Why Gluten May Be Making You Sick
Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, barley and rye. It’s a main ingredient in breads and pastas, but it’s also found in a wide range of other products. Sensitivity to gluten, known as gluten intolerance, is a condition that affects about one in 20 people in the United States.
In some people, gluten triggers an immune system response as if it were some kind of alien invader. Many of the symptoms often resemble the effects of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and can include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Headaches and fatigue
- Acid reflux
Is It Serious?
Celiac disease is the most extreme version of gluten intolerance because it tricks the immune system into attacking the body’s own tissues. If you have this condition, gluten triggers antibodies that flatten the tiny hairs inside your intestines. These hairs, called villi, are vital for soaking up the nutrients from food during digestion.
In this case, treatment from your NYC gastroenterologist is vital because the consequences of untreated celiac disease are very serious. They can include:
- Itchy, blistered skin
- Joint pain
- Dental enamel damage
- Reduced spleen function
- Early death
Dr. Shawn Khodadaian of Manhattan Gastroenterology on NYC’s Upper East Side will run tests to determine whether you have celiac disease or a milder form of gluten sensitivity. It’s important to undergo these tests before eliminating gluten from your diet so that the tests can conclusively provide a correct diagnosis. Gastroenterology tests can include:
- Blood tests. Elevated levels of certain antibodies in your blood can indicate a reaction to gluten. The blood tests also gauge the seriousness of your condition. It can determine whether celiac disease or gluten intolerance is causing your symptoms.
- Following the blood tests, your New York City gastroenterologist may order a procedure in which a small instrument is inserted down your throat to look at the villi for damage.
- Taken at the time of the endoscopy, a biopsy provides the digestive doctor with a tiny sample of your small intestine to test for celiac disease and cancer.
Don’t Be Confused
The side effects of gluten have taken center stage on the latest media food circus. The Food Business Network predicts the market for gluten-free food will reach about $6.2 billion by 2018. Though you may feel some relief by jumping on this bandwagon, know that you could be masking symptoms from another disease, such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Intestinal infections
- Chronic fatigue
One of the reasons celiac disease and gluten intolerance have been under-diagnosed is because they closely resemble these other conditions. You need the exact gluten tolerance tests to make sure you don’t suffer from something else; something that may requires a much different treatment.
Dr. Shawn Khodadadian, a best in class board certified Upper East Side NYC gastroenterologist (GI doctor). He is a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas and gall bladder.