Gluten intolerance is caused due to the adverse reactions of the body to a protein called gluten. It contains 2 components – gliadin and glutenin. On mixing these two components with water, a sticky substance is formed, which has the texture of wheat dough. When the body starts reacting adversely to gliadin, it causes inflammation of the upper small intestine resulting in some health complications. Due to the swelling in the interior walls of the small intestine, the tiny protrusions called villi are not capable of absorbing enough nutrients required for the normal functioning of the body and the internal organs. Due to this, the patient suffers from various deficiencies related disorders.
Though this disorder can be found in all people, it is widespread among individuals of the Northern European descent. Research also indicates that the diagnosis is common in adults between 30 – 45 years and also children (especially in the case of gluten intolerant mothers during pregnancy).
While some of the individual exhibit various symptoms of the disorder, many others do not show symptoms except the damage of digestive tract or small intestine and hence, diagnosis becomes delayed and difficult. Since the disorder is genetic, there is every possibility of the family members to contract the disease.
Some of the symptoms of gluten intolerance include fatigue, headaches, diarrhea, weight loss or weight gain, thyroid disorders, bone damage resulting in weakening, brittleness, thinning, fracture, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, skin disorder which include rashes, itchiness, blisters, eczema and various other allergic reactions, abdominal pain and bloating, passing of fat in stools, joint pains, swelling in various internal and external parts of the body, malabsorption, digestive disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, exhaustion, depression, cramps, numbness, anaemia, brain damage, tingling sensation, behavioural changes, irritability and various other degenerative and chronic diseases.
Pregnant women and newborns are highly affected by this disorder as it may result in serious pregnancy complications due to the mal-absorption of vital nutrients. Birth defects, congenital malformation, neural tube defects are commonly observed in children whose mothers have gluten intolerance defects. The disorder also results in recurrent miscarriages in pregnant women.
The best way to avoid gluten intolerance is to avoid food items containing this protein. Barley, wheat and rye contain this protein but there could be other items that contain hidden gluten content like cereals, bread, cookies, certain medications and vitamin supplements. In addition, breast feeding for a longer time is found to increase the stamina and immunity to this disorder.
Gluten intolerant patients have a high risk of developing gastro intestinal cancer. In addition, there could be a lot of problems related to general health and fitness. Hence, if recurring health problems occur, one has to specifically take a blood test or a biopsy test in order to diagnose this disorder.
Gluten intolerance is also popularly known as gluten sensitive enteropathy, celiac disease (an auto immune disorder due to gluten intolerance), celiac sprue and nontropical sprue. Though the intensity of the disorder may vary between individuals, there is no strict measure as to how much gluten consumption would be tolerated by the body over long periods of time.