If you’re highly sensitive to gluten or have full-blown celiac disease, you don’t need any extra reasons to avoid what many are calling the “mutant grains.” You’ve already concluded that wheat and its relatives such as barley and rye aren’t invited to the next dinner party. But many people may still be gluten-sensitive and not know it. In fact, it’s quite common to have an undiagnosed food sensitivity that can cause vague symptoms such as occasional indigestion, headaches, skin outbreaks, brain fog and a whole host of other issues. As these symptoms progress, or simply come and go, many people blame aging, stressful schedules or other causes. However, a growing number of health practitioners are now paying closer attention to possible food sensitivities as major factors in diseases related to inflammation and impaired immunity.
Furthermore, advancements in diagnostic procedures have made it quite clear that gluten can be a common allergen for many people, triggering low-grade chronic inflammation that may not even be noticed. You can have none of the classic digestive symptoms, but still have damaging inflammation in many parts of the body. The list of gluten-related health issues is long and includes osteoporosis, periodontal disease and neurological disease.
Some of the more common symptoms produced by gluten sensitivity, whether they’re diagnosed or not, are heartburn and indigestion/stomach pain, as well as bloating and gas lower in the abdomen. As the body struggles to digest the gluten, inflammation ensues and symptoms follow. Did you ever get a stomachache after eating a bagel? That’s probably why. But your gluten problem is more dangerous than you may think.
Indigestion And Cancer
A number of studies, including new research from Rhode Island Hospital, have identified a pattern I’ve observed in my clinical practice for decades: Chronic heartburn and indigestion can contribute to cancer in the esophagus. The overly acidic and chronically inflamed stomach environment can cause what’s called Barrett’s esophagus. This occurs when the cells lining the esophagus become abnormal.
This new study and others suggest a direct link between this degenerative process and the development of esophageal cancer. Although this study didn’t specifically discuss gluten or other food sensitivities as contributing to chronic indigestion and heartburn, and increased cancer incidence, I am confident, based on my experience, that this link will eventually be made. If you have undiagnosed gluten or other food sensitivities, the resulting chronic inflammation puts you at a higher risk for this increasingly common disease. In fact, rates of esophageal cancer are on the rise, similar to rates of food sensitivities — including gluten sensitivity.
Other studies have attempted to link gluten sensitivity to cancer in general, though the findings are mixed. One study showed that there is a higher rate of cancer among people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, though the relationships were unclear. This is a relatively new field of research that I will be watching closely.
Long-Term Digestive Health
The truth is that digestive wellness is at the foundation of our long-term health and vitality. In today’s day and age, the digestive system may work harder than any other system of the body to maintain health. Even for people who claim to possess an iron gut, consuming everything from raw meat to jalapeno peppers, digestive vitality can still be reduced over time with the wrong diet. Impaired digestion can lead to malnourishment, suppressed immunity, metabolic problems, irritable bowel disease, allergies, depression and more serious chronic illnesses as we can see from this study. So if you have food sensitivities or not, optimizing digestive function will help put your overall health on the “right tract.”
If you suffer from digestive woes, it’s important to test for food sensitivities with a qualified, integrative health provider. This will guide you in developing an optimal eating plan to help you pave the way to long-term digestive vitality. In addition, certain herbs and nutrients can help support and enhance digestive function over time.
Here are some recommendations:
- Probiotics and prebiotics: These are two of the most important supplements for healthy digestion. Probiotics are critical for digestive and overall health and have been extensively researched for their numerous remarkable benefits. Prebiotics provide food and a nourishing environment for probiotics to thrive.
- Zinc: This is an important mineral for digestive health, and it also plays roles in hormone regulation, immune health, tissue repair and neurological function.
- Proteolytic enzymes: These enzymes, such as amylase, protease and lipase, increase digestive strength, improve nutrient absorption, and support immunity and vital energy.
- Digestive Formula: A unique formula containing a blend of “warming” herbs, such as pomegranate seed, licorice root, a specific mushroom blend, enzymes and nutrients, can be used to alleviate digestive discomfort and promote long term digestive health.
- Medicinal mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, cordyceps, poria and tremella can help strengthen digestion, improve nutrient assimilation, detoxify the body and support immunity and overall health.
When functioning optimally, digestion is a highly organized and efficient system that ensures vitality throughout the body. Experts now call the gut “our second brain” and “the other immune system” because of its heightened neurotransmitter and immune functions. Often, problems in other areas first manifest as digestive discomfort, and vice versa. So for optimal health and wellness, it’s important to “follow your gut.”
To access more in-depth information on digestive and overall health, visit www.dreliaz.org.