Let’s talk about an often undiagnosed but serious health issue: gluten sensitivity. Gluten is the protein in wheat as well as many other grains. It is also used in many other products from ketchup to lipstick. Gluten is responsible for a long list of possible health issues. Unfortunately, the issue is often not being identified.
This problem is frequently dismissed as a trendy disease. How could we not tolerate the “Staff of Life?”
But reputable medical journals and decades-long studies have stated that as many as 1 in 3 people have the genetic disposition to be intolerant of gluten. That is a lot of people.
How would I know that’s it’s a problem for me? This is not easy to identify because gluten sensitivity can masquerade as 55 other conditions, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. To name a few: digestion problems, chronic fatigue, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune diseases.
Most people would not think of this as a health issue because they only know gluten sensitivity as celiac disease; i.e., when the body reacts to gluten, creating inflammation and breakdown of intestinal walls. But by the time celiac is diagnosed, the damage is extensive, possibly irreversible. It would be better to diagnose earlier, when it’s a mild gluten sensitivity not a full blown disease…and we can easily do that.
However, if you went to your doctor and said, “I suspect I am sensitive to gluten,” he would do an intestinal biopsy for celiac. But that biopsy will probably be negative because less than 1% of people have full blown celiac. So, you go home feeling like a hypochondriac. However, because you can be sensitive to gluten but negative to celiac, the gluten intolerance alone can be doing damage to any part of the body. Like all diseases, there is a progression. One in three of us have the genetic disposition for gluten intolerance, so is it worth checking?
How do we do that?
The test for gluten is called antigliadin anti bodies and is easy and inexpensive to measure in a stool sample. Doctors can test blood for anti bodies; but, the stool test is more accurate and you can order it yourself. I use enterolab.com. Go online and put the kit in the cart; no doctor’s prescription is required. The cost is $100, plus shipping. Everybody should do this test. If you do have gluten sensitivity, the body will produce antibodies, which we can measure in a simple, non invasive specimen.
Why is this a big health issue now?
Actually gluten intolerance is not a new thing. When our ancestors began to cultivate grasses or grains, they had to adapt to a new diet; 30% of people with European roots now carry the gene for celiac disease (hladq2 and hladq8). Some of our ancestors did not perfectly adapt to the gluten in grains, especially in wheat. The immune system targets gluten as a foreign invader and we can develop a long list of reactions.
This situation is intensifying today, in part because we changed our food blueprint with GMO, pesticides, and all kinds of manipulations that the body may or may not adapt to.
In the US we have created a super gluten grain because the extra gluten makes fluffier bread. European wheat does not have extra gluten yet. Actually, I have had clients eat bread in Europe with no problems.
One last note on genes:
We can carry genes for cancer or diabetes, and so on…but genes do not always express or activate – i.e., they do not become a disease.
Genes are not set in stone; we can change them by modifying stress and lifestyle. Blaming your family genes for everything is just not taking responsibility for your own health
Your genetic destiny is more like a document written in the cloud. You get to edit it. You can change your genes. Read the book “Dirty Genes” by Dr. Ben Lynch.
But if you test positive to gluten, that gene indeed has been activated. You have to get off of all gluten in your diet before you can heal. You can also take enzymes to digest gluten (DPPIV, ordipeptidyl peptidase IV). I carry them. They are for accidental exposure, not a “get out of jail free” card. You need to familiarize yourself with the list of gluten foods at www.celiac.com.
Lastly, you need to understand that foods can cross-react with other foods, based on their amino acid profile. So, if you don’t feel better off gluten, you might want to check for other sensitivities, such as diary and eggs.
This is not easy, but changing your diet can change your life.