GLUTEN is a water insoluble protein that is itself composed of proteins ---- glutenin and gliadin (in wheat), secalin (in rye) and hordein (in barley). Because it is found in wheat-like grains, it is also found in most types of cereals, breads, flours, and pastas. However, not all foods from the grain family contain gluten. Examples of grains that do not contain gluten include wild rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, teff, oats, and sunflower seeds. However, before you rush out and buy all sorts of these grains thinking that you are doing yourself a favor, you had better take a few minutes to read about GLUTEN CROSS REACTIVITY.
Although you will also see soybeans on this list as well, stay far away from them as they are a XENOHORMONE --- a Phytoestrogen (plant-based estrogen) that will cause far more problems than they help --- unless they have been fermented first (miso, tempeh, natto, & tofu). Although oats and corn are also on this list and do not contain gluten, there are frequent problems with both as they are common Cross-Reactors. This is because most of the farms and milling facilities that process oats and corn, also process gluten-containing grains that can cross-contaminate products that do not contain gluten. Also, people who are extremely Gluten Sensitive are sometimes highly reactive to the substance in oats and corn that are analogous to gluten in wheat (Gluten Cross Reactivity).
Although only about 1 in 5,000 Americans are ever diagnosed with Celiac Disease (a full-blown systemic reaction to gluten / gliadin), the actual number of sufferers is estimated to be closer to 1 in 100. In other words, only about one in fifty Celiacs is ever diagnosed. This, however, pales to Gluten Sensitivity (aka Gluten Intolerance), which, while some experts say is only 10% of the American population, recent research is estimating it to be closer to 1 in 3 ----- or even as high as 50% or greater (almost 85% of all Americans carry the genetic predisposition). Every study seems to be scarier than the study that came before it.
A large study carried out by the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in Baltimore has confirmed this. Scientists there tested 8,200 adults and children. Half the sample had various symptoms associated with Celiac Disease and, of those, one in 40 of the children tested positive ---- as well as one in 30 of the adults. But it wasn't just those who seemed ill who were having problems with wheat. There was far more worrying about what the Maryland researchers found when they tested the other half of the sample ---- those who were healthy volunteers selected at random. Among kids under 16, one in 167 had Celiac Disease, while the rate among the adults was even higher - one in 111.
If those proportions are true for the American population in general, this means that nearly 2 million adults and 300,000 children have undiagnosed Celiac Disease - people who, sooner or later, are going to develop vague symptoms of feeling generally unwell, for which they will be offered various drugs that are unlikely to make much difference. Ultimately, they are at higher risk of a range of chronic diseases --- mostly in the AUTOIMMUNITY FAMILY.
The problem though is in the test. In order to have true "Celiac Disease", you have to have a positive biopsy result for the small intestine. Not only is this test not always accurate, it does not tell the whole story. When the body has an immune reaction, it makes antibodies. The test for anti-gliadin antibodies is known as AGA and people who test positive to AGA often have no sign of gut damage. In fact, according to Dr Alessio Fasano, who carried out the University of Maryland research, "Worldwide, CD 'out of the intestine' is 15 times more frequent than CD 'in the intestine'." Expert on Gluten Sensitivity, James Braly M.D. (my mom's first cousin) estimates that between 10% and 15% of the US and Canadian populations have anti-gliadin antibodies. This puts them at risk of conditions as varied as psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, jaundice, IBS and eczema. Other experts feel that even this estimate is low ---- possibly far to low.
A recent large study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with diagnosed, undiagnosed, and Gluten Sensitivity had a higher risk of death from both heart disease and cancer, as well as other causes (Small-Intestinal Histopathology and Mortality Risk in Celiac Disease). The deaths (between 1969 to 2008) in a three groups of 30,000 patients were examined: Those with full-blown Celiac Disease, those with INFLAMMATION of their intestine but not full-blown Celiac Disease, and those with Gluten Sensitivity (elevated gluten antibodies but negative intestinal biopsy). There was a 39% increased risk of death in those with Celiac Disease, 72% increased risk in those with gut inflammation related to gluten (can anyone say 'LEAKY GUT SYNDROME'?), and 35% increased risk in those with Gluten Sensitivity.
A ten year old paper published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 "diseases" that can be caused by eating gluten. These 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 has also been linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage). It has also been linked to autism. Later in the week we will delve into more of the gluten research (and show you the best way to do your own), but right now you should............
TAKE THE GLUTEN SENSITIVITY SELF TEST
-Craving for wheat products
-Bloating / Gas
-Children who are picky eaters
-Malodorous Flatulence / Stools
-ADD / ADHD
-Joint pains and/or muscle aches
-Infertility and/or Miscarriage
-Osteoporosis or osteopenia, you or your family
Immune System Symptoms
-You get infections easily
-Constant Sniffling and Congestion
-Elevated liver enzymes
-Arthritis - you or your family
-Cancer history, you or your family
-Autoimmune Disease such as Type I Diabetes, M.S., Lupus, Eczema, Psoriasis, etc – you or your family.
-Celiac Disease, you or your family
-Stunted Growth and Failure to Thrive
-Thyroid problems (Grave's Disease or Hashimoto's Thyroiditis)
-Dysglycemia / Hypoglycemia
-If you checked 1 to 3 items, gluten sensitivity may be playing a role in your health problems.
-If you checked 4 to 7 items, there is a definite possibility that you are suffering from gluten sensitivity
-If you checked 8 or more items, there is a strong probability that gluten sensitivity is having a negative effect upon your health. In fact, if you are one of the 20% of Americans with an Autoimmune Disease, you have a 90% chance of being Gluten Sensitive. The only way to know for sure is to be tested or go on a strict ELIMINATION DIET. Because Celiac Disease is characterized by severe problems with the inner lining of the small intestine, the only real way of diagnosis is by a small intestine biopsy. The problem was that until recently, there was no valid test for Gluten Sensitivity. Fortunately, there is now a blood test that can tell you not only if you are Gluten / Gliadin Sensitive, but how sensitive you are, and whether you are cross-reacting to a group of other compounds that are structurally similar to gluten (Gluten Cross Reactors).
But why the big deal all of a sudden? People have been eating grains such as wheat, barley, and rye for millennia. For Pete's sake, they're mentioned over and over in the Bible ---- as a good thing! Five years ago, few people had even heard of Gluten; but now "Gluten Free" seems to be the diet du jour. Again, why? Is it just a passing fancy ---- a fad that will go the way of the Beenie Weenie Diet of the 1980's? Or, is there something to this increased Gluten awareness and subsequent avoidance? Stick around for tomorrow's blog post, and I will begin to answer some of these questions.
PART ONE: What Does Gluten Sensitivity Look Like?
PART TWO: Why all the Recent Hype About Gluten?
PART THREE: The Gluten / MSG Connection
PART FOUR: Gluten & Autoimmunity; An American Epidemic
PART FIVE: Gluten Sensitivity & Autoimmunity; Some Studies
PART SIX: Antibiotics, Gut Health, and Gluten Sensitivity