Could you be allergic to gluten, or could you just have a sensitivity to gluten? Turns out, there's a difference. Only a small percent of the US population—1 to 2%—has the actual autoimmune condition known as celiac disease, where exposure to wheat gluten, rye, barley and related proteins can cause a severe immune response. That said, there’s a growing number of people who appear to have what’s now being called non-celiac wheat sensitivity, a condition where eating gluten causes symptoms such as pain, acne, diarrhea, bloating, or constipation. Neurological symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog have been known to happen as well.
Not long ago, media outlets would poke fun at gluten sensitivity, suggesting it was a fad or an issue made up in your head. Now, a recent study out of Columbia University Medical Center has revealed that individuals with a gluten sensitivity do indeed have increased intestinal permeability, and more markers of chronic inflammation than healthy individuals. The good news is the study also showed that these symptoms improved after adhering to a gluten-free diet for six months.
Gluten may be an issue for anyone who has been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, digestive problems, skin issues, depression, neurological issues, or any chronic illness that hasn’t been able to be diagnosed—symptoms are your best guide. If you’re feeling good and digesting food well, you’re likely processing gluten just fine—no need to give it up. However, if you’re dealing with one of the issues listed above, giving up gluten might actually help you! But how can you know for sure?
To find out for sure if you have a sensitivity to gluten, you have a couple options. One includes taking time off work, going to a doctor's office to wait for who knows how long (do appointments ever happen on time?), asking for a test to be ordered—which may or may not even be covered by your insurance—sending off your blood to a lab (or even having to go back for another visit to get tested), more waiting, and finally receiving results that are impossible to understand.
Another option is to remove all gluten-containing foods from your diet for SIXTY days. Read labels carefully and avoid any foods you are not sure are clear of gluten—including restaurant meals. Then, when the two months is up, eat a bowl of barley and see how you feel. This option only allows you to see if you have a sensitivity to gluten though and no other foods. Plus, you have to wait a long time to figure it out. Wouldn't you rather know as soon as possible so you can get your health in order?
OR you can take out the guess work, the constant waiting around for answers, and taking time out of your day to go to a doctor's office (who might not even order the test for you), and instead opt for something easier. EverlyWell offers an at-home food sensitivity test that not only tests for gluten but 95 other foods found in common western diets. Want to figure out what's causing your stomach problems? This test will eliminate the trial-and-error process and put you on the right track.
Fortunately, even if you do discover that gluten is an issue for you, giving it up is not the torture it once was. Now you can find everything from rice pasta to gluten-free pancake mix—just be sure to choose foods that aren’t packed with sweeteners and additives. Limit packaged foods and do your best to eat a whole-foods diet. But first thing's first: it's time to find out what's really going on with your body.