Characterized by an immune response to the presence of gluten in the body, gluten sensitivity could be caused due to a wide range of reasons. This condition is also known as wheat allergy, wheat intolerance, and celiac disease, with celiac disease being the severe form.
Gluten is a protein composite found in food processed from grains such as barley, wheat, oats, spelt, bulgar, durum flour, rye, etc. It gives the dough made from the grains an elastic consistency. However, there are some people, who are sensitive to this naturally occurring food. People affected by gluten sensitivity (GS) experience distress on consuming gluten-containing products and show improvement while following a gluten-free diet.
What is GS?
It is a medical condition, where the presence of gluten has an adverse effect on the body. When this protein is removed from the food products, it restores the system back to its original state. It is seen, that people with GS may have to battle change in blood chemistry.
When a person with GS consumes food that contains this protein, it remains undigested and gets deposited on the walls of the intestine. When the substance is deposited on the intestinal walls, the body considers it to be a foreign body. This activates the immune system, which in turn tries to kill the so-called ‘foreign’ invader. This results in production of antibodies against the gluten protein.
Next time, when such a food item is ingested, the antibodies attacks them. This results in an immune response every time it is consumed, which has bad effects on the whole body. There is a spectrum of GS, which ranges from mild to chronic condition. Though the cause of this condition is not clear, research suggests that it is hereditary in nature, that is, it is genetically passed on from one generation to another.
Every time this protein is ingested, the body gives out the autoimmune (destruction of body’s own cells) response. This in turn causes inflammation and damage of the intestinal tract, due to the action of the antibodies. It is often seen, that people with gastrointestinal conditions like IBS, Crohn’s disease, etc., might also suffer from GS. The most common symptom of this condition is gastrointestinal problems.
Diarrhea, bloating, flatulence, and abdominal pain are among other symptoms exhibited by people affected by this condition. Some people may also experience stomach cramps caused due to bloating and flatulence. People suffering from constipation for an extended period of time, could also get affected by GS. In some cases, the person may experience alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea.
Frequent bouts of infections are also one of the common symptoms GS. These infections are caused due to extensive damage to the inner lining of the small intestine. The gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), which is the largest mass of lymphoid tissue in the human body, stores immune cells that defend the body against pathogens. In case of people affected by this condition, the immune system might get weakened, or the balance of microbial flora might get disturbed, which in turn might make these people susceptible to infections or other diseases.
Among the other symptoms of this condition are autoimmune diseases. In this condition, the immune system of the body attacks its own organs and tissues. This leads to destruction of cells/tissues of the body. It may give rise to a condition called ‘leaky gut syndrome’. Due to this condition, immune system dysfunction or inflammation may be caused.
A number of people affected by this condition experience irritability, mood swigs, depression, etc. Muscle weakness, chronic fatigue, and joint pain are also among the other symptoms of GS. Skin rashes like eczema, boils, psoriasis, are some of the common symptoms seen in children affected by this condition.
A number of infertility problems may also occur due to GS. Miscarriage, irregular menstruation, and delayed puberty may also be observed in girls. A sudden change in weight may also be indicative of this condition.
In case any of the aforementioned symptoms appear, the help of a medical expert should be sought. The health care professional will be in a better position to treat the condition. At the same time, he/she will ensure that the condition does not worsen.