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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7 Responses to Is gluten the latest food villain?
We are not only experimenting with being gluten free …. but grain free by following the paleo diet … at least 90% and are noticing huge changes in many things in our health! Amazing what something that seems to be healthy can do to the body!
Do you have children? How do they respond to a restricted diet?
I do. (And you just gave me a great idea on a new post to work on!)
I have three. One is away at college and 2 at home…one is 15, the other 3.
If you read my post, Our Food Story, you’ll see how it all started, but I guess I didn’t write much on how to get the kids on board though I touched on it lightly with Why We Homeschool. At that time, we just had the two kids…pulled them into the reasons why and when we did an elimination diet they saw the results for themselves. I couldn’t PAY my son to eat at McDonald’s (and my son LOVES money). But they were a part of finding recipes and making the food and that made a huge difference. My daughter is off to college and while she hasn’t been part of our Paleo experiences much, she knows all about restricted diets and she understands the reprucussians of not following it. She eats more grains than I’d like to see her eat but she does stay away from what obviously causes her life changing problems… maybe she’ll adapt to paleo when she’s home over the holidays/summer…maybe not. My youngest doesn’t have a clue… but my oldest is…well…what he says is “Mom, it’s not that what you’re cooking isn’t good…it really is… but I miss……..” and he lists about ten things that have wheat. I let him have one processed snack a week for now. (A package of organic cookies for instance that lasts all week). I see it as a compromise. It’s still by far less than what we did and this is just the beginning :) I’m trying to answer this away from home and in the midst of making breakfast…so I hope I answered enough to help..?? I’m sure to work on a better answer though and post it on my blog in the next two weeks or so….keep an eye out :)
I have been gluten free for over a month due to positive gluteomorphin and transglutaminase antibodies from a Cyrex Array 3 test. I had no symptoms except in my brain (brain fog, confusion, memory loss) and maybe constipation, but those have not resolved, despite also eliminating rice, yeast, eggs and other foods that popped positive from the Cyrex Array 4 (only eating grass fed meat, good oils, veggies and some fruit). Maybe brain issues take longer? Weight is not coming down like in others, too. Frustrating! With all this work, it would be nice to see some dramatic results.
As soon as I am better, I will bring my children and husband along on this journey.
Have you considered the fact that we no longer soak or sprout our grains to break down the hard-to-digest properties? We have also gotten away from the traditional methods of bread-making, which took time and therefore allowed the flours time to “soak”. Now we use quick-rise yeast and eat instant oatmeal. If you are familiar with Nourishing Traditions, which is mentioned above, you may have read about soaking grains, and that the oatmeal containers of our grandparents and great grandparents even had instructions to soak overnight. If our oatmeal containers still had those instructions today, no one would buy oatmeal. We don’t have time. And our digestive system pays the price.
Yes, exactly Misty! It’s not the wheat that has changed so much, It’s how we prepare it.
It’s also been quite of few generations exposed to eating grains and gluten without it being sprouted/soaked/fermented so oir generation suffers from these genes that are sensitive to gluten. Our guts and epigenomes have a lot of healing to do because of all the damage convenience has given us. Just my theory anyway. Not sure if my comment matters now as this was posted a while ago now!