By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
The more we learn about gluten, the more we understand its powerful effects on our bodies. Gluten is a mixture of two proteins found naturally in wheat, rye and barley. It makes dough elastic and bread chewy.
In people with Celiac's disease, an auto-immune disorder, eating gluten makes their bodies attack th intestinal tissues, flattening the protrusions that line the intestines called "villi", and causing a host of gastro-intestinal problems.
But gluten also causes a host of problems in people who are merely sensitive to the protein. Unbeknownst to me, I am one of those people.
I have suffered from snoring for decades. My snoring was for many years the loud, honking type that you can hear from down the hall.
After losing weight, cutting down on dairy and following other natural remedies for snoring, I settled into what you might charitably call "loud sleeping noises" which thankfully didn' t wake up the house.
Still, too often the snoring still interfered with my getting a restful night's sleep.
I accidentally stumbled on the connection between gluten and snoring. I was on vacation and couldn't find my favorite bread for breakfast, a popular whole wheat brand. My snoring had been especially loud for the first few days of my vacation, according to the group of friends I was traveling with.
Simply because I was too hungry to skip breakfast entirely, I decided to eat a bowel of Cheerios.
Lo and behold, miracle of all, my snoring stopped. Not a peep. I slept like a baby.
Because I keep track of what I eat? I knew immediately that the only thing that has changed was the elimination of the wheat bread. To test my hypothesis, I bought a loaf of wheat bread and ate a sandwich for lunch. Sure enough, the snoring returned, the honking kind.
The Scientific Connection Between Gluten and Snoring and Other Breathing Problems
Scientists first began describing gluten sensitivity as a separate health problem from Celiac disease in the 1980s. Recently, the disorder has been re-discovered.
In 2013, a team of scientists in Italy led by Dr. Carlo Catassi of the Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona described non-Celiac gluten sensitivity as the "new frontier" in this field.
Gluten sensitivity is on the rise. The Italian study cited a New Zealand study that found that 5% of New Zealand children had gluten sensitivity and were avoiding gluten. The scientists also theorized that the incidence of irritable bowel syndrome could act as a proxy for estimating the incidence of gluten sensitivity. The incidence of irritable bowel syndrome ranges in studies from to 16% to 28% of the population in Northern Europe. If these numbers are applied to the US, it would mean that over 100 million of us are gluten sensitive.
In gluten sensitive people, gluten triggers the release of antibodies to fight the presence of gluten, which our bodies perceive as an invader or an infection.
You may then experience reactions similar to those experienced by people who are allergic to an airborne allergen or food. You become congested. You can feel tired and sick.
If you are trying to sleep, the added congestion can cause snoring.
Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity
Scientists have found that gluten sensitivity can produce a range of symptoms, including
Gluten Sensitivity May Raise Your Risk for Respiratory Problems
Many people with gluten sensitivity also report shortness of breath or respiratory problems as a common symptom. Gluten appears to be increasing linked to a number of respiratory illnesses.
A 2012 study from Örebro University Hospital in Örebro, Sweden found that men with Celiac disease have a 39% higher rick for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and women with Celiac disease have an 11% higher risk for this respiratory disorder.