Are you not healing because your body thinks that foods such as coffee, corn, potatoes, chocolate and milk contain gluten? Do you still experience symptoms of gluten ingestion even though you are certain that no gluten is entering your body?
If so, it could be that you’re eating foods that don’t contain gluten, but your body reacts to them as if they do. This phenomenon is called gluten cross-reactivity.
Since so many people with celiac disease continue to experience symptoms after eliminating gluten, scientists have been looking into a reason why. One theory is gluten cross-reactivity.
What is Gluten Cross-Reactivity?
Gluten cross-reactivity refers to the possibility that other foods in your diet are producing the symptoms that you associate with gluten ingestion. Essentially, when your body creates antibodies against gluten, those same antibodies also recognize and potentially attack proteins in other foods. When you eat those foods, even though they are gluten-free, your body reacts as though they aren’t. Even if you do a great job of maintaining a strict gluten-free diet, you could possibly still suffer all of the symptoms of eating gluten simply because your body believes that you are.
In simple terms, this is basically a case of mistaken identity. But it’s important to note that everyone develops specific and individual antibodies to gluten, meaning that not everyone with celiac or gluten sensitivity will have symptoms of cross-reactivity. Also, very few people report cross-reacting to all of the potential foods.
What Are The Most Common Cross-Reactive Foods?
Common foods that cross react with gluten are amaranth, buckwheat, chocolate, coffee, corn, dairy, egg, hemp, potato, quinoa, rice, soy, tapioca, teff, and yeast.
Is There a Way to Test for Cross-Reactivity?
Cyrex Laboratories offers a blood test called the gluten cross-reactivity panel (Array 4), which tests for reactions to common gluten cross-reactors. Cyrex Labs reports seeing positive results around 25% of the time. It is important to keep in mind, however, that these results are correlative. This means that while they show you are sensitive to other foods besides gluten, they don’t prove that it is due to cross-reactivity. The rest results simply could mean that you have additional food intolerances.
Why is Gluten Cross-Reactivity Controversial?
While all of this seems to make a lot of sense, there currently isn’t a whole lot of scientific evidence backing it up. People have all kinds of food sensitivities and allergies, so it’s very possible that some people with celiac are also sensitive to foods like corn and egg. We also know that lots of people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity also have lactose intolerance, so that can always be a likely culprit if dairy is causing problems.
Critics of gluten-cross reactivity theories say that we need to stop blaming all of our physical symptoms and ailments on celiac disease and on gluten – our bodies deal with all kinds of different issues and conditions and gluten, while easy to blame, is not always the culprit! Other critics also make note that only individuals with celiac would be susceptible to gluten cross-reactivity, because only they develop antibodies to gluten. While individuals with gluten sensitivity have reported symptoms of cross-reactivity as well, more research is certainly needed to explore this issue.
Other Important Points
There are other reasons why your body may be continuing to show symptoms of gluten ingestion even though you’ve eliminated gluten from your diet. Keep in mind:
1. Cross-contamination is a serious issue and can be especially prevalent in grains that don’t contain gluten but are manufactured in plants that process gluten. This holds true for things like buckwheat flour, white rice flour, soy flour, and similar items. Make sure these are certified gluten-free to confirm you aren’t getting a big bag of cross-contaminated flour.
2. The body takes time to heal! It takes time for your body to begin to feel good again after starting a gluten-free diet, especially if you have extensive intestinal damage. The wounds of celiac can take months and months to heal, so it’s important to be patient and stick to a strict diet.
3. Often times when people switch over to a gluten-free diet, they are (understandably) excited and overwhelmed by the huge variety of products out there. It is definitely easy to over do it. But filling your diet with highly processed foods, frozen meals and gluten-free breads can wreak havoc on your system, so keep this in mind if you’re still feeling bad. Instead stick to a diet rich in healthy proteins, fruits and veggies and this should certainly help with any continued digestive fatigue and pain.
Have any of you experienced gluten cross-reactivity? Did eliminating the common culprits from your diet clear up the symptoms?