Thursday, November 11, 2010

Going Gluten Free - The Trouble with Gluten

In the health world, fads are simply the norm. Whether its high-carb, low-fat or high-protein, low-carb or anything in between there is no shortage of fad diets and new waves of thinking about eating. This is especially true for gluten. Grocery stores, specialty shops, and even italian restaurants are offering gluten-free menu items and food products. So gluten-free appears to be just another fad right? As you will see, nothing could be farther from the truth.

We are beginning to learn that the protein glaidin (gluten) found in wheat, barely, and rye is a major health threat. It is not a problem with gluten, per se, but a problem with our modern immune systems. Our immune systems are responsible for one simple but profoundly important task - to differentiate between "self" and "non-self". Its like our own internal armed forces. Their job is to protect the citizens (self) from the aggressors (non-self). Simple idea with major health consequences when it goes awry.

Gluten-free might be viewed as a just a fad that will fade with time. I'm here to tell you that in ten years gluten-free will be as mainstream as fat-free. The scientific evidence continues to mount and is profound in its implications. Gluten is a problem for tens of millions of Americans due to genetic and environmental factors that have rendered their bodies susceptible to an autoimmune reaction. Once only a minor aspect of our diet, gluten (named for glue-like properties) has made its way into products from ice cream to soy sauce and everything in between. Needless to say the modern garbage food we eat is loaded with gluten.

What is gluten sensitivity really?...

1) Gluten sensativity means that gluten/gliadin causes the immune system to malfunction.

2) Celiac disease is a subcategory of gluten sensativity. 1% of the population has celiac's disease while another 40% has a genetic predisposition to have an immune reaction to gluten.

3) Any symptom can be caused by gluten reactions. You may not even "feel" that you have a sensativity, yet your tissues and thus your physiology are being attacked by the immune system because of gluten in your diet.

A list of common conditions associated with gluten sensitivity:
* Microscopic colitis
* Relatives of gluten-sensitive individuals
* Gluten-sensitive individuals 1 year after treatment
* Chronic diarrhea of unknown origin
* Irritable bowel syndrome
* Inflammatory bowel disease
* Gastroesophageal reflux disease
* Hepatitis C
* Autoimmune liver disease
* Other causes of chronic liver disease
* Dermatitis herpetiformis
* Diabetes mellitus, type 1
* Rheumatoid arthritis
* Sjogren's syndrome
* Lupus
* Scleroderma
* Autoimmune thyroid disease
* Dermatomyositis
* Psoriasis
* Any autoimmune syndrome
* Chronic Fatigue
* Fibromyalgia
* Asthma
* Osteoporosis
* Iron deficiency
* Short stature in children
* Down's syndrome
* Mothers of kids with neural tube defects
* Female infertility
* Peripheral neuropathy
* Cerebellar ataxia
* Seizure disorders
* Psychiatric disorders
* Depression
* Alcoholism
* Autism

4) 70% of our immune system lives in our GI tract, so any toxins in our diet are quickly identified by our immune cells. In those 40% (nearly half) of Americans who are predisposed to be sensitive, whenever gluten is eaten, the immune system creates inflammation.

5) The immune system is trying to destroy gluten (the gliadin protein) but since other tissues in the body are somewhat similar, it ends up attacking the body as well. There cannot be pain in the body without inflammation, and since gluten creates inflammation, it can be a source of pain in joints, muscles, organs...basically anywhere in the body!

6) Gluten sensitivity is NOT just a gut condition. Gluten sensitivity is a system-wide autoimmune condition where inflammation and tissue destruction can attack cells in areas from the skin, gut, or brain. Its this gut-immune-brain connection that leads many astray in trying to understand this condition. Because the toxic effects of gluten are felt all over the body, almost any symptom can be caused by this inflammatory immune response. Importantly, gluten sensitivity has a special fondness for destroying tissue in the nervous system, which is the most critical portion of our human body.

7) The main reason we avoid gluten is that it simply has no nutritional value at all. It is completely unnecessary for health and well-being.

8) More importantly, anyone with an autoimmune disease must never eat gluten ever again. The relationship is over! You cannot be a little pregnant and if you have an autoimmune disease you must calm down the immune system in order to live a quality life. If gluten causes the immune system to ramp up and go nuts, then you are making yourself sicker every time you put it in your mouth.

9) Autoimmune diseases are the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide. Gluten for an autoimmune patient is like throwing gasoline on a fire. It forces the overactive immune system into further dysfunction. The path to health requires that we leave gluten behind!

10) Life without gluten is great! Without gluten we are eating the way we were designed to eat - fresh vegetable, meats, and fruits. You will be better when you give up gluten!

Remember that gluten is not the problem. It is our immune system's reaction to it that deteriorates our health. In the support of metabolic health in those with autoimmune diseases, the focus should be on modulation of the immune system with natural means. The autoimmune patient today in the 21st century has an array of effective, affordable, and natural approaches that will strengthen their overall systemic health.

Its important to realize that pharmaceutical interventions designed to treat autoimmune diseases often only target the symptoms and offer no real long term efficacy for resolution of the disease. Immunosuppressant drugs are often used to manage symptoms. Patients may get better for a while, but the CAUSE of the immune malfunction is never addressed. And besides, suppressing the immune system can lead to horrible afflictions like cancer and viral infections as a side effect. Obviously if you have an autoimmune disease and you continue to put toxic antigens in your body (gluten, or dairy, soy etc.) which drive your immune system wild, how will you ever "cure" anything?

Here's an idea. Why not remove the antigens like gluten and others from the diet. This information comes straight out of peer-reviewed literature in the most highly respected journals in the world. There is no "big money" in treatments where people can cure their disease by changing their eating habits. But maybe that is okay. Maybe its okay to earn a little money helping people get better naturally, without poisoning them with pharmaceuticals which are dubiously tested and researched to begin with.

Let me finish by saying that if I had an autoimmune disease there are three things I would do. First I would completely remove anything in my diet that could stimulate my immune system into overdrive which would contribute to my condition. Second I would work with a chiropractor who is skilled with nutrition and under their care use high quality nutritional support to further help balance my immune system. And third I would have that chiropractor work on a treatment program designed to create a stronger, healthier brain. Since the brain controls everything in the body, having it work at its highest level will result in an immune system that is more balanced and healthy.

Remember that if you have an autoimmune disease and it is attacking your thyroid, that there is nothing wrong with your thyroid! That is where the medical model fails miserably. Any treatment designed to support the thyroid without addressing the cause of the autoimmune attack is a waste of time. The thyroid is working fine, its just under attack. If you quell the attack, then the thyroid will do its job. That is where we should aim treatment and if you follow the advice and links on this blog, you will find such practitioners who can help you make great strides in your quest for health.

Information from Internationally Recognized Natural Health Professionals

Thyroid 360

Diet and Lifestyle Resources

Celiac Disease Foundation

Celiac Disease & Gluten-free Diet Information