If you eat cheeseburgers or French fries all the time or drink six sodas a day, you likely know it's not good for you. But eating a nice dark, crunchy slice of whole wheat bread--how could that be bad? Well, bread contains gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and oats. It is hidden in pizza, pasta, bread, wraps, rolls, and most processed foods. Clearly, gluten is a staple of the American diet. What most people don't know is that gluten can cause serious health complications. You may be at risk even if you don't have full blown celiac disease. To protect your health it's important to know the truth about gluten, understand the dangers, and use a simple system that will help determine whether or not gluten is a problem for you.
What is Gluten Sensitivity?
Gluten sensitivity creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract, and more. It can be the single cause behind many different diseases. To correct these diseases, you need to treat the cause--which is often gluten sensitivity--not just the symptoms.
Of course, that doesn't mean that ALL cases of depression or autoimmune disease or any of these other problems are caused by gluten in everyone--but it is important to look for it if you have any chronic illness.
5 Dangers of Gluten
1. People with Gluten Sensitivity have a Higher Risk of Death
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with diagnosed, undiagnosed, and "latent" celiac disease or gluten sensitivity had a higher risk of death, mostly from heart disease and cancer. This study looked at almost 30,000 patients from 1969 to 2008. The findings were dramatic. There was a 39% increased risk of death in those with celiac disease, 72% increased risk in those with gut inflammation related to gluten, and 35% increased risk in those with gluten sensitivity but no celiac disease. This ground-breaking research proves any sensitivity whatsoever to gluten is detrimental to our health.
2. Over 50 Diseases Caused by Eating Gluten
A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 diseases 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 is also 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.
3. Hidden Danger: 99% of People with Gluten Sensitivity Do Not Know they Have It
Most ascribe their ill health or symptoms to something else. Unfortunately, the problem goes untreated while the risks continue to mount.
4. Secret Epidemic: Celiac Disease Increased by 400% in 50 Years
Another study in Gastroenterology (2009) compared the blood of 10,000 people from 50 years ago to 10,000 people today and found that the incidences of full-blown celiac disease increased by 400 %. It now affects 1 in 100 people. Gluten sensitivity now affects 1/3 Americans.
5. Economic Burden: Celiac Disease Costs the American Healthcare System
Dr. Peter Green, Professor of Clinical Medicine for the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University studied all 10 million subscribers to CIGNA, a health insurance company, and found those who were correctly diagnosed with celiac disease used fewer medical services and reduced their healthcare costs by more than 30 %. The problem is that only 1% of those with celiac disease are actually diagnosed. That means 99 % suffer without knowing it, costing the healthcare system millions of dollars.
Why Are we Sensitive to Gluten?
One reason is our lack of genetic adaptation to grasses, and particularly gluten, in our diet. Wheat was introduced into Europe during the Middle Ages, and 30 % of people of European descent carry the gene for celiac disease, which increases susceptibility to health problems from eating gluten.
American strains of wheat have a much higher gluten content (which is needed to make light, fluffy Wonder Bread and giant bagels) than those traditionally found in Europe. This super-gluten was recently introduced into our agricultural food supply and now invades nearly all wheat strains in America.
How to Check for Gluten Sensitivity
By failing to identify gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, we create needless suffering for millions of Americans. Health problems caused by gluten sensitivity cannot be treated with better medication. They can only be resolved by eliminating gluten from your diet.
To find out if you are one of the millions of people suffering from an unidentified gluten sensitivity, just follow this simple procedure:
Get an ALCAT (antigen leukocyte cellular antibody test). A simple and cost-effect food allergy test can quickly determine which offending foods may be causing behavioral, mental and physical issues in your body. The test identifies physiological reactions to over 350 foods, chemicals and other potential inflammation triggers. David Ortiz, baseball star from the Boston Red Sox, recently took the test. Read this interesting ESPN report on how Ortiz's dietary changes have significantly improved his energy level and his game. This food allergy test is available at Digestive Health Ann Arbor.
Stop in at Digestive Health Ann Arbor
“You are what you eat. Or, even more accurately, you are what you absorb,” says Dr. John Wycoff, an osteopath based out of East Lansing who believes hormonal balance, allergies and diet are integral to health. As reactionary medicine and over-usage of prescribed chemicals fail to alleviate our pain and discomfort, more and more physicians embrace holistic approaches to healing. Through a deeper understanding of what our bodies do and do not absorb, and how these physiological responses affect us, we can take charge of our wellness and move towards a brighter, more fulfilling future.
Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.
Excerpted from HuffPost Healthy Living, 01/02/10
Author: Mark Hyman, MD