As you can see just from perusing grocery store shelves, more and more people are eating gluten-free. However, it’s important to understand that there are many different reasons people eat gluten-free and many different levels of gluten sensitivity.
People who have celiac disease have severe and serious reactions to eating gluten. They often experience significant digestion problems, have overactive or irritable bowel syndrome, show symptoms of leaky gut syndrome (damage of the intestinal walls and digestive tract lining, allowing toxic particles to pass through the lining and into the bloodstream, resulting in immune system reactivity) and experience fatigue, headaches and various other significant health problems. (Click here to read the Mayo Clinic’s description of celiac disease and details of diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.) People who have celiac’s disease need to avoid ingesting gluten of any type.
People who have a wheat allergy (diagnosed or undiagnosed) experience health problems when they are exposed to wheat. The wheat allergy causes their immune system to respond to exposure to wheat. This allergic reaction can range from mild to severe (and even life-threatening). People with wheat allergies have to be careful (depending on the extent of their allergy) because they can have an allergic reaction triggered by exposure to wheat in any form. While wheat is a major source of gluten, many people who are allergic to wheat can actually tolerate other forms of gluten. You will want to get tested and talk to a doctor if you suspect you have a wheat allergy to determine if you need to avoid wheat only or all products that contain gluten of any sort. (Click here to read the Mayo Clinic’s description of wheat allergy and details of diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.)
Most people simply have a gluten sensitivity. This means they are not actually allergic to gluten and do not have celiac disease, but they have trouble digesting gluten (it is actually indigestible, but some people experience more symptoms than others – this is due to their level of sensitivity to gluten). These people are the ones who benefit most from a gluten digestion aid since they will feel healthiest if they avoid gluten in general and take a digestive aid that breaks down the gluten into amino acids the body can handle (as a safety net, or when they stray from their gluten-free diet). There is no test to diagnose gluten-sensitivity, but the Mayo Clinic recommends a gluten-free diet for those who suspect they are sensitive to gluten.
Healthiest When Eating Gluten-Free
The Mayo Clinic says that “gluten damages the inner lining of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients.” (Read the Mayo Clinic’s assessment of gluten and recommendation of gluten-free diet for those who suspect they have a gluten sensitivity here.)
Many people benefit tremendously from eating a gluten-free diet. However, it can be tough to make the transition to this new way of eating. Check out our articles on how to stick to a gluten-free diet and recommendations for gluten-free diet support.