If I told you that I ate an omelette for breakfast, a slice of quiche for lunch and then dined out on souffle for dinner, you might ask me, “isn't that a lot of eggs?” But what if I told you I ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and some pizza or pasta for dinner? The question “isn't that a lot of wheat?” would likely not leave your mouth. We're so accustomed to grain-based, refined foods appearing at every meal, that we seldom stop to ask if we're overdoing it.
Sure, I eat eggs almost every day. But do I eat them at every meal? Not even close. And yes, I'd be sad if someone told me I could no longer eat them. And yes, there are many people who are allergic to eggs. But what about the people who are allergic to grains? The thing about most food allergies or intolerances is that they typically result in identifiable types of discomfort to the eater. Those who have suffered with lactose intolerance can tell you how it feels shortly after they eat the offending dairy product. That said, many people also experience similar discomfort after eating grains, particularly gluten-containing grains. And while those feelings may be enough for many people to avoid grains, the larger issue with a gluten or grain intolerance is that many of the symptoms are NOT easily identified by the eater as being related.
Gluten (more specifically the protein in gluten called gliadin) can cause a myriad of health problems, but they aren't always obviously related to the fact that the you've consumed grains. In fact, they don't always occur immediately after eating them. When digestive issues occur, often it isn't until you stop eating gluten for at least two weeks, allow your body recover from the attack it's been under, and then reintroduce the offending foods. Once your body has had a chance to rebalance, the offending foods often result in direct discomfort. You might think you made yourself intolerant by eliminating the gluten, but that's not how it works.
What if you never stop eating the offending foods? Does that mean the allergy or intolerance isn't there? If you don't eliminate then reintroduce the food to FEEL the effect of it, can you simply avoid the negative effects? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. This is where the chronic, negative effects of a gluten or grain intolerance really wreak havoc. It's the effects of gluten that you don't feel immediately that are far worse than the ones that you do feel.
|Check this book
out for more info
Sure, digestive discomfort is something most of us would choose to avoid if possible, but what about some of the other gluten associated medical conditions that can arise? According to Dr. James Braly and Ron Hoggan, authors of “Dangerous Grains: Why Gluten Cereal Grains May Be Hazardous to Your Health,” the list of these conditions is seemingly endless. Maybe you can identify with one (or more) of the conditions they cite as showing an association to gluten consumption. While this is an abbreviated list, it's worthwhile for anyone who feels sub-optimal to consider eliminating post-agricultural revolution calorie-sources (aka: grains, specifically gluten-containing forms) from our diets.
- chronic joint pain
- weight gain or unwanted weight loss
- psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- canker sores (mouth ulcers or sores)
- Type 1 Diabetes: Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM)
- Pre-and Post-Natal difficulties including: difficulty with breast feeding, infertility, miscarriages, and various obstetrical disorders
- bone diseases, calcium deficiency
- gallbladder malfunction
- gastric ulcers
- heart disease
- liver disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis herpetiformis
- lactose intolerance
- thyroid disease- hypo and hyperthyroidism
- ulcerative colitis
- vitamin or mineral deficiencies
I didn't list nearly all that are in the book. If you're interested, check it out for yourself or do some searching online. Seriously, the list is pretty comprehensive. That's not to say that gluten alone is responsible for all of those problems, but it certainly can be. I don't know about you, but if I learned that something I was eating all the time was the cause of major discomfort or disease in my life, I'd give some serious thought to developing a diet for myself that eliminates that food.
I know what you're thinking…”but how can a FOOD be responsible for these diseases?” Well, the mechanisms by which these diseases are triggered nearly all begin in our gut. Yes, in our digestive system. In fact, according to Elizabeth Lipski, Ph. D, CCN, author of “Digestive Wellness” and “Digestive Wellness for Children,” “In addition to obvious digestive troubles, many other medical problems are caused by faulty digestion.”
Often we are lacking the enzymes needed to break down the specific proteins. This is most easily understood in the case of lactose intolerance and the addition many people make of a lactase enzyme to their diet or to their milk to enable their bodies to handle those foods. When we consume foods that our bodies are not able to properly digest and assimilate, these foods (specifically the proteins in them) are seen as invaders to our immune system. The undigested proteins are larger particles than our gut lining is able to absorb and the microvilli are irritated by these particles. What typically results from this irritation are tiny tears in our gut lining that then allow those undigested food proteins to escape our digestive system and enter our bloodstream.
According to Mark Sisson, author of “The Primal Blueprint,” (a fantastic read, by the way) in his April 28th, 2010 interview on Underground Wellness Radio,
“When larger undigested protein molecules enter the bloodstream, your body goes to work. Your immune says, ‘hey, this isn't an amino acid, this is actually a full-on protein. It might be a virus. It might be a bacteria. I better set up an immune response to fight it.' So the immune system starts to set up a response to these large, undigested protein molecules that enter the bloodstream. That would be okay, but for the fact that some of these protein molecules resemble the same protein molecules that reside on the outside of cell membranes in certain parts of the body… In some of your joints, there are cell membranes that have proteins that may resemble some of the proteins that your body just set up an immune response to… your immune system does not know which is the enemy and which is friendly, which is you. So it fights them all. As a result of your having introduced these foreign proteins into the bloodstream that happen to resembles ones that you have that are actually friendly, your immune system starts to attack you. And that may manifest itself with an autoimmune disease… it may be something like rheumitoid arthritis… it may be Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 25 or 30… and there are several other versions of autoimmune diseases that probably, most likely, have a dietary origin.”
Lipski corroborates Sisson's explanation when she states that:
“When the intestinal lining is damaged even more, substances larger than particle size — disease-causing bacteria, potentially toxic molecules, and undigested food particles — are allowed to pass directly through the weakened cell membranes. They go directly into the bloodstream, activating antibodies and alarm substances called cytokines. The cytokines alert our lymphocytes (white blood cells) to battle the particles. Oxidants are produced in the battle, causing irritation and inflammation far from the digestive system. That is the basis for a condition called increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome.”
Check out the excerpt from Mark Sisson's interview on Underground Wellness Radio:
You can certainly create a test for yourself and eliminate gluten from your diet, or even all grains, for a time period of at least two weeks and see how you feel while not eating them as well as how you feel when you start eating them again. Often people feel like they're having withdrawal symptoms when they stop, which can be an indication of an intolerance, and then also uncomfortable symptoms when they resume.
Lipski explains this process in more detail in “Digestive Wellness,” and I'd highly recommend picking up a copy of the book if you're interested in understanding more about the mechanism as well as various approaches to healing the gut. Of course, if you'd like help in this process, contact me for 1:1 coaching and we can work together. I'll teach you how to create an elimination diet to find out if you are sensitive to gluten and whether you should be avoiding it. Trust me, there are limitless possibilities and combinations of foods to eat that don't include gluten that look, smell and taste fantastic. It can seem daunting at first to toss aside many foods you're used to eating, but with help, it's all possible.
|A great read
by Mark Sisson
|A fantastic resource
by Elizabeth Lipski
Enjoy & be well!
BS, Certified Nutrition Educator, C.H.E.K. Holistic Lifestyle Coach
San Francisco Nutritionist serving the Bay Area and beyond via phone & Skype consultations.
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