The upcoming free online conference The Gluten Summit: A grain of truth that I registered for has me thinking about gluten. Apparently, this summit is the first of its kind. I was reflecting on how I had never even heard the word gluten until a few years ago and now “gluten-free” is an entire section in the grocery store.
If you have an interest in learning more, like I do, listen to the conference speakers November 11 – 17, 2013 by registering for free: http://bit.ly/17doirN. Speakers feature Natasha Campbell-McBride of GAPS™, Dr. William Davis – the author of Wheat Belly, Dr. Tom O’Bryan, Dr. Mark Hyman and many others. If you would like to order the summit for lifetime access at a discount, do so here: http://bit.ly/17eZRKm.
When I became aware of the Weston A. Price Foundation in 2004, I don’t recall that there was any mention of gluten-free recipes. Back then, the Wise Traditions annual conferences didn’t have a separate table for gluten and casein-free meals like we see now.
Today, I think virtually every one of us knows someone who identifies themselves as eating gluten-free, and we’ve all seen the influx of food products packaged with an identifying label. I have even seen several restaurants who offer gluten-free meals.
Whether it is needed or not, a significant demand has developed for gluten-free food in the United States. In fact, according to Advertising Age “gluten free” became a 4.2 billion dollar industry in the last year, despite the fact that there are the same number of celiac patients.
What is all the fuss about?!
Wikipedia explains that “A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes foods containing gluten. Gluten is a protein complex found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye and triticale. [I have seen oats added to this list in other descriptions.] A gluten-free diet is the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease. Being gluten intolerant can often mean a person may also be wheat intolerant as well as suffer from the related inflammatory skin condition dermatitis herpetiformis, There are a smaller minority of people who suffer from wheat intolerance alone and are tolerant to gluten.”
A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 “diseases” that can be caused by eating gluten. These include irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, osteoporosis, canker sores, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, dementia, schizophrenia, epilepsy, migraines and neuropathy (nerve damage). As some of you in our community are aware, it has also been linked to autism.
Dr. Mark Hyman, MD explains,
“We used to think that gluten problems or celiac disease were confined to children who had diarrhea, weight loss, and failure to thrive. Now we know you can be old, fat, and constipated and still have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity is actually an autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract, and more. It can be the single cause behind many different “diseases.” To correct these diseases, you need to treat the cause – which is often gluten sensitivity – not just the symptoms.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that all cases of depression or autoimmune disease or any of these other problems are caused by gluten in everyone – but it is important to look for it if you have any chronic illness.
By failing to identify gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, we create needless suffering and death for millions of Americans. Health problems caused by gluten sensitivity cannot be treated with better medication. They can only be resolved by eliminating 100 percent of the gluten from your diet.”
Why are so many seemingly sensitive to gluten?
William Davis, a cardiologist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who authored the book Wheat Belly, theorizes that modern varieties of wheat are to blame. He asserts that the wheat of the past didn’t make people sick.
“We know that celiac disease has doubled in the last 20 years,” Davis says. And since we known that humans have probably not changed, “the more likely culprit is the wheat itself.”
According to an NPR report, it’s true that about 40 years ago, breeders introduced new varieties of wheat that helped farmers increase their grain yields. Those varieties, which evolved out of the Green Revolution, now make up 90% of all the wheat that farmers grow worldwide.
Dr. Mark Hyman asserts in his article published in the Huffington Post that one of the reasons is our lack of genetic adaptation to grasses, and particularly gluten, in our diet. “Wheat was introduced into Europe during the Middle Ages, and 30 percent of people of European descent carry the gene for celiac disease (HLA DQ2 or HLA DQ8), which increases susceptibility to health problems from eating gluten.
American strains of wheat have a much higher gluten content (which is needed to make light, fluffy Wonder Bread and giant bagels) than those traditionally found in Europe. This super-gluten was recently introduced into our agricultural food supply and now has “infected” nearly all wheat strains in America.”
I returned to the NPR report to discover that the claim that modern wheat is somehow making people sick doesn’t sound right to Donald Kasarda, who has studied gluten proteins for more than 40 years as a research chemist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kasarda says that when he combed through the scientific literature, he found no significant differences in gluten levels in wheat from the early part of the 20th century, compared with gluten levels from the latter half of the century.
Wheat Belly author Davis believes there are more subtle changes in the wheat plant that are leading to the problems. Needless to say, there’s no scientific agreement on this. And it appears that in the medical world, there’s a fair amount of pushback against the idea that modern wheat may be toxic to us.
To find out if you and yours are one of those suffering from an unidentified gluten sensitivity, consider following this procedure as proposed in this article:
The Elimination/Reintegration Diet
Eliminate all gluten for 2 to 4 weeks and see how you feel. Get rid of the following foods:
- Gluten – which will be found in barley, rye, oats, spelt, kamut, wheat, and triticale. See http://www.celiac.com for a complete list of foods that contain gluten, as well as often surprising and hidden sources of gluten.
- Hidden sources such as soup mixes, salad dressings, sauces, as well as lipstick, certain vitamins, medications, stamps and envelopes you have to lick, and even Play-Doh.
Apparently, for this test to work you must eliminate 100% of the gluten from your diet – no exceptions, no hidden gluten, and not a single crumb of bread. I would recommend that you avoid the gluten-free aisles all together and simply eat traditionally-prepared real food, that is naturally gluten-free.
Then eat it again and see what happens. If you feel bad at all, you need to stay off gluten permanently. Dr. Hyman claims that this will teach you better than any test about the impact gluten has on your body. Nonetheless, he offers the following who feel compelled to test:
Testing for gluten sensitivity or celiac disease
There are gluten allergy/celiac disease tests that are available through Labcorp or Quest Diagnostics. All these tests help identify various forms of allergy or sensitivity to gluten or wheat. They will look for:
- IgA anti-gliadin antibodies
- IgG anti-gliadin antibodies
- IgA anti-endomysial antibodies
- Tissue transglutaminase antibody (IgA and IgG in questionable cases)
- Total IgA antibodies
- HLA DQ2 and DQ8 genotyping for celiac disease (used occasionally to detect genetic suspectibility).
- Intestinal biopsy – apparently rarely needed if gluten antibodies are positive
Again, if you have an interest in learning more about gluten, listen to the conference speakers November 11 – 17, 2013 by registering for free: http://bit.ly/17doirN. If you would like to order the summit for lifetime access at a discount, do so here: http://bit.ly/17eZRKm.
Is gluten something you avoid in your household?
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