Have you ever experienced that horrible bloated feeling after a large sandwich or burger? Do you often want to lie out flat on the floor after lunch or dinner to stretch out your tummy and relieve those feelings of fullness and discomfort? Do you sometimes experience severe fatigue and brain fog after a big pasta meal? These feelings could be related to your body’s inability to process wheat, known as gluten intolerance.
Gluten is one of a number of proteins found in wheat. If the gluten molecule is able to pass through the gut wall, it can activate localised immune cell into producing an inflammatory response. Normally the cells lining the gut wall form very tight junctions and don’t allow large molecules such as gluten to pass through. However, a ‘leaky gut’ might occur after a tummy bug in which the cells become irritated and more porous. It is also known that some people are more susceptible than others to gluten due to their DNA containing particular genes that recognise the gluten protein as foreign. In these individuals their immune cells become activated when exposed to the gluten protein and these cells start recruiting other immune cells into the area and producing antibodies. This is known as coeliac disease. The outcome – a very sore tummy, bloating and sometime cramping and diarrhoea in severe cases. In the longer term gluten can damage your small intestine, resulting in nutritional deficiencies. Additionally, the inflammatory molecules can move via the bloodstream to other areas of the body, such as the brain, skin, and joints and cause further inflammation and discomfort.
Unfortunately, there is currently no magic pill to cure coeliac disease. If you think you may have some of the symptoms of gluten intolerance the first thing to do is to ask your doctor for a blood test. If this comes back positive, you will then need to remove all gluten from your diet. Soon you should notice you can eat a large meal without it being followed by feelings of nausea and bloating. Over time your sore joints or muscle aches may become less severe. Maybe you will notice your ability to concentrate improves and you start feeling more energised.
Foods that contain gluten include all wheat based products such as breads and pasta, as well as foods that contain a number of other grains for example couscous, rye, barley, semolina, buckwheat. However, it is not all bad news! Vegetable, fruits and meat are all still fine to eat and in fact will help provide the anti-oxidants needed to start the healing process and repair the gut.
To begin an elimination diet and your path to wellness, the best approach is to get support from a functional medicine nutritionist. I can provide you with a professionally designed food plan containing food lists and recipes to make the transition to gluten free easier for you. Importantly I have personally experienced this transition and understand some of the issues you will face and can offer support and guidance. I can also assure you within a few months your energy and vitality will re-appear alongside improvements in your overall health.