Gluten intolerance is a term referring to three disorders in humans resulting from adverse reactions to gluten. Gluten is a protein mostly found in wheat, rye, barley, and oat. The three disorders are namely; autoimmune celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy. Gluten intolerance occurs in the gastrointestinal tract when the proteases are unable to break down gluten proteins. Although the symptoms in all three disorders are almost similar, the underlying causes depend on the gluten protein.
Celiac disease is described as the most fatal gluten intolerance. It is a reaction to a gluten protein called gliadin. This reaction destroys the inner linings of the small intestine causing an abnormal absorption of nutrients and minerals which leads to health complications.
Celiac disease is prone to attack people with a genetic disorder such as Down syndrome, people with diabetes or members of a family ailing from the disease because of the genetic factor. There are many symptoms that arise from this disorder. The variations in symptoms depend on a number of reasons including the amount of time one was breastfed, amount of gluten intake, damage in the intestines and the age one started consuming gluten. The symptoms to this disorder include;
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Abdominal cramps, vomiting, gas nausea and diarrhea
- Nutritional deficiency for example lack of vitamin D
- Pain in joints and bones
- Fatigue and muscle weakness.
- In some cases, rashes on the skin which affects the face, elbows, and knees.
Symptoms that arise from wheat allergy are manifested moments after consuming wheat. They result from an immune reaction to any protein in wheat. Although the allergy may not lead to the damage of the intestines or other organs, a severe case may cause an anaphylaxis. Eye, mouth and throat irritations may also be experienced by a person with the wheat allergy. In addition, the affected person experiences nasal congestion, rashes, vomiting and nausea.
Increasingly people who do not suffer from Celiac disease or wheat allergy have been found to suffer from a gluten-related disorder named Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. Evidence shows that there is a correlation between gluten sensitivity and autoimmune disorder but experts are yet to confirm the cause. Headaches, bloating, fatigue and abdominal pain are the common symptoms of gluten sensitivity.
There is only one way that has attested effective in treating gluten intolerance, adopting a gluten-free diet. This has however proved challenging for various reasons including; wheat is the staple food for many families, a gluten-free diet is not a healthy meal and can lead to deficiencies, the high amount of sugar in the gluten-free diet can lead to obesity and also because gluten is used as a common hidden ingredient in many manufactured foods. Other options are
- Modified grains with minimum pathogenicity
- Use of Enzymatic Therapy to detoxify gluten proteins
- Correcting gluten pathogenicity pathways.
In conclusion, Gluten intolerance is caused by gluten proteins that are found in wheat, rye, barley, and oat. Despite affecting both children and adults there has not been a healthy and optimal way of treatment. It is therefore important for more initiatives to be taken. It is essential for health professionals to receive extra training on the same as well as diet based treatment. Through collaboration and cooperation with each other, support groups can help in disseminating information based on evidence to health care professionals and patients.
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