Over the last several years there has been a huge interest in how gluten affects many different disease processes. Lots of people have found that a gluten-free lifestyle has rid them of issues like digestive problems and allergies. This leads one to wonder if there is any relationship between a gluten-free lifestyle and diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2.
Gluten is a protein which is found in barley, wheat, rye and all foods that are made with these grains. Many people with a gluten sensitivity have something called celiac disease which is a digestive disorder. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, their body reacts by causing damage to the small intestine. They often experience such uncomfortable symptoms like abdominal pain as well as nutrient deficiencies caused by the body's susceptibility to make use of nutrients in the food.
It is estimated that about 1% of the total population has celiac disease, and it is more common in people who also have Type I diabetes. In fact, an estimated 10% of people with Type I diabetes also have celiac according to the American Diabetes Association. Type 2 diabetes is not severely correlated with celiac disease, but it is possible for an individual to have both.
Unfortunately, the only way a person can manage celiac disease is by completely avoiding any foods that have gluten. Even a small trace of gluten is the same as having a huge plate of it in a person who has celiac disease. However, following a gluten-free diet will also prevent permanent damage to someone's body and help them to feel better. Thankfully, there are many gluten-free alternatives available on the market today.
While not everyone who has problems with gluten has celiac disease, there are some people who have a condition called gluten intolerance. When these people eat foods that have gluten, they also experience some uncomfortable symptoms but tested negative for celiac disease. In other words, they do not have actual damage that shows up in their small intestine.
For diabetics, going completely gluten-free may present its own set of challenges. It's important to take a look at the ingredients in any gluten-free food before consuming it for the same reasons that you would be careful eating any other kind of food. Of course, natural foods like fruits and vegetables are always going to be gluten-free so they are a safe bet for someone who is experiencing these challenges wherever they are Type 2 diabetic or not.
The key is to interact closely with your doctor about your concerns with gluten and how it relates to your Type 2 diabetes.