Is a Gluten-Free Lifestyle Right For You?

blog celiacFood allergies and gluten sensitivities are one of the fastest growing forms of allergic reactions in the U.S. today. Well over 35 million Americans suffer from food allergies. The numbers of people who suffer from sensitivities to wheat or gluten-containing products are even higher. Over time and left untreated, gluten allergies can lead to chronic problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (I.B.S.), Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease. Most ancient civilizations enjoyed whole grains as a regular part of their daily diet. Is the human body today that different? What’s really causing today’s gluten sensitivity problem? It often develops in aging populations today, people who often have low digestive enzymes and Hcl, and who eat a large amount of pre-prepared and refined foods, and are regularly taking an overload of prescription and over-the counter drugs that damage the digestive tract.

Do You Have Signs Of A Wheat Or Gluten Sensitivity? •    Itchy, watery eyes or blurred vision, hives •    Diarrhea, gas and constipation, nausea or mental fuzziness after eating •    Heart palpitations and sweating, muscle weakness or poor coordination, headaches •    Ringing in the ears, chronic ear infections and congestion •    Excessively swollen stomach, unexplained obesity •    Hypothyroidism and/or hypoglycemia •    Hyperactivity, irritability and flushing in children

What’s Causing The Grain Allergy Epidemic?

1.  Heavily Treated, Overly Refined Grains: Wheat is one of the primary grains consumed in America, but today’s wheat crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides, a major suspect in food allergies and reactions. In addition, the majority of whole grain products you purchase at the grocery store are made with “enriched” flour which has been refined and bleached, a process which strips it of 80% of its vitamins and minerals. Four nutrients (iron, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin) are added back, but are in synthetic forms that are less usable by the body. Then, a host of additives, preservatives, colorings and sugars are added, contributing to the chemical overload. Most commercial wheat products are difficult for even the strongest digestive system to process over a long period of time.

2.  Low Hcl (hydrochloric acid), Drug Side Effects and Enzyme Deficiency: Hcl is a stomach acid necessary for proper digestion. Hcl decreases with age; One study showed that 80% of people at 84 years old had low Hcl. Pepsin, an enzyme required to break down protein for digestion, is activated by Hcl. Further, antacids which neutralize stomach HCL (Hydrochloric acid), vital for digestion, also disrupt normal processes. The use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) is a common thread in digestive disorders because of their clear link to ulcers and bleeding in the GI tract. Low digestive enzymes from a lack of raw foods is common today and can lead to poor digestion, too. Over time, the effects of undigested or partially digested food in the gut can be devastating. The gut wall becomes more permeable and undigested proteins begin leaking out into the bloodstream. The immune system sees the protein particles as invaders, causing inflammation and the food allergy response. Gluten proteins (found in wheat) are especially difficult to process and are a main factor in the development of Celiac disease, a type of malabsorption that causes severe intestinal problems, and Candida yeast overgrowth. People often combine high gluten grains with heavy proteins in meat or high sugar in fruit. This combination further impairs healthy digestion. Just adding more enzymes from raw foods or supplements is a great way to get wheat sensitivities and poor digestion under control. A 1995 Italian study shows supplementing with pancreatic enzymes enhances the benefits of a gluten-free diet for Celiac patients. See my whole chapter on “Enzyme Rich Foods,” on pg. 102 of my new book Healthy Healing 14th Edition for more information.

What’s Left After You Eliminate Wheat From Your Diet? Eliminating wheat or gluten may seem like an impossible task, but there are many healthy options to ease the transition. Look for wheat-free and gluten-free choices at your health food store. Pasta (I like vegetable pastas made with quinoa or rice), cereal (hot and cold), whole grain flours, breads and snackfoods are all available.

Try these options: rice (red, brown, wild, risotto), amaranth, corn, millet, oats (not tolerated by all celiacs), and quinoa. Legumes like chickpea (hummus), lentils and split peas (dal) make hearty side dishes with none of the risk of wheat or gluten. Rice breads are a tasty option for a wheat free sandwich. They’re a little crumbly, but are often sweetened with fruit juice to enhance flavor, and usually well accepted by gluten intolerant people.

Note 1: Ancient grains like spelt and kamut can be enjoyed by 70% of people allergic to commercial wheat, but neither is good choice for a person with true celiac disease (gluten allergy).

Note 2: Soba noodles made from 100% buckwheat are another good choice. Still, many processed soba foods contain gluten and are not a good choice for people with true celiac disease (gluten allergy).

Note 3: While not as nutritious as the grains listed above, people with gluten sensitivity can sometimes tolerate tapioca and potato starch. Take a small amount to see - you’ll know right away if they’re OK for you.

To Life-long health,

Linda Page