by Dr. Aimee Warren
Those of you who know me know that I am definitely not one to jump on the latest diet craze bandwagon. In fact, my natural tendency is to avoid them like I avoid running into my hot ex-boyfriend in the grocery store so he doesn’t see me in sweatpants with baby spit up all over my clothes — I run the other direction…fast. But a gluten free diet is one diet trend that I’ve embraced both personally and in my medical practice and there is a growing body of research to back it up.
Gluten is a protein found in products such as wheat, barley, and rye. In the past, a gluten free diet was solely recommended as a treatment for people with celiac disease. People with celiac disease have a severe reaction to this protein which causes inflammation in the intestines and can cause symptoms such as weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. However, in the recent years, many people who do not have celiac disease are finding relief from many conditions by cutting gluten out of their diet. Researchers are discovering that this subset of patients may be suffering from another gluten related disease called non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) can have a multitude of symptoms related to gluten intake without any blood markers that identify them as gluten intolerant. In fact, there is no specific diagnostic test for NCGS, which can make it difficult for physicians to discover and treat it. What’s more, common to this disease are complaints of fatigue, low energy, and foggy thinking which are non-specific and can be present in many other disease states. A red flag for NCGS should be raised in any patient with these symptoms and accompanying gastrointestinal issues such as gas, bloating, cramping, constipation and/or diarrhea. Other symptoms where NCGS should be considered include chronic skin rashes or acne, behavioral issues, chronic headaches, and joint pain.
The treatment for non-celiac gluten sensitivity is the same as for celiac disease – a complete eradication of gluten from the diet. If I have a suspicion that one of my patients has a gluten sensitivity, I recommend a trial elimination of gluten for at least 6 weeks; if there is no improvement in symptoms after that time, they may resume eating gluten with reckless abandon. More commonly, however, most of my patients that have adopted a gluten free diet feel better (more energy, less GI symptoms), look better (weight loss and better skin), and their numbers look better too (cholesterol comes down and blood pressure improves). As it turns out, going gluten free is a great way to lose weight and should be considered in any patient with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.
Although it is a major undertaking to go completely gluten free (gluten is hidden in a lot of different foods!), there are many gluten free options available in most grocery stores and restaurants, which makes it much easier and do-able. Also, there are tons of websites, blogs, and books dedicated to going gluten free. Try it for 6 weeks and let me know how you do! I’d love to hear about it – except in the grocery store when I’m wearing my sweatpants.
Until next time friends, Dr. Warren
Dr. Aimee Warren is the Medical Director at Kairin Clinic, Temecula Valley’s leading medical boutique. To learn more about their unique integrative practice, visit their website: www.KairinClinic.com or call (951) 225-1003.