What Exactly Are You Putting on Your Skin?


Are You Gluten Intolerant? Is Gluten Making You Sick?


Is gluten reacting in your system like a poison and making you sick? A few short years ago the word, “gluten” was unfamiliar to most people. Today, this protein (gliadin) naturally found in wheat, rye, barley, (and malt) is frequently discussed and written about in health news circles and the media, and it's found in breads, pastries, pizza dough, and surprising places like beer, canned goods, medications, candy, and condiments. Has all this attention being brought to gluten have you wondering if you could benefit from a gluten-free diet? Since our bodies consider it a a poison it causes a violent and obvious reaction in some people. In others, the reaction is different. It's possible you're unaware it’s even a problem for you. The symptoms can be hidden from you.

For people who's bodies consider it a poison, it goes into defense mode and creates antibodies to block the perceived danger. The immune system then fires the antibodies at this poison to get rid of it. This offender is gluten and it can send your immune system into overdrive. That’s where the problem really starts. Your immune system can fire (attack) where you don’t want it to—like at your gut or your thyroid. These are the two main often, hidden victims of gluten poisoning.

By attempting to banish the poison your body turns against you in the process. This is where celiac disease and auto-immune thyroid disease can begin.

Gluten Sensitivity and Gluten Intolerance may be used interchangeably. These terms help describe any health condition in which the underlying cause is gluten. Gluten sensitivity covers a broad spectrum; from light gluten intolerance, to Dermatitis Herpetiformis (celiac disease attacking the skin), to celiac disease. Celiac disease is the most severe form or gluten intolerance/gluten sensitivity. One out of 100 people are estimated to suffer from this form of autoimmune disorder, making it one of the most common autoimmune diseases. In celiac disease the body attacks the lining of the small intestines when gluten is present, leading to malabsorption of nutrients. Every person living with celiac disease, is gluten intolerant. However, an individual can be gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive, and NOT have celiac disease. It’s also important to note, neither gluten sensitivity or celiac disease are caused by allergies.

(Non-Celiac) Gluten Intolerance or Gluten Sensitivity

Researchers are still trying to understand what non-celiac gluten intolerance really is, and it’s estimated as many as 17 million Americans (approximately one in 18), or upwards of 15% may be gluten sensitive, and most are never diagnosed.

Gluten-sensitive individuals can’t tolerate gluten, and often suffer from a range of gastrointestinal symptoms similar to those in celiac disease. We do know gluten is hard for the body to digest, and it may be a contributing factor to causing sensitivity in some people. However, in people with gluten intolerance their overall clinical picture is generally less severe, and their bodies don’t produce the auto-antibodies found in those who have celiac disease  which is caused by an inherited weakness, thus it tends to run in families. Doctors often attribute the gastrointestinal symptoms to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), resulting in a misdiagnose, and continued suffering for such individuals.

Researchers have also found a difference in the immune reactions for those with gluten sensitivity and those with celiac disease. In those with gluten sensitivity, the body sets up barriers to repel the invaders (gluten). The subjects with celiac disease have adaptive immunity – the body develops specific cells to fight the foreign bodies which are the basis of the autoimmune response. For those with gluten sensitivity a gluten-free diet is the only treatment recommended, although, some may be able to tolerate small amounts in their diets.

If you suspect you may be gluten sensitive, eliminating gluten and following the guidelines below for a minimum of three to four weeks is your first line of action. Then, you reintroduce gluten into your diet. If you feel significantly better off of gluten, or feel worse when gluten is reintroduced, then being gluten intolerant is likely. To get accurate results from this testing method, 100% of the gluten from your diet must be eliminated. It may be well worth the inconvenience of following this elimination diet to confirm any suspicions, as more than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten, and healing the body is how you will feel better.

What Symptoms May Indicate Gluten Intolerance:

Digestive issues; gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Constipation is common in children after eating gluten.

Fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal containing gluten.

A diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as lupus, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, scleroderma or multiple sclerosis.

Migraine headaches.

Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility.

Inflammation, swelling or pain in your joints such as fingers, knees or hips.

Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or the feeling of being off balance.

Mood issues; anxiety, depression, mood swings, and ADD.

Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. These diagnoses indicate your conventional doctor can’t determine the cause of your fatigue or pain.

Keratosis pilaris which causes small, acne-like bumps, which usually appear on the upper arms, legs or buttocks; they usually don't hurt or itch. This is most often a result of a fatty acid, and vitamin A deficiency secondary to fat malabsorption due to gluten damaging the gut and intestinal villi.

If you don’t have celiac disease but want to try a gluten-free diet, consider these tips:

  • Be Mindful of Balance – A restrictive eating plan can hinder your ability to achieve a balanced diet. Choose a variety of foods, including whole foods in their natural state such as fruits and vegetables, which are naturally gluten-free. Eliminate toxic food groups: cereal grains and soy. Supplement with vitamins, minerals, and add probiotics to ensure your body has a healthy balance of gut flora (bacteria).
  • Read Labels – When foods are labeled gluten-free it, doesn’t necessarily mean they are foods that are good for you. Make sure to check the labels to ensure the foods you are choosing are low in saturated fat, sugar, and sodium, and avoid processed foods which are filled with added sugars, bad vegetable oils, additives, or dyes which damage health.
  • Shop Wisely  – By sticking to the outer perimeter of the grocery store, you’ll find many naturally gluten-free and nutrient dense foods including: fresh produce, fresh poultry, meat, and seafood, eggs, and dairy products.

Naturally Gluten Free Foods

These Common Foods Are Naturally Gluten-Free:

Corn in all forms: corn flour, corn meal, grits, etc. But beware as almost all corn crops are GMO, unless they are labeled organic. *Corn has been shown to problematic for Celiacs, even though it’s gluten-free. See below.
Buckwheat (kasha), pure oats, amaranth, millet, Montina, teff and sorghum (Look for oats labeled gluten-free, as oats are sometimes cross contaminated from nearby growing wheat fields) *Oats have been shown to trigger powerful inflammatory responses in Celiacs. See below. 
Potato starch and flour, tapioca flour or starch, cornstarch, arrowroot, guar and xanthan gums
Quinoa (However, this grain contains large quantities of saponins – a plant defense chemical, which severly damages the gut wall and causes leaky gut).
Rice in all forms: white, brown, basmati, and enriched rice. *May be problematic for children. See below.
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Fresh meat, poultry, and seafood
Vegetable oils (Choose healthy oils rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil) Avoid consumption of corn, canola, cottonseed, soybean, safflower and sunflower oil which are high in Omega-6 fatty acids and promote inflammation in the body
Unflavored milk, cream, and butter
Most yogurts
Aged cheese, cream cheese, and cottage cheese
Nuts, beans, legumes, and flours made from them
Raw Honey
Peanut Butter
Lecithin, vinegar, plain spices
Soy (but not soy sauce) Bear in mind, soy is not a health food unless it’s a fermented soy product such as, tempeh, miso, natto, pickled tofu, stinky tofu or fermented bean paste

Celiac Disease (the word “celiac” is from the Greek word “abdominal”) is the most severe form of gluten intolerance/gluten sensitivity. Gluten needs to be avoided completely to avoid intestinal damage. It’s a lifelong change. Gluten is a toxic protein for those with celiac, and because of the genetic weakness, the protein gets trapped under cells lining the gastrointestinal tract (the villi). This autoimmune response then attacks the villi, which is needed for the absorption of nutrients. When villi are destroyed, the absorption of vitamins and minerals is compromised. This attack on the wall of the intestines is why it’s an autoimmune disease –  the immune system attacks it’s own healthy tissue, which leads to leaky gut (intestinal permeability) and inflammation. Inflammation in the body causes a host of symptoms and diseases.

It’s worth mentioning, those with celiac disease may still suffer from symptoms if they simply follow the gluten-free diet above, which is also the same one prescribed by most doctors. This is because there’s a laundry list of other foods that drive inflammation and sustain the intestinal permeability (leaky gut). Yes, gluten is the worst offender but a Celiac’s gut is severely damaged and highly susceptible to poor food choices. If the “other dietary triggers” contributing to the disease are not removed, a person suffering from celiac disease will remain sick. Going gluten-free usually is not enough.

Most cereal grains contain a toxic protein called prolamines, which are knurly, tough proteins humans can’t digest. These proteins irritate the gut lining and sneak their way past the intestinal wall. Prolamine in corn is problematic for those with celiac, and the prolamine in oats has been shown to trigger a powerful inflammatory response in those with celiac, in addition, prolamine in brown rice can cause inflammation in the gut of children.

These same grains also contain toxic sugar-binding proteins called plant lectins, which also don’t get digested, but rather bind to the cells on the gut wall and prevents them from completing their normal healing processes. These plant lectins make their way past the intestinal wall and cause leaky gut, triggering inflammation, which also leads to nutrient deficiencies.

A diet high in these grains also reduces the body’s ability to process vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D, and being vitamin D deficient are associated with leaky gut. Until the leaky gut is stopped, damage from celiac disease can’t be reversed.

Inflammation and leaky gut are also caused by toxins produced by bad bacteria. To make a long story short, carbohydrates and sugars are the primary food for the bacteria in our gut. Bacteria live on sugar, that’s normal. But when the delicate gut flora balance gets upset, pathogenic bacteria can quickly take over and cause small intestinal bacterial overgrowth due to the damage to villi of the small intestine. Therefore, it’s important to avoid processed carbohydrates and processed sugars because those with celiac disease suffer from leaky gut and bad gut flora. And we've already learned inflammation triggers leaky gut, and leaky gut triggers inflammation. It becomes a vicious cycle, and the only way to begin healing is to break this inflammation-leaky gut cycle.

Celiac is a multisystem disease, meaning it affects many organs, and a number of conditions may be the presenting symptom of the disease. Infertility, migraine headaches or even seizures may be the first symptoms experienced, making it difficult for doctors to associate symptoms suffered with celiac disease. If you are at high risk of celiac disease – if a close family member has it, or you are experiencing symptoms, a doctor can order a blood test to test for the disease. An intestinal biopsy can also be used to detect the disease.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is the skin manifestation of celiac disease. It is characterized by an extremely itchy, watery blister or rash that is found on the limbs, trunk, face and scalp. The blisters are often mirrored on both sides of the body or face and reoccur in the same areas. The eruptions are often mistaken for and treated as other skin conditions, including psoriasis, infected mosquito bites, contact dermatitis, allergies or “non-specific dermatitis.” In people with dermatitis herpetiformis its been found beside following a gluten-free diet, gluten-free skincare products are a beneficial choice, as certain ingredients in body and skincare products may contain gluten, which tend to aggravate the affected areas.

Many authorities believe no one should consume gluten foods. Considering many, many people never get diagnosed, or get properly diagnosed, I suspect those suffering from gluten intolerance is well above the 15% reported. Perhaps all humans are intolerant of gluten, but in some of us our bodies have managed to adapt to the onslaught of gluten, and not suffer any repercussions. Do you think you might be one of the 15% who would benefit from going gluten free?


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