Gluten Sensitivity And Urinary Tract
Immune mediated conditions such as gluten sensitivity enteropathy are fairly common in general population (though most cases are generally overlooked or ignored due to mild symptomatology). Statistics reported by Nelsen (1) suggested that the prevalence of gluten sensitivity enteropathy in general population is 1 in 250 individuals.
Urinary Tract Symptoms In Gluten Sensitivity
Food allergies are mostly genetic or environmental and may induce an allergic response in the body upon exposure to allergen. In individuals with gluten sensitivity, intake of gluten products (pasta, pizza, etc) stimulates mast cells to release histamine and other inflammatory chemical mediators.
Besides gut and other organs, the lining of urinary tract is also supplied with mast cells that respond to gluten (which is present as an essential component protein in various grains such as barley, rye, wheat, spelt, triticale, and faro) in the similar fashion and induce an allergic response to cause:
- Inflammation of urinary tract (interstitial cystitis).
- Disturbing symptoms such as pelvic pain, urgency and increased frequency of urination and tension in the pelvic region.
Statistics reported by Interstitial Cystitis Association (ICA) suggested that approximately 12% of diagnosed cases of Interstitial cystitis have co-existing gluten sensitive enteropathy that responds fairly well to gluten-free diet.
In long standing and poorly managed cases, the severity of symptoms increases and interferes with normal day to day operations; for example, individuals develop scarring of bladder lining that affect the storage capacity of bladder. Consequently, a person may have an urge to void as many as 25 times a day.
What Are Some Helpful Tips To Improve The Symptomatology?
In order to improve your symptoms, modify your diet. This suggests maintaining complete abstinence from gluten and gluten products. Other tips are:
- Avoid gut or bladder irritants (like alcoholic beverages, caffeinated drinks).
- Limit your intake of acidic foods/ beverages (soda drinks, soy sauce and vinegar).
- Adopt healthy lifestyle and holistic approach by reducing your stress levels and including exercise in your daily routine.
- It has also been observed that certain lipsticks, mustard, soups, baked beans and tooth-pastes (along with other items of daily use) also contain hidden sources of gluten (3). However, the dose is sub-minimal to elicit any response.
Besides gluten rich foods, some other dietary sources are also associated with urinary tract symptoms in gluten sensitive enteropathy as a result of moderate gut damage in the setting of long standing gluten insensitivity. These include eggplant, sugar (sugarcane, table sugar) tomatoes, or red peppers. Likewise, oats are generally free from gluten; but most forms of commercially available oat is contaminated with wheat kernals and may elicit a sensitivity response in susceptible subjects.
What Are Other Complications of Gluten Sensitive Enteropathy?
Consumption of gluten in such cases may lead to aggravated damage to gut lining and increase the risk of other health issues such as:
- Neurological disorders.
- Colo-rectal malignancy.
- High risk of developing diabetes.
- Prostatic issues in males.
If you are experiencing urinary symptoms due to gluten sensitivity, speak to your healthcare professional to seek expert opinion and medical advice.
- Nelsen Jr, D. A. (2002). Gluten-sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease): more common than you think. American family physician, 66(12), 2259-2266.