Katherine - posted on 12/17/2010 ( 4 moms have responded )
What is gluten, and why is it a problem? Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains such as barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and sometimes oats (because wheat and oat fields are often rotated). It is extremely difficult to digest, and when an intolerance to it develops due to over-consumption or heredity, it irritates the lining of the intestinal walls, destroying the cilia that absorb nutrients, and causing inflammation and irritation of the bowels.
People vary in the severity of their response to gluten, from sensitivity to intolerance to a severe allergy - a condition known as Celiac Disease. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity include a wide range of other health issues, such as arthritis, acne, eczema, lupus, migraines, chronic fatigue, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowl, restless leg syndrome, depression, autism, dermatitis herpetiformis, etc. You can be tested for gluten intolerance, but it requires that you are consuming gluten at the time of the test so there are antibodies present. Even if you do not have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, your digestion will benefit from a gluten-free diet.
Although awareness of gluten intolerance is slowly increasing, many “conventional” medical doctors don’t make the connection between symptoms and gluten intolerance, because they are trained to prescribe medication and don’t normally have enough time to get to the bottom of the cause of the problem. However, the scientists who study gluten intolerance believe that anywhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of Americans will develop it in their lifetimes. Considering the fact that our industrialized food production and distribution relies on the cheap staple of wheat for most everything, that’s a huge problem! Hopefully as people become more and more aware and demand more gluten-free items from stores and restaurants, that will change. However, the best thing to do is just eat whole foods and you can avoid the whole problem of food additives containing gluten.