You have tested positive for celiac disease but don’t want to go gluten free. It’s costly, inconvenient, and you don’t like the taste. So you refuse to follow a gluten free diet and just live with your symptoms, hoping they’ll go away.
Celiac disease (gluten enteropathy) is not a mild food allergy. It is an autoimmune disease. If you do not adhere to a strict lifelong gluten free diet, you are at increased risk of developing an aggressive form of intestinal cancer, thyroid cancer, and more.
Common Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
- Abdominal Cramping
Chronic lower abdominal cramping that feels like a ‘band’ squeezing your gut is a common symptom of gluten intolerance. It is caused by your immune system repeatedly attacking your intestines, which leads to inflammation and pain.
Many with gluten intolerance develop a condition called leaky gut syndrome. In leaky gut syndrome, the lining of your gut becomes thin and porous, allowing undigested food particles to leak into your bloodstream. This can cause hay fever-like symptoms such as sneezing, post-nasal drip, itchy ears and throat, and sinus pressure.
- Joint/Muscle Pain
Joint and muscle pain is another common complaint among those who are unable to digest gluten. The inflammation caused by gluten intolerance is rarely limited to the digestive tract and often spreads throughout the body as your immune system continues to destroy its own healthy tissue.
- Thyroid Disease
Both Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease have been associated with undiagnosed celiac disease. The link is so well-established that most people with autoimmune thyroid disease are now automatically being tested for gluten intolerance.
- Brain Fog
Those with gluten intolerance often describe feeling as though their brains are wrapped in a thick layer or gauze and being just ‘out of step’ with reality. This brain fog can lead to a staring gaze, difficulty with concentration and memory, and general mental confusion.
Lesser-Known Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
Research has shown that neurological disturbances are associated with positive antibodies against gliadin (gluten). Having difficulty keeping your balance is an often-overlooked sign of celiac disease.
- Mental Illness
Mental health problems like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia have been linked to inflammation of the brain caused by gluten intolerance. Lowered serotonin levels in your enteric nervous system (gut brain) are believed to be the cause of gluten-related mental illness.
- Canker Sores
A sensitized immune system can lead to the development of canker sores in your mouth. These are not the same as the oral herpes associated with colds and flu. They are almost always associated with untreated autoimmune disease.
- Chronic Fatigue
The chronic inflammation, over-active immune system, and nutritional deficiencies associated with celiac disease can lead to the development of chronic fatigue syndrome. Your body simply becomes exhausted from its constant battle with the never-ending inflammation caused by gluten ingestion.
- Skin Rashes
Leaky gut syndrome can cause an over-production of histamine in your body, leading to eczema, psoriasis, and a gluten-specific skin disorder called dermatitis herpetiformis. Dermatitis herpetiformis is an itchy, blistery rash that can spread all over your body.
Why Eating Gluten Slowly Destroys Your Health
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. If you have celiac disease or even a milder form of gluten intolerance, your immune system treats this protein just like an invading bacteria or virus. Each time you eat gluten, your immune system creates antibodies to eradicate the offending protein and in so doing, causes chronic inflammation in your digestive tract.
Your intestines contain small hair-like structures called villi. These villi are responsible for taking in vitamins, minerals, and other nourishment from the food you eat. In a healthy intestinal tract, these villi are raised and able to successfully absorb nutrients. If you have celiac disease, however, your villi become flattened and blunted, unable to effectively do their job. This can result in nutritional deficiencies.
The Standard American Diet consists primarily of highly-processed foods and those who eat it are exposed to gluten at every meal. Doughnuts, cereal or toast for breakfast, a fast-food burger for lunch, some vending machine pretzels for a snack, and a buttered biscuit with your evening dinner adds up to a ton of gluten for the day.
If the above is a familiar menu for you and you are unable to digest gluten, your digestive system will never get a break. Your intestinal villi will remain flattened and your immune system will stay on high alert, causing chronic inflammation. Eventually, your immune system will wear itself out and no longer be able to function the way it was designed.
Untreated Celiac Disease Leads to Cancer and Early Death
Ignoring celiac disease and pretending there is nothing wrong with you will only worsen your health problems. The same goes for occasionally “cheating” on your diet. Even the slightest crumb of gluten can trigger an immune response and recurrence of symptoms. This is especially true if you’re new to the diet and still going through the recovery process.
If you have celiac disease and do not follow a strict gluten free diet, you are at a greatly increased risk for developing the following:
- Enteropathy-Associated T-Cell Lymphoma (EATL)
EATL is a high-grade, T-cell non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that occurs in the middle portion of your small intestine. This condition is specifically related to celiac disease. This fast-growing aggressive lymphoma has no standard approach but is generally treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Even with this, prognosis is generally poor.
- Papillary Thyroid Cancer
The most common of the four main types of thyroid cancer, there are an estimated 10,000 new cases of papillary thyroid cancer diagnosed each year. This condition typically strikes women in the 30-50 age range. Studies have shown this form of thyroid cancer is more prominent in those with celiac sprue.
- Duodenal Adenocarcinoma
Duodenal adenocracinoma begins in the lining of your duodenum and spreads outward to other organs. It accounts for 40-50% of intestinal cancers and, according to published research studies; there is an 80-fold increase in the development of this type of cancer among those with untreated celiac disease.
- Heart Disease
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, those with gluten sensitivity are at increased risk for the development of heart disease. The study examined 30,000 patients from 1969 to 2008 and the findings revealed that even those with elevated gluten antibodies but negative intestinal biopsies were still at a greatly-increased risk for chronic inflammation leading to heart disease.
Gluten Takes 6-8 Weeks to Completely Leave Your System
If you have celiac disease or are sensitive enough to gluten that it causes the symptoms mentioned earlier in this article, adhering to a strict gluten free diet is the only way to treat the condition and significantly lower your risk of cancer and heart disease.
If you are new to the gluten free lifestyle, you may have tried the diet for a couple of weeks but found it had no effect. This is because it takes 6-8 weeks for gluten to completely leave your system. Furthermore, it can take several months to a year to recover from all of the symptoms associated with this disease.
What’s more, commonly overlooked sources of gluten can make being strictly gluten-free difficult until you learn everything you have to avoid. This is why it’s so important to speak with a dietician or an expert on the gluten free diet so you are able to cut every source of this offending protein from your life.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that can only be treated with a lifelong adherence to a gluten free diet. This diet is not a fad; it is the only way to prevent the development of life-threatening disease. It may be difficult at first but once you get started, you’ll be amazed at how much healthier and vibrant you feel!
Join the Mailing List