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According to a recent study published in the journal Chronic Illness, women with celiac disease are more likely to report stress, depression and disordered eating, even if they are following a gluten-free diet.

The researchers found that women adhering to a gluten-free diet did experience greater vitality, lower stress, decreased depressive symptoms, and greater overall emotional health than those women not following the diet, but even so, they still experienced more stress, depression, and body dissatisfaction when compared to the general population.

Eating gluten-free, even in today’s world of readily available gluten-free fare, is a big adjustment, even when you have been eating gluten-free for years. Food becomes a central focus, rather than an afterthought. Everyday meal planning is required to be sure you have access to the right foods. Shopping at multiple grocery stores becomes the norm. Eating gluten-free creates a whole new way of life. This has the possibility of becoming stressful—and even alienating, depending on the company you keep.

But eating gluten-free—especially in those with celiac, but even in those who are gluten sensitive—is also a ticket to freedom for many people. Freedom from constant digestive issues with seemingly no solution, freedom from wondering, “What the heck is wrong with me?” and freedom from a downward health spiral that itself can cause more stress, dis-ease, and depression.

If you have celiac and you tend to get down about it, take a moment to think about what a gluten-free diet has given you, rather than what it has taken away. Sometimes a shift in perspective is all you need.

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Gastrointestinal problems are among the most common complaints heard by doctors today. Still, many people fail to look beyond the symptoms when seeking relief, and as a result problems can worsen over time. Knowing that roughly 80 percent of our natural immune defenses are found in the digestive tract, it is time to reconsider how we deal with digestive issues—and with that comes getting a better understanding of certain things that can affect a healthy gut.

 If you have persistent gas and bloating, abdominal pain, or chronic constipation or diarrhea, here’s something you should know: More and more Americans are finding out that sensitivity to gluten may be at the root of their problems. But is it just gluten sensitivity or is it celiac disease? And what’s the difference? The following is a brief overview:

 Gluten sensitivity is a broad term used to include many different types of sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat. People who are sensitive to gluten may experience a wide range of symptoms, from mild inflammation of the intestinal lining to abdominal discomfort and occasional irritable bowel, but not everyone with gluten sensitivity develops celiac disease (those who don’t are considered Non-celiac Gluten Sensitive, or NCGS).

 However, people with gluten sensitivity may be experiencing the beginning stages of celiac disease. In essence, gluten sensitivity implies that the immune system cannot tolerate gluten in the diet. As a result, it forms protective antibodies to try to neutralize the gluten, in the same way it reacts to harmful bacteria or viruses. When these autoimmune reactions cause intestinal damage, a person is then considered to have celiac disease.

 Celiac disease is genetic and in some cases may be triggered by a traumatic physical or emotional event. More than 2 million Americans suffer from celiac disease, which can include severe abdominal pain and bloating, chronic diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, fatigue, and in some cases even severe anxiety and depression, skin problems, as well as bone and joint pain.

 The bottom line is this: If you have unexplained, persistent gastrointestinal issues and you and your doctor can’t seem to figure out why, gluten sensitivity may be the culprit. The best way to determine if you are truly gluten sensitive or if you have celiac disease is to have a simple stool test performed. Visit www.enterolab.com to find out more, and once you have the results you and your health care practitioner can take the next step toward better gastrointestinal health.

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