Prescription medications often carry an array of unwanted side effects. For those who suffer with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease, those side effects might even include abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, irritability, ADHD, and arthritis. That’s because many prescription medications are coated with gluten, a wheat protein that causes more than 300 undesirable side effects for an estimated 3 million Americans (i).
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to tell whether or not your prescription medications are coated with gluten. This little known fact is particularly taxing on millions of men and women, many of whom devote hours each day to living a gluten-free lifestyle to avoid the chronic pain and discomfort. It’s a big issue, one that has landed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a lawsuit to either ban the practice, or at least require adequate labeling to warn prescription holders of the gluten content of their medications.
“Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to the question of the prevalence of gluten in either OTC or prescription medications,” says a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness in an article published by the Wall Street Journal.
There is another side effect to gluten consumption that is often overlooked, even by those who suffer with allergy or Celiac disease. That side effect is oral decay, and it has the potential to lead to infection, gum disease (periodontitis), and increased risk of stroke and heart disease.
Gluten and Tooth Decay
To understand how gluten may cause tooth decay in individuals who have an allergy or Celiac disease, it’s helpful to first understand the process of re-mineralization. Contrary to popular belief, teeth are not bone-like structures that remain static over time. Tooth enamel is actually in a continual state of losing— and gaining— minerals, which makes teeth more similar to the skin and nails than to bones. This process is called mineralization, and it is vital in keeping teeth strong and fortified.
However, teeth cannot get re-mineralized when the right nutrients aren’t absorbed by the body. For those who suffer with a gluten allergy, the characteristic side effects of intestinal swelling and inflammation are all it takes to inhibit nutrient absorption and slowly prevent tooth enamel from becoming re-mineralized naturally. Let’s take a closer look at how irritation reduces the bioavailability of nutrients, which can ultimately lead to cavities:
1. Gluten Causes Irritation and Swelling
For individuals with a gluten sensitivity or allergy, the gluten protein causes mild to severe inflammation and swelling in the small intestine. Those with Celiac disease experience an even more sever reaction, as gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction that causes the body to attack itself. Over time, both sensitivity to gluten and Celiac disease can permanently damage the villi of the small intestine (ii).
2. GI Irritation Decreases Nutrient Availability
In addition to the mild to severe discomfort that gluten may cause, individuals also experience a significant reduction in nutrient availability. Swelling, inflammation, and intestinal damage impair the body’s ability to extract and utilize nutrients from daily meals. When this happens, the body cannot nourish itself with key nutrients like vitamins A, B, C, E, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, and a variety of other essential trace minerals.
3. Nutritional Deficiency Leads to Cavities
Over time, the cells of the body begin to feel the effects of nutritional deficiency. In the mouth, this means teeth do not receive the minerals they need to re-mineralize the enamel and protect against tooth decay. Slowly, damage accrues along the enamel until dental caries and cavities are formed.
The Holistic Connection
In addition to gastrointestinal (GI) complications and cavities, gluten can cause a variety of other long term health complications. A full list of signs and symptoms is made available online at Celiac.org, and the most common include:
- Iron deficiency
- Unexplained fatigue
- Excessive pain in the bones and joints
- Arthritic pain and flare-ups
- Degradation of bone composition (osteoporosis)
- Depression, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness
- Numb and/or tingling sensations in the extremities
- Headaches, migraines, and seizures
- Dermatitis herpetiformis, an itchy rash that spreads across the skin following ingestion of gluten
A Holistic Perspective on Diet and Dentistry
The best way to build a life-long healthy smile is to give the body everything it needs to re-mineralize teeth naturally and efficiently. At Assure A Smile, we take a holistic approach to dentistry, and we believe that your teeth will enjoy a much healthier lifestyle through proper nutrition, diet, and care.
Readers are also invited to speak with a friendly member of our front desk by calling 305-274-0047.
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