GLUTEN is a component of many of the most commonly consumed as well as the most pleasurable foods that we crave. And while many of us can enjoy these goodies without fear of accompanying complications, for others of us, according to medical internist Dr Jomo James, consuming these same foods could offset one or a slew of digestive, skin and neurological issues.
“Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats. Most of the world's “staple” foods are made up of one or more types of this protein. Wheat, for example, is almost everywhere — it is a grain used to make or process bread, pasta and cereal. Barley is commonly found in beer and in foods containing malt, and rye is an ingredient in rye beer, rye bread and some cereals,” Dr James explained.
He explained that people tend to develop various medical complications in response to ingesting foods containing gluten because they are allergic to the protein.
“Once gluten is consumed, what happens is that they develop an allergic reaction as their body tries to reject it. When this occurs it can lead to mild to life-threatening symptoms. This condition has various names from “gluten intolerance”, “wheat allergy” to the more severe Celiac disease,” Dr James advised.
He notes that the condition, which goes undiagnosed in millions of people globally, can be identified by way of tell-tale signs and symptoms. He explained that if you experience one of the following consistently within minutes or up to two hours after eating food containing gluten, then it is highly likely that you are gluten intolerant:
•Nausea and vomiting
•Stomach upset (bloating and gas)
• Nasal congestion
•Hives and rash
•Gradual weight loss as your body does not absorb any food. This is most marked in children who have a failure to thrive and often become anaemic.
To confirm whether or not you are indeed gluten-intolerant, apart from the Celiac disease tests you can also do the gluten elimination test.
“Gluten intolerance can be ruled out by trial and error. If, for instance, you find out you're having these symptoms after eating certain foods, you can try a gluten elimination diet. This works by eliminating all foods that contain gluten for two to three weeks (it takes this long to process the residual gluten out of your body) then slowly reintroduce it thereafter. If you notice you feel better after elimination, then worse after introduction, then you are likely gluten-intolerant,” Dr James underscored.
He said this same method can be used to determine with a careful selection which particular gluten protein you are sensitive to, whether it is barley, wheat or rye. If you are unsure about the diagnosis or if the symptoms persist, Dr James says you will need to be evaluated by a medical doctor.
Prevention and treatment for the condition, according to Dr James, is with one simple solution — a complete gluten-free diet.
“A gluten-free diet will take determination and a strong will as most popular if not delicious food contain gluten. It involves reading the labels on food products very carefully. This diet has the added benefit of being healthy and can actually help you lose weight if you desire to,” Dr James advised.