The following article was written by Melissa Diane Smith for Against the Grain Nutrition. The Going Against the Grain Group is a members-only nutrition service for people who eat gluten free or grain free for optimal health.
"There are good reasons for men to pay attention to symptoms early. Every single person I meet or hear about with gluten intolerance is female. I feel like the only guy who has it," writes one man on a celiac forum.
Do men really have gluten intolerance far less often than women, or do they pay less attention to symptoms that are common signs of gluten intolerance?
No one really knows for sure. No studies have evaluated the prevalence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity in men and women, but two to three times more women than men are diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in the gut to gluten. The difference could be because women tend to see doctors more often than men and therefore are more likely to get diagnosed, some gluten sensitivity experts say.
“I don’t see any reason why there would be that much of a difference in the prevalence between men and women,” says Stephen Wangen, ND, founder of the Center for Food Allergies and author of Healthier Without Wheat. “I think gluten intolerance probably affects just as many men, but men either try to ignore their symptoms, grin and bear them, or don’t realize they’re brought on by something in their diet.”
Dr. Wangen speaks from experience. He had on-and-off troubling symptoms, including chronic ear infections, skin breakouts, swollen knuckle joints, gas, diarrhea, and weight loss, at various times in his life. It wasn’t until he was sitting in biochemistry class in medical school at age 27 that he read a line about celiac disease in a textbook and realized that he might have the condition. He took a blood test that screens for celiac disease and found out he did.
Other men discover they are gluten intolerant in other ways. Lon Lott, a 51-year-old landscape contractor, credits his wife with putting him on a diet free of gluten and other food allergens and solving his ulcerative colitis. One month after he began eating gluten free, he stopped taking the expensive medication he was on and has not had a single flare-up of the colitis for the past two and a half years. “I don’t think I would have found this solution to my health problem on my own,” he says.
Daniel Roberts, a 30-year-old customer service representative, experienced symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), including lack of focus and hyperactivity, since grade school. Although he was diagnosed with an allergy to wheat when he had severe asthma in high school, he did not take the allergy seriously and did not strictly avoid gluten until he married his wife Jodi. When Jodi started cooking gluten free for him three years ago, he noticed a tremendous improvement in his ADHD as well as his digestion and immunity.
On an Internet forum, one man wrote, “I am not gluten intolerant, but I have found I feel much better not eating gluten.” But, men, take note: A positive response to a gluten-free diet is a strong indicator of gluten intolerance. There are no definitive tests to diagnose non-celiac gluten sensitivity, so when blood tests for celiac disease are negative, the most helpful test for detecting gluten sensitivity right now is to eliminate gluten in the diet for two to three months and see if uncomfortable symptoms go away or lessen.
Celiac disease often goes undiagnosed for years and sometimes decades, and it seems to hit men particularly hard. Research shows that men with celiac disease develop female-predominant diseases such as iron-deficiency anemia and autoimmune diseases at the same rate and with the same severity as women with celiac disease. Men also appear to have a greater degree of malabsorption of nutrients, manifested by worse bone density – and celiac disease may progress faster in men. These are all good reasons to pay attention early to symptoms that might be gluten related.
Women, you can help, too. If you think the man in your life has gluten intolerance and won’t admit it, you can persuade him to see a doctor. You also can cook gluten free for the two of you or for the whole family, without even mentioning the food is gluten free, Dr. Wangen says. "When women do this, men often reap the benefits."
Article Courtesy: Dr. Stephen Wangen