I am gluten intolerant. It’s not that I hate Ralph Gluten who lives next door to me. I just can’t eat wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut or oats. These grains contain gluten, the protein that makes bread rise. I have an inability to digest gluten, so it’s not absorbed in the small intestine and therefore leads to many of the following gastrointestinal symptoms: stomach pain, bloating, distention, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, foul stools, weight loss, and flatulence. Other nonintestinal symptoms are: irritability, back pain, depression, hair loss, vitamin deficiency, anemia, bone pain, fatigue, weakness and more.
Gluten intolerance is specifically known as Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease damaging the vilii (the small projections) of the small intestine. This injuring of the vilii leads to years of recurrence of the symptoms I have already outlined. The disease can rear its ugly head any time, from infancy to late adulthood. Today this often misdiagnosed disease is becoming more and more prevalent as evidenced by expanding gluten free sections of most major supermarket chains across the country. One out of every 133 people has Celiac. So there are more than 2,000,000 people walking around with the disease, 97% of which are still undiagnosed. In addition to the symptoms I’ve already enumerated Celiac can lead to arthritis, systemic lupus, certain intestinal cancers, Down’s syndrome, lactose intolerance, infertility, headaches, psychological dysfunctions, thyroid disease and diabetes. Celiac is primarily a disease in Caucasians and those of European ancestry. Women are more prone to inheriting it than are men.
I am 69 years old and was diagnosed with Celiac at a very early age. My parents put me on a gluten free diet during the Second World War when gluten free foods were almost impossible to secure. I was told I survived, for years, on lettuce, chicken and bananas. My symptoms went away for decades and I ate anything I wanted; lately however, my Celiac has begun to take its revenge: digestive issues, bloating, gas, depression, weakness, fatigue and high blood pressure. Sometimes, I think I can cheat because a little white wheat flour doesn’t affect me immediately. Now I realize, I’m just fooling myself. If I eat gluten I hurt, I’m depressed, my bones ache, can’t focus, can’t lose weight, can’t get on with my life. So that’s that. But there are enough really good gluten free substitutes in the market today, for anybody to find whatever they want. So ENJOY, BE HEALTHY!
Jay B. Ginsburg