Gluten-Free Awareness

“What food is to one man may be fierce poison to others.” — Lucretius

Change your food, change your life. This may sound like an interesting statement deserving of one’s attention or it may sound like a bunch of hype. For those that suffer from gluten intolerance or sensitivity, this could be the best advice they ever choose to follow. It may be the only solution to curing the agonizing health roller coaster that has plagued many, unknowing of the cause, for years. I know it was for me.

We all know Americans are known for our love of food and attachments to “certain” ways of eating. We all love our fast, ready-to-go breads, pastas, cookies, right? There is often much resistance when it is suggested to give up any little morsel of something we so dearly desire. This in part may explain why diet can often be the last thing evaluated when diagnosing illness today even though much research and knowledge of the human body proves that it should actually be considered first, as a core issue.

Gluten is a special type of protein that is commonly found in the grains barley, rye and wheat. It is often thought of in baking as the stretchy, elastic part that holds baked goods together like glue. There are plenty of other grains with high protein content that do not contain gluten. Use caution with oats! They must be grown in a certified “gluten-free” manner as crop rotation will contaminate this grain.

Food-manufacturers have stepped up to fill our “want it now” and “please comfort me” desires with an inexpensive, easy to grow crop – wheat. A nation demanding more convenience items is a nation consuming more “cheap filler” products than our bodies were ever designed to handle. Gluten can be found in everything from TV diners to canned soups to the coating on deli meat. It is used to thicken salad dressings, sauces and gravies. It is truly amazing at how it’s hidden in just about everything on the conventional market shelf today… lurking where you may least expect it.

Unfortunately a large segment of the population cannot tolerate gluten. It is a systematic autoimmune disorder. These people are said to be gluten sensitive and will suffer from an immune system reaction if gluten is consumed. For over 50 years now, doctors have made the connection to gluten as the cause of celiac disease (CD). CD is an autoimmune disorder centered in the gastrointestinal system. An estimated 1 in 133 people are affected in the United States, as supported by research. For those that have a first-degree relative with CD, the odds are higher, 1 out of 22.

The numbers are even higher for those with gluten sensitivities; researchers now speculate a whopping 3 out of every 10 people in the United States. Such a large amount when considered the majority of food is made with gluten. It has often been questioned if this is coincidental with half of the population having a chronic disease and 30 percent of the population suffering from gluten sensitivity. Could it possibly have anything to do with the increase in wheat used in this country? Many are now saying it’s possible.

Having sensitivity to gluten is not the same thing as having an allergy. This is one huge misconception that leaves people feeling sick because they’ll continue eating the wrong food when an allergy test to gluten returns negative.

Food allergies are tested with an IgE test, which will help determine the culprits that will cause reactions that usually happen within ten minutes to an hour, sometimes faster.

Food Immune Reactivity (FIR) or food intolerance may often be referred to as a food allergy but it’s actually much more complicated and more difficult to diagnose as these symptoms may take anywhere from several hours to days to become apparent. With this the antibodies are different; antigliadin antibody (IgA), anti-tissue transglutaminase (ATTA), and anti-endomysial antibody (EMA).

These antibodies are not histamine triggers; rather creators of chronic inflammation in the body and can destroy the intestinal villi. This is when gluten sensitivity becomes celiac disease.

Dr. Melinda Greenfield of Albany Dermatology, says, “I suggest trying a gluten-free diet to all of my patients with any sign of inflammatory issues. I have seen symptoms disappear across the board in those that eliminate these grains from their diet.” Greenfield is a huge believer in the food connection with the body and has her entire family following a gluten-free, casein free diet.

An elimination diet while keeping a food journal  is often recommended for a minimum of six weeks, testing to see if suspect symptoms clear. Dr. John Abell, a local internist, says, “An elimination diet is the gold standard if any certain food is suspected to be causing problems.” Dr. Abell has seen the impressive results with many of his patients here in Albany — not just with gluten but many other food triggers as well.

In her book The Gluten Connection, Shari Lieberman, PhD, CNS, FACN, states that leaving grains out of the diet all together will not do any nutritional harm. She compares gluten sensitivity to a chameleon-like disease that can develop in many different, unsuspecting ways. She cautions the dangers of misdiagnosis.

Many skin disorders due to gluten sensitivity have been misdiagnosed because patients did not complain of gut problems. It was only about 40 years ago that the connection was made. Countless drugs and ointments have been prescribed where a gluten-free diet was needed.

Probably the most heartbreaking misdiagnosis of all has to do with the numerous neurological disorders in children. It is no way implied that gluten sensitivity is the culprit for these issues however; it can take on some of the same types of symptoms, as stated in the book The Gluten Connection. It can leave parents doing quite a bit of detective work on their own trying to cipher between conventional wisdom and what they actually see happening for themselves. As parents deal with the day to day basis of a doubting community or worse, those that simply think the child is a spoiled brat, the child goes without what it so desperately needs most – understanding and nourishment.

Inflammation is a huge factor in Autism, according to the writings of Kenneth Bock, MD and Cameron Stauth. In their book, Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies, it states, “I had seen emerging evidence that inflammatory free radical damage was an important cause of Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Why not autism? Maybe free radical related inflammation contributed to it.”

He goes on to say, “…if I had known then what I know now… Now almost all doctors realize that inflammation is an extraordinarily important element of most critical, chronic diseases. For example, about half the people who die of heart attacks don’t have the classic heart disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol, but they do have arteries that are hard and thick with chronic inflammation.”

The Autism Research Institute (ARI) wanted to find out which remedies were most effective and sent out a questionnaire to over 23,700 parents. One of the most effective treatments reported was removing gluten and casein (the major protein found in cow’s milk) from the child’s diet. 65% of the parents reported their child got better.

Cow’s milk is known to stimulate the overproduction of mucous. It is the most common food factor, according to Dr. Kenneth’s Bock’s book, to trigger an asthma episode, wheat is second. These food factors not only trigger the episode but cause inflammation. “Even eating the wrong type of diet can contribute to inflammation … The conventional treatment of asthma, unfortunately, fails to place enough emphasis on food allergies and good nutrition.”

Food plays a huge role in the body and should be considered further than just our taste buds and convenience. Inherently we know this. It is to be compared to fueling up a vehicle with the gas that was intended verses trying to slip by on diesel. Each body is different and what works for one may simply trash another. Following a gluten-free diet today is easier than ever. It just takes some getting use to. Reading labels will seem very time consuming at first, but soon will feel like second nature. With all of the alternative products on the market today, no one should miss out on any flavor.

It’s important to be pro-active in your own health care. Using your body as a barometer is a great tool if you are having symptoms but please understand sometimes CD is completely symptom free. Explain your concerns to your doctor and ask for the RIGHT tests.

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All of the recipes on this website are Gluten Free. Check them out HERE.

To contact Kristen about lifestyle coaching and overcoming the hurdles of this diet, please contact her directly: Kristen@beegreenfoods.com.

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