“Ananya, have one more chapati. How are you going to survive the day with just one in your stomach?” Ananya groaned as Amma placed one more chapati on her plate, “No Amma I can’t, I already feel bloated.” Amma would not listen and the chapati went forcefully down Ananya’s throat with three glasses of water.
This is what Ananya dreaded every day- the nauseous, sleepy feeling after each meal. Ananya remembered her Appa telling her he had the same problem now and then and that she was like him but this sick feeling made Ananya repulsive towards food.
She just kept losing weight and every time she ate, especially the chapatis, she bloated. Ananya was always irritated and lost,and this affected her studies too. Her parents thought it was because she did not eat well. But Ananya knew it was not that and she wanted to know why?”
Such is the plight of our Indian families. If only Ananya’s parents would have sought medical help then they would have known the real cause of the pain that Ananya was going through. On looking closely, Ananya has showcased the symptoms of bloating, irritability, nausea, sleepiness, and depression which all point towards her being someone who seemed to have a very bad oncoming hormonal change.
However, when we read closely, Ananya tells us that she only feels this specially when she gets up from her meals and that too, most when she has chapatis. This in itself points out that Ananya seems to be Gluten intolerant, has the celiac disease or she has the non celiac gluten sensitivity.
What is Gluten?
Gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, or non celiac gluten sensitivity is caused by gluten which is a composite of mainly two proteins- gliadin and glutenin . It is responsible for the elasticity of food and works as a binding agent which keeps food stuck together just as in the case of dough. It is found in wheat and other related grains like rye and barley.
Gliadin is the main culprit responsible for worsening celiac disease cases and gluten intolerance because our body just finds it too hard to break and digest it. Our immune system mistakes gliadin as a foreign body and it attacks it. While doing so it also attacks the cells in the digestive tract thus causing degeneration of the walls of the intestine. This is mostly in cases of those suffering from the celiac disease, non- celiac gluten sensitivity, and gluten intolerance.
Unexpected sources of Gluten
Like Ananya, patients should be always alert because it can also be present in the most unexpected sources such as some of the cosmetics that we use almost every day like sunscreens, shampoos, lipsticks and lip glosses.
Did you know that it is also present in some of the medicines and even in your dog’s food?
However, the good news is that it does not react by coming in contact to the skin. It causes damage only when ingested or breathed in.
Signs you are sensitive to gluten
In order to determine whether you are gluten intolerant or have the celiac disease one has to undergo the celiac disease panel blood test and an endoscopic biopsy of the small intestine or a rectal gluten challenge.
- Always feeling tired
- Feeling nauseous
- Body ache
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Feeling bloated
- Abdominal pain
- Mental blocks
- Rashes or blisters on the skin
There are 55 diseases that New England Journal of Medicine has listed which are caused by gluten. The diseases can affect a celiac patient and cause gastrointestinal diseases, neurological diseases and also a few others which can damage our immune system. To name a few illnesses, it can cause diseases like Thyroid, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple sclerosis, Irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and epilepsy.
If you feel that you have any of the symptoms it is always better to get a test done as soon as possible as it might lead to long-term complications such as infertility and mental illnesses, auto immune disorders, or cancer.
Should you go Gluten free?
There has been no scientific evidence which says that excluding gluten from our diet would make us healthier, except for those who have a medical conditions. People should not exclude gluten foods from their diet plan for no reason because though these foods contain gluten, they are also a good source for carbohydrates and vitamins and if you are an active sportsperson it is highly recommended that some amount of these foods are required in your diet.
Adopting a gluten free lifestyle just because you think that you might be sensitive to it, is not the right approach. It is always advisable to visit a doctor. Too much of anything is never good and the same saying also goes for foods with gluten. Foods with gluten in them, if taken in right amounts is the best choice a fit person can make for their body for now till science gives its verdict.
Patients can further improve their health and still enjoy delicious meals by following this 7 day meal plan created by, Alicia Calvo, Member of the Medical Advisory Board, Celiac disease Foundation and take inspiration from this blog, Simply Gluten Free.
References  Hill ID, Dirks MH, Liptak GS, Colletti RB, Fasano A, Guandalini S, Hoffenberg EJ, Horvath K, Murray JA, Pivor M, Seidman EG, & North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (2005). Guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease in children: recommendations of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 40 (1), 1-19 PMID: 15625418. ^Back to Top^  Ensari A, Marsh MN, Morgan S, Lobley R, Unsworth DJ, Kounali D, Crowe PT, Paisley J, Moriarty KJ, & Lowry J (2001). Diagnosing coeliac disease by rectal gluten challenge: a prospective study based on immunopathology, computerized image analysis and logistic regression analysis. Clinical science (London, England : 1979), 101 (2), 199-207 PMID: 11473497. ^Back to Top^  Farrell, R., & Kelly, C. (2002). Celiac Sprue New England Journal of Medicine, 346 (3), 180-188 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra010852. ^Back to Top^  Catassi C, Bearzi I, & Holmes GK (2005). Association of celiac disease and intestinal lymphomas and other cancers. Gastroenterology, 128 (4 Suppl 1) PMID: 15825131. ^Back to Top^