue celiac testing. Here’s why:
Celiac disease is the only gluten-related condition that:
- Is genetic.
- Causes damage to the small intestinal villi leading to absorption and nutrient deficiencies.
- Carries a risk of intestinal cancer, lymphoma, osteoporosis, recurrent cavities related to dental enamel defects, central and peripheral nervous system damage, pancreatic disease, other autoimmune diseases or infertility.
- Is associated with increased mortality, exceeding that of the general population by a factor of 1.9 to 3.8. The increased mortality is mainly due to malignancies. The excess mortality is reduced after 1 to 5 years on a gluten free diet.
- Requires lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet.
Unique, increased and life-long risks when you “cheat”
There are dramatic differences in the health effects of gluten on someone with celiac versus someone who does not have celiac. When someone with celiac “cheats” on their diet and exposes themselves to gluten, even minuscule, tiny, parts per million exposures will trigger inflammation and an autoimmune response that you may or may not feel. Continued exposure to gluten will increase your risk of developing other autoimmune conditions, intestinal cancer, osteoporosis, depression and infertility. The risks associated with not following a gluten-free diet are huge in someone with celiac disease, which is uniquely different from someone with a wheat or gluten allergy or sensitivity.
If you have celiac, your family members and children need to be screened for celiac disease, including blood tests and genetic markers. Celiac disease is unique because no other condition that is responsive to a gluten-free diet is genetically linked. If you feel improved health on a gluten-free diet, it is your responsibility to rule out or diagnose celiac disease so that you can inform your family members of this genetic condition.
With celiac you are sensitive to teeny-tiny-miniscule amounts of gluten. This means that you must be cautious about eating in other peoples homes, eating out, sharing cutting boards, kissing, licking your fingers and so on. Even the smallest amount of gluten can make you sick, physically or mentally. Depending on how gluten exposure manifests in you, you may or may not leave a restaurant feeling ill, but your intestine and immune system always knows.
With celiac your intestine is uniquely sensitive. It means that you can’t just take the bread off a sandwich and eat the turkey inside, you must skip the sandwich entirely. You can’t kiss someone goodnight with passionate, reckless abandon, you have to first politely request a teeth brushing and mouth rinse…Or enjoy a close mouthed kiss. No other gluten-responsive condition, except possibly a severe wheat or gluten allergy, requires this level of diligence to a gluten-free diet.
Just ask for the test(s)
If you have celiac and you don’t follow a strict gluten free diet, you will continue to be not well, even really sick or plagued by health problems. If you respond well to a gluten-free diet, and ignore the possibility of celiac, you, and family members who have celiac have yet to be diagnosed, will continue to be at risk for chronic health conditions. If you have symptoms of celiac disease and you feel an improvement in these symptoms on a gluten-free diet, then you need to ask your doctor for more testing.
Advocate for yourself and work hard to rule out or diagnose celiac disease. Please contact me if you are unsure how to proceed at Hana@NourishingResults.com.
Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition or health advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this website.