What is Gluten Free?2013-10-12T01:49:10+00:00

Let’s talk Cilia. Sounds like a pretty word – doesn’t look so pretty when you are Gluten Intolerant.


This bread is sad. 

Our guts are a fascinating place. Not only do we build our immune system in our guts, they are first to tell us something is wrong. In fact, close to 80% percent of our immune system cells line the gastrointestinal tract. That’s where it all goes down.

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages your small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.

Think of eating, taking vitamins, being a good doobie – but none of it helping your health. You are getting colds all the time have no idea why. For me, it was becoming more and more pronounced, I was working in surgery at the hospital and seemed to always have a sinus infection or come down with bronchitis. I never understood why, but assumed it was because of the patients and high germ environment.

When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by attacking villi—the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine. Picture looking at a giant kitchen sink, ripping open a bag of flour, throwing it in the sink and turning on the water. What does the flour do? It sticks and mats down the sink. It won’t go down the drain. Now picture throwing vitamins at the sink. That is your gut. Your body mats down the villi, the vitamins rebound and aren’t absorbed. There goes your whole paycheck at Wholefoods.


Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, their immune system is low and they feel like crap.

Healthy villi vs damaged villi pathology stain:


Celiac disease is both a disease of malabsorption—meaning nutrients and your vitamins are not absorbed properly—but more importantly, an abnormal immune attack reaction to gluten. To this day, we don’t know why this happens, it is a broken trigger in our genes. Sometimes it becomes activated after pregnancy, childbirth, severe emotional stress among other environmental factors. It is thought we carry these genes but they are “switched on”.

Other times, we can see trends in our health. For example, it is thought that if someone has chronic anemia for no reason (low iron) we are not absorbing iron, possibly due to the inability to.

Other autoimmune conditions have some relationship – such as many autoimmune skin conditions like eczema.

There are tests out there to rule out whether or not someone has a gluten intolerance. Outside of cutting the gluten out and doing an elimination diet. You have to ask yourself how you feel when you eat wheat.

Gluten was making me feel:

– Tired very often

– Joint pain in wrists and ankles

– Swelling in wrists and ankles

– Swelling of face and hands

– Stomach pains

– Eventual anxiety (years later)

I noticed I couldn’t drink beer (made from wheat), or eat pizza anymore (dough), then oats, then brown rice without being so bloated. Not that I ate pizza and drank a lot of beer, but when I did or ate bread I would swell up like a balloon. I would get that “gluten hangover”, my hands and joints would ache and be swollen and often times, was also holding on to those last 5lbs due to the gluten bloat.

According to the Mayo Clinic – Here are symptoms of Celiac Disease

  • Anemia, usually resulting from iron deficiency
  • Loss of bone density (osteoporosis) or softening of bone (osteomalacia)
  • Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Damage to dental enamel
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Nervous system injury, including numbness and tingling in the feet and hands, and possible problems with balance
  • Joint pain
  • Reduced functioning of the spleen (hyposplenism)
  • Acid reflux and heartburn

Many people will argue that oats and rice are naturally gluten free. However, the way that we manufacture our food in the US sometimes gives way to cross contamination.

Therefore, your oats likely have gluten in them and may cause the same reaction. It really is up to you to figure that out – so try, taste, add – after eliminating all gluten. Eventually, you will start from zero and bring back some foods. White rice isn’t as bad, particularly “risotto” rice.

Lastly, “night shade vegetables”. These are your peppers, tomatoes. The skins on these veggies are disruptive to some stomachs, but for others not as much. Again, general rule is to avoid them, but up to you.

What tests are ordered:

  • AGA (antigliadin antibodies)-IgA
  • AGA-IgG
  • tTG (anti-tissue transglutaminase)-IgA
  • EMA (anti-endomysial antibodies)-IgA
  • Total serum IgA


What the heck is IgA – what is the relationship?

In our bodies, antibodies are produced by the immune system in response to substances the body perceives as a threat. Even if they are not foreign really, our immune system still sees them as a threat and attacks itself. In Celiac or Gluten Intolerant patients – it attacks those villi. The reason is again unknown but is thought to be a “glitch”. IgA is the principal immunoglobulin responsible for respiratory and intestinal mucosa. Basically, IgA is the protector of our sinus related, lung related and stomach related events. A significant portion of celiac patients are IgA deficient.

There is some fascinating research out there between igA and autoimmune diseases. But for me, I grew up with eczema and autoimmune family conditions like psoriasis that I think eventually triggered gluten intolerance. It all kind of related. Outside of an elimination diet, I was recently tested for IgA, IgG and IgM due to working in immunology/allergy at my job.

I in fact was low IgA. Typical in most gluten cases.

All I can say is, this is a great way to take charge of your health. Do the research, don’t let things go missed because small changes can truly change your life.

Now it’s my job to be creative with what I choose to put into my body and how it will treat me back. That doesn’t mean food can’t be delicious! 🙂






Photos courtesy of