Can you recall the last time you were in a grocery store that didn’t have shelves full of gluten-free products? Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are on the rise worldwide, and the market is responding. Estimates for the number of Americans with celiac disease range from two million to three million, or about 1% of the population. For comparison, about the same number of people have Type 1 Diabetes, another autoimmune disorder.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a hereditary autoimmune disorder. People who suffer from it find that when they eat gluten—a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley—their body responds as though it’s been attacked. As soon as it detects the presence of gluten in the body, the immune system charges up and launches a counter-attack against its own small intestine, damaging the lining so badly that it can no longer properly absorb nutrients.
While about 30% of the population has one or both of the genes related to celiac disease, very few carriers—less than .5%—develop the disease. Diagnosis begins with a blood test and may include an endoscopy. Of the more than 250 symptoms of celiac disease, these are the most common:
- Mental and emotional symptoms: anxiety, brain fog, depression, and irritability
- Gut symptoms: bloating or gas, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting
- Other physical symptoms: anemia, fatigue, headaches, joint pain, liver disease
- Symptoms common in children: In addition to the symptoms listed above, children can also experience failure to thrive, short stature, and delayed growth or puberty.
Symptoms of celiac disease can first appear at any time of life, from babyhood through mature adulthood, and they vary from individual to individual. It is important to treat celiac disease to reduce the chance of developing other autoimmune diseases or issues like anemia or osteoporosis.
The search for a cure for celiac disease is ongoing. Until effective treatments are found, living well with celiac disease requires maintaining a strictly gluten-free diet. Those with the disease must avoid barley, rye, and wheat in all forms. Unfortunately, a diet devoid of all gluten can change your gut microbiome and reduce its capacity to destroy harmful bacteria.
If you suspect you have celiac disease, it is essential to consult with a physician for a diagnosis; do not diagnose yourself. Given the downsides of a gluten-free diet, it should not be followed unless a diagnosis of celiac disease necessitates it.
Is It Gluten Sensitivity Rather Than Celiac Disease?
About 6% of the U.S. population has a sensitivity to gluten. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and difficult bowel movements. Unlike celiac disease, which requires complete avoidance of gluten, gluten sensitivity levels vary from person to person. For example, one person with gluten sensitivity may be fine with up to one or two servings of gluten-containing food each day, while another may feel better by limiting consumption to three or four times a week.
Can Supplements Help?
A gluten-free diet is currently the only way of managing celiac disease; there are no drug therapies. You can, however, try to limit the impact of a gluten-free diet on your gut by supplementing it with a probiotic. Jetson’s Gut Prep can eliminate harmful bacteria in your gut, and it contains bacterial spores that germinate founding colonies when they reach your gut.