Feeling Bloated After Eating That Bagel? Read This!
Are you one of the millions of people who love bagels for breakfast or bread for dinner? Let’s face it, bread is one of the staples in the food chain that has sustained hungry eaters for centuries.
So why is there so much talk about the negative effects of gluten consumption? Bread is supposed to be healthy, right? This may be true for most people, but not for others who have symptoms like bloating and diarrhea. Some of my patients even complain of fatigue, weight loss and maybe muscle and joint pain. If I delve further into their eating habits to determine the root cause of their problem, I find nine times out of ten that their symptoms are related to a gluten sensitivity.
What is gluten sensitivity and how do you know if you have it? If you are asking yourself this question, you are not alone. let me explain.
“Gluten” is a family of proteins found in wheat along with oats, rye and barley. Gluten sensitivity is caused by an immune response to the gluten. A simple blood test can tell if you have specific antibodies to gluten. An inherited form of gluten sensitivity is called celiac disease and may affect 1 in 133 people. Celiac disease is often diagnosed through a biopsy of the small intestine, which can reveal physical damage. With age, other forms of gluten sensitivity or allergy may develop.
What happens if you keep eating gluten?
Some of the symptoms of gluten sensitivity are felt in the digestive tract. Others are more generalized. The body releases chemicals during many immune responses that can cause the vague symptoms of joint pain, fatigue, and muscle aches.
If the gluten-sensitive person continues to eat gluten-containing foods, the body will continue to make antibodies against gluten. This immune response causes physical damage to the lining of the small intestine, making it harder for the body to absorb nutrients. This leads to diarrhea and weight loss. Eventually, if this is not checked, the damage can be life-threatening. Fortunately, the small intestine has the ability to regenerate healthy cells, and it will recover over time when gluten is removed from the diet.
What if you are gluten sensitive?
The following are just a few things you can do if you suspect you might have some of the symptoms described above:
• Contact your doctor and ask for a blood test to determine if you are sensitive to gluten.
• Look for foods made from oats, quinoa, rice, corn, millet and amaranth.
• Ready meals such as frozen macaroni and cheese will have the gluten content listed on the packaging.
• Website on gluten free recipes, products and local support groups available online.
• Ask your store to offer tours that highlight gluten-free items on the shelves.
• Request your local market to expand gluten-free options.
• Restaurants and cruise lines often have gluten-free options for pizza, pasta, and bread.
• Because gluten sensitivity has become so well known, you may find that if you ask for gluten-free options when you eat out, others in your group will also ask about it.
• If tempted, ask to take away baskets of crackers and bread after other patrons have helped themselves.
Keep your digestive tract healthy!
Once you’ve eliminated gluten and your digestive tract is healing, there are ways to keep it functioning well. Eat a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables. Drink a glass of water with a spoonful of psyllium husk at night. This adds fiber and helps remove unwanted material from the body. Yogurt can help restore the balance of gut bacteria, which is important for digesting food.
Damage caused by gluten sensitivity can affect the body’s ability to process food. Your digestive system may need some help to get healthy again. Here are some natural ways to help with healing.
• Take a multivitamin as a damaged gut absorbs fewer nutrients from food
• L-Glutamine is helpful for healing the small intestinal mucosa
• A probiotic supplement can help restore the good bacteria in the gut
• Digestive enzymes can help your system digest food while restoring the natural enzyme balance
• Dietary fibers such as psyllium and flax can help the intestines function efficiently
If you’ve been gluten intolerant for months or years, be patient. Once you eliminate gluten from your diet, give your body time to heal. Avoid the bakery counter and eat healthy, gluten-free foods instead. A gluten-free meal plan can lead you to delicious nutrition that’s better for your overall health!
Mark Rosenberg, MD
Institute for Healthy Aging
Thanks to Mark Rosenberg, M.D.