If you eat cheeseburgers and french fries all the time, or drink six Coca Colas a day, you likely know you are shortening your life. But eating a nice slice of whole wheat bread--how could that be bad for you?
What most people don't know is a dietary staple that humans have been eating for thousands of years may be causing serious health complications for many. That staple is wheat; well not so much wheat, but the Gluten within wheat. A very good friend of mine is fighting her second battle with cancer and only now, in her 50’s has she discovered that she is Gluten intolerant and her cancer events and her gluten intolerance may be linked. In addition to this kind of more serious condition, do you wake each morning with thick mucus congestion, blow mucus for an hour after waking, or do you have asthma, or get the bi annual flu or head-cold, sore throat, fever thing, or suffer from frequent ear, nose and throat infections.
Well, new research shows that people with wheat allergies and gluten intolerance in particular have these symptoms, in addition to serious conditions like heart disease, cancer and even death. After nearly a year of researching this topic, in today's blog I want to reveal the truth about gluten, explain the dangers and provide you with a simple system that will help you determine whether or not gluten is a problem for you.
Gluten is a protein contained in many grains, including wheat, barley, rye, and oats. It is even found in more unusual grains, such as spelt, kamut and even in beer. Wheat or gluten intolerance plague many people and cause gastric disturbances, but research now shows chronic health conditions are triggered by gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity, and the extreme form of wheat allergy called celiac disease.
Gluten sensitivity creates inflammation in the entire body, beginning in the gut. It is a form of autoimmune disease. Celiac disease, the chronic and most severe type of gluten intolerance, affects 1 in a 100 people. This represents over 3.5 million in North America alone. Less severe symptoms of gluten allergy or gluten sensitivity may affect as much as 1/3 of the entire North American population.
An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported on a study with over 30,000 patients. The data was collected from 1969 until 2008. Divided into three groups, the patients either had celiac, had intestinal inflammation but not full-blown celiac disease or had gluten sensitivity. Those individuals with full blown celiac disease had a 39% higher risk of death. The risk was 72% for those with intestinal inflammation, and 35% for those with gluten sensitivity.
Another study looked at the blood tests of ten thousand people from 50 years ago and compared them to tests on 10,000 people today. The study discovered a 400% increase in full-blown celiac disease. The results were measured by elevated antibodies in the blood, called TTG antibodies, which increase when there is a reaction to gluten.
Many people suffer from gluten intolerance and are not aware that this is the cause of their symptoms. Symptoms can include irritable bowel disease, canker sores, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, osteoporosis, anemia, cancer, autoimmune disease, MS, and neurological problems such as depression, anxiety, dementia, schizophrenia, nerve damage, migraines, epilepsy, and autism.
The Real Cost of Gluten
Undiagnosed gluten problems cost the North American healthcare system billions of dollars. Dr. Peter Green, Professor of Clinical Medicine for the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University studied all 10 million subscribers to CIGNA and found those who were correctly diagnosed with celiac disease used fewer medical services and reduced their healthcare costs by more than 30%. Unfortunately only 1 % of those with the problem were actually diagnosed. That means 99% are walking around suffering without knowing it, costing the healthcare system billions of dollars.
Why haven't you heard much about this?
Well, actually you have, but you just don't realize it. Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity masquerade as dozens and dozens of other diseases with different names.
Gluten Sensitivity: One Cause, Many Diseases
A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 "diseases" that can be caused by eating gluten. A few more common ones include, osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, 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, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, autism and neuropathy (nerve damage).
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.
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. Health problems caused by gluten sensitivity cannot be treated with medication. They can only be resolved by eliminating 100 percent of the gluten from your diet.
The question that remains is: Why are we so sensitive to this "staff of life," within our diet?
There are many reasons...
There is fairly strong Paleolithic evidence that 10,000 years ago humans did not consume many grains. We were hunter-gatherers who subsisted mostly on vegetables and meats. 10,000 years is a mere blip on the evolutionary scale with over 99% of our genetic make-up already in place, before we ever started consuming grains. 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.
To find out if you are one of the millions of people suffering from unidentified gluten sensitivity, just follow this simple procedure.
The Elimination/Reintegration Diet
While testing can help identify gluten sensitivity, the only way you will know if this is really a problem for you is to eliminate all gluten for a short period of time (2 to 4 weeks) and see how you feel. Get rid of the following foods:
• Gluten (barley, rye, oats, spelt, kamut, wheat, 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 (soup mixes, salad dressings, sauces, as well as lipstick, certain vitamins, medications, stamps and envelopes you have to lick, and even Play-Doh.)
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. Then eat it again and see what happens. If you feel bad at all, you need to stay off gluten permanently. This will teach you better than any test about the impact gluten has on your body.
But if you are still interested in testing, below are some things to keep in mind.
Testing for Gluten Sensitivity or Celiac Disease
There are gluten allergy/celiac disease tests that are available through medical Labs. Ask your doctor. 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 (rarely needed if gluten antibodies are positive--based on my interpretation of the recent study)
When you get these tests, there are a few things I found to keep in mind.
In light of the new research on the dangers of gluten sensitivity without full blown celiac disease, consider any elevation of antibodies significant and worthy of a trial of gluten elimination. Many doctors consider elevated anti-gliadin antibodies in the absence of a positive intestinal biopsy showing damage to be "false positives." That means the test looks positive but really isn't significant. Given the new research we can no longer say that. Positive is positive and, as with all illness, there is a continuum of disease, from mild gluten sensitivity to full-blown celiac disease. If your antibodies are elevated, you should go off gluten and test to see if it is leading to your health problems.
So now you see--that piece of bread may not be so wholesome after all! Follow the advice I've shared and find out if gluten may be the hidden cause of your health problems. Simply eliminating this insidious substance from your diet may help you achieve lifelong vibrant health.
Now I'd like to hear from you...
Are you one of the millions that have been lead to believe gluten is perfectly safe?
How do foods that contain gluten affect you?
What tips can you share with others about gluten and your diet?
Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.
Enjoy the Ride .... Rob