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Gluten Intolerance: Foods to Eat and to Avoid

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Many studies have shown that gluten can elicit pathogenic immune responses and hypersensitivity reactions in susceptible individuals. Digestive discomfort is a characteristic symptom of gluten intolerance. Other signs can include fatigue, headaches, iron deficiency, joint pain and itchy skin. Gluten is a collective name for the proteins found in some grains like wheat, barley and rye. Because of its ability to bind and provide thickness, it has become a common ingredient in flavorings, sauces, ice creams and syrups.

Generally, gluten intolerance refers to three medical conditions. Among the three, the most severe form is celiac disease, which affects approximately 1-3% of the population worldwide, especially in Western societies. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that occurs more often in people with a family history of the condition. Early diagnosis of celiac disease is important, as it might have complications if untreated, such as malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage or even cancer in rare cases. The third condition is non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It is more frequent in adult females. It shares common signs with celiac disease except for intestinal damage and permeability.

Wheat is among the top eight food allergens in the United States. It’s more common in children, but around 65% of youth could outgrow the allergy by the age of 12. Why does it seem that gluten is suddenly becoming a health concern today? Today, wheat is cross-bred and genetically modified for higher yields, and chemicals are widely used on crops. One study also suggests that certain food additives may trigger celiac disease.

So far, there isn’t a solution yet for the three gluten-related disorders we’ve discussed. Avoiding ingredients that are derived from any one of these grains is essential. Some gluten-free grains and seeds include rice, amaranth, buckwheat, chia, quinoa, flax, and millet. Research shows that gut microbes can stop certain food allergies by maintaining the integrity of the intestinal barrier. Taking probiotics could help increase the good bacteria in the digestive system and may assist in reducing symptoms of bloating, gas or constipation.
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