Gluten Free Eating
Should You Go Gluten-Free?
- What Is Gluten?
- How Does It Affect Health?
- Why Would You Stop Eating Gluten-Containing Foods?
There Are 250 Known Symptoms Of Gluten Sensitivity.
Could Any Of Them Be Yours?
Find Out About Wheat’s “Dirty Little Secret”. Look Inside….
TOPIC: GLUTEN-FREE EATING
Over millions of years, our diet produced a human body meant to be lean, fit, strong, resistant to infection, able to cover long distances, and to think fast and creatively throughout life.
Today, that same body finds itself buckling under the pressure of high fat meals and too little physical activity.
Down to earth nutrition shaped us, yet in the blink of an eye in time, we radically altered our food, lives, and environments, so that today we are consuming foods as alien to our ancient bodies as breathing carbon monoxide.
–Adapted from The Origin Diet, Elizabeth Somer, MA, RN
Should You Go Gluten-Free?
Going gluten-free is one of the fastest growing nutritional movements in the world!
In 2013, 11 percent of US households bought gluten-free products, over double the amount in 2010! In fact, the New York Times reported that sales in 2016 will hit $15 billion!!!
From an esoteric dietary restriction to a fad to a trend to going mainstream, gluten-free living is everywhere. Entire shops are dedicated to gluten-free foods as are large sections in natural product stores. Supermarket chains are paying attention and many restaurants are integrating gluten-free items into their menus.
Three questions seem particularly pertinent: 1) What is gluten? 2) Why do so many people stop eating it? 3) Why would you consider doing the same?
Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
It is a type of food substance that can cause serious health problems in large numbers of people. Meanwhile, it can cause some reactions in the majority of us. People just feel better when they discover their tolerance/intolerance to gluten and live accordingly.
The problem with gluten from wheat, rye, and barley is that their glutens are resistant to the enzymes used to breakdown proteins in our digestive systems.
As stated by Peter HR Green, MD (director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University),
“gluten is simply not digested well by humans”.
In fact, there is a range of responses to eating gluten-containing foods. It extends from being tolerated to stimulating an autoimmune response.
Although it is not clear how gluten initiates this response, the result is a life-threatening condition called celiac disease.
Worldwide, the prevalence of celiac disease is on the rise. Studies indicate that during the last 30 years, the increase has been significant, possibly increasing by a factor of 4. Between toleration and disease are wheat allergy and various degrees of gluten sensitivity.
There are some 250 known symptoms of gluten sensitivity. These include fatigue, gastro-intestinal distress (bloating, gas, acid reflux, etc.), headaches, inability to concentrate, weight problems, joint, bone, or muscle pain, depression and/or respiratory problems.
According to Sheila Crowe, MD, common yet highly unexpected symptoms are infertility and multiple miscarriages.
The most common gluten-containing foods are bagels, beer, bread, cookies, cakes and most other baked goods, crackers, pizza, pretzels, breading, and gravy1.
When you give up these foods, you get improved health in return. Meanwhile, gluten-free products of all kinds are available to suit your tastes and protect your health, including gluten-free beer!
Should You Go Gluten-Free?
1 Gravy is made using wheat flour as a thickening agent.
Wheat’s Dirty Little Secret!
Basically, eating wheat is not good for humans.
We absorb water, minerals, and other nutrients from the lining of the small intestine. The lining is covered with tiny fingers called villi. These vastly expand the absorbent area of the intestine. Zonulin is a protein produced when we eat.
Normally, it causes passageways in the small intestine to open so that important nutrients can be absorbed into the bloodstream. However, wheat causes too much zonulin to be produced – in all humans.
This increases the permeability of the small intestine. Fragments from the digestive system leak into the bloodstream, causing some individuals to develop “leaky gut syndrome”.
Because all the fragments are foreign, antibodies are created and may cause “gluten sensitivity”, wheat allergy, or both. Under some conditions, individuals with the genetic predisposition develop celiac disease. (Read more about celiac disease in “The Bottomline Disorder”, opposite.)
How is it possible that a food that is eaten universally can cause a harmful response in all humanity?
The usual explanation is that humans have only eaten wheat for about 10,000 years; thus, we haven’t adapted to this “new” food.
However, there is evidence that prehistoric humans began eating wheat 400,000 years ago. For one, the campsites of Homo erectus of the Pleistocene age (Peking man) show that those ancients ate grains – and legumes as well.
Closer to our own time, an archaeological site in Syria shows that wild grains were being gathered at least 23,000 years ago, 10,000 years earlier than previously thought.
At the University of Warwick, Robin Allaby, PhD, and his team are demonstrating that the domestication of grains was a slow process, not one appearing suddenly a mere 10,000 years ago.
This does not explain why humans would eat a food that might actually cause distress. They didn’t. We are. This is because we are not eating the wheat our ancestors ate. We are not even eating the wheat eaten 50 years ago. In fact, wheat has been so modified by geneticists that it can no longer survive in the wild.
Something called “dwarf wheat”, developed by Big Ag, now comprises 99% of all wheat grown worldwide. The original Einkorn wheat is still exists. It is cultivated and sold by members of the Heritage Wheat Conservancy.
Where’s Your Home On The Range?
As stated, reactions to gluten range from allergy to gluten sensitivity to celiac disease. Considering that the zonulin enzyme opens our intestines to wheat, it isn’t surprising to learn that millions have wheat allergies. Food allergy reactions, although typically immediate, vary from person to person.
A wheat allergy is different from both gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. One can have a wheat allergy and also be sensitive to gluten.
People with celiac disease by definition are drastically intolerant of gluten. A sensitivity can cause all the symptoms previously listed from bloating to infertility.
“… it is unclear how common gluten sensitivity may be.”
Green adds that patients with irritable bowel syndrome and various neuropathies [e.g., fibromyalgia] have improved while on a gluten-free diet. [As have people with ADHD and autism, plus schizophrenia and other mood disorders. Ed.]
A number people not only lose weight but lose their aches and pains and gain a sense of well being when they limit or totally omit wheat, rye, and barley.
Testing the premise that you might have a gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy seems wise.
Celiac disease is at the far end of the spectrum. There are laboratory tests that can determine if you have it. Read on….
Celiac: The Bottomline Disorder
Celiac is a disease that primarily attacks the villi of the small intestine, flattening them. (See photo. Left villi are healthy; right villi show celiac damage.)
As the disease advances, the villi flatten and the absorption of nutrients becomes ever more restricted.
Then, the disease becomes life threatening. There is no surgery and no medication. Celiac can only be controlled by eating a gluten-free diet.2
The initiation of the disease can occur at any age, and involves a combination of genetic, environmental, and immunological elements. Three factors must be present: 1) the genetic predisposition; 2) a diet that contains gluten; and 3) a Big Stressor. Common stressors are surgery, emotional trauma, illness, and pregnancy. Interestingly, even if you have all three initiating factors, you may or may not develop the disease. On the other hand, if you are missing even one factor, you will never develop it.
Although celiac is among the world’s most common genetic diseases, Reader’s Digest cited it as one of the top ten misdiagnosed diseases in the U.S. In Europe, the average time between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis is six months. Here, if the diagnosis is ever made, it comes an average of 11 years after symptoms develop.
According to Danna Korn in Living Gluten-Free For Dummies, common misdiagnoses include:
• Irritable bowel syndrome
or spastic colon
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Lupus (an autoimmune disorder)
• Unexplained anemia
• Migraines or unexplained headaches
• Unexplained infertility
• Psychological issues (depression, anxiety, etc.)
• Inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s
• Viral infections (viral gastroenteritis)
• Food allergies or lactose intolerance
• Parasites or other infection
• Gallbladder disease
• Thyroid disease
• Cystic fibrosis
• Acid reflux or GERD
• Eczema or psoriasis
Paradoxically, Green points out that most patients do not show the classic gastrointestinal symptoms, and present with either minimal or no G-I problems.
Rather they suffer from related autoimmune diseases, complications from untreated celiac disease, or the results of malabsorption (everything from malnutrition to vitamin and mineral deficiencies).
This leads to most patients being diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60, having suffered their symptoms for years.
Among the extra-intestinal symptoms are joint/bone pain, problems with tooth enamel, nerve damage, respiratory problems, chronic canker sores, acne, low blood sugar, swelling and inflammation, nose bleeds, and night blindness. (Many of these conditions relate to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.) Korn notes that many of these are also symptoms of gluten sensitivity.
Some people with celiac suffer another form of the disease which manifests as a chronic skin condition.
It is characterized by an intense burning, itchy, blistering rash. Called Dermatitis herpetiformis or DH, the rash looks like herpes but has no relation to it.
Other misdiagnoses of DH include eczema, contact dermatitis, allergies, hives, or psoriasis. Only people with celiac disease develop DH.
Celiac: The Bottomline Disorder
2 FYI: Lactase, the enzyme which digests milk sugar (lactose) is produced in the tips of the villi.
Hence, if the villi are blunted by celiac, one becomes lactose intolerant and is unable to digest milk.
Always Remember, Self Care Is Health Care.
How Can I Know For Sure?
The only medically acceptable treatment for celiac disease is a 100% gluten-free diet for life.
If you think you have a wheat allergy, are gluten sensitive, or have celiac disease, the first thing to do is STOP EATING GLUTEN.
If you want a medical diagnosis, consult Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD (Rodale, 2014) and/or go online and read the interview with celiac specialist Kenneth Fine, MD. (In either case, read Wheat Belly.
It will not only shrink your belly but open your eyes – definitely making your eyes bigger than your stomach.)
Dr. Davis discusses the various tests for ascertaining celiac disease or finding that “an immune response against gluten has been triggered”.
He reports that none of the blood antibody tests are 100 percent accurate. The “Gold Standard” test is an intestinal biopsy, which of course involves surgery. This test is accurate only if you have continued eating gluten.
Dr. Davis believes (as I do) that if you are committed to removing gluten (as wheat, rye, and barley) from your diet then testing may be unnecessary. He comments that testing is useful if your symptoms continue after you have given up eating gluten. Such symptoms then indicate a different condition (e.g. microscopic colitis).
If you are interested in testing, detection using stool testing may be the way to go. This is the method recommended by Dr. Fine, who explains how it works on www.celiac.com.3
I guarantee you will find it intriguing.
Stool testing has four great advantages:
• The test is accurate whether or not you are gluten-free.
• It is noninvasive.
• You can order the test yourself. (No prescription required.)
• It is more sensitive than a blood test.
There has been some noise on the web about stool testing being a scam. Orthodoxy hates a breakthrough. Play the Nutrition News “Is It Healthy?” Game and judge for yourself.
How Can I Know For Sure?
3 Fine is an internationally renowned GI researcher, who has worked for many years at Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, Texas.
You can read his lectures at www.celiac.com.
Standards And Regs
As of August 5, 2014, any food product bearing a gluten-free claim must meet the requirements of the FDA.
One of the criteria for the claim is a gluten limit of less than 20 ppm (parts per million).
This is the lowest level that can be consistently detected in foods using valid scientific analytical tools. It is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food and safety standards.
A food labeled gluten-free may not contain any of the following:
1) Any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains; 2) Any ingredient derived from these grains that has not been processed to remove gluten; 3) Any ingredient that has been processed to remove gluten, BUT contains 20 ppm or more of gluten.
Foods that are inherently gluten-free, such as eggs, dairy, fruits, veggies, and water, can also be labeled gluten-free.
Manufacturers making the claim about processed foods but not meeting the criteria are subject to regulatory action by the FDA.
Restaurants making the gluten-free claim are highly encouraged by the National Restaurant Association to meet the FDA criteria.
Questioning the restaurant about what is meant by “gluten-free”; what ingredients are used in the items; and the means of preparation is a prudent response by the gluten sensitive guest. Bon Appétite!