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Gluten and Other Food Sensitivities

Many of you know how shrill I can become when you tell me that you just "can't give up wheat, are you kidding me?" Well, the following information may just change your mind about the malevolent power of a gluten sensitivity. (And to a lesser degree, a dairy or a nightshade (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant) sensitivity.) But first of all let's scare the wee out of you and talk about wheat or gluten or gliadin (the protein in gluten) and how health destroying it can be: For starters, "Gluten sensitivity appears to be a cause of ataxia or altered gait and limb movement problems (e.g. staggering drunkenly with no martinis in your system) even in the absence of gastrointestinal symptoms of celiac disease."(Townsend Letter>)

The last part of that sentence is the most devastating and malevolent: "... even in the absence of gastrointestinal symptoms." Usually, we are attuned to our body's messages via aches or pains, nausea, GI upset, headaches etc. Our body is a wonderful barometer of what's going on. Or is it? In the case of a gluten intolerance, not so much.

You may get neurological symptoms instead. Like the aforementioned ataxia. There is "... evidence of cerebellar atrophy and the immunologic damage to the cerebellum may be irreversible." But there is evidence that some patients in whom the diagnosis of "Cerebellar Ataxia, etiology unknown" can and have "a complete resolution of their symptoms after a strict adherence to a gluten-free diet." (Townsend Letter).

Here's the scenario: It seems to come out of nowhere  the stumbling, the clumsiness, the tripping. Of course you get scared and think you have something terminal like Stephen Hawking and that someday you will be required to do Physics. You make an appointment with a neurologist who puts you through many $$$$ tests. She comes up with nothing and gives you a very broad diagnosis, "Cerebellar Ataxia, etiology unknown". She gives you a referral to a psychiatrist because obviously you are whacko. Meanwhile no one has tested you for a wheat allergy.

That's what happened to my father. He was very clumsy and tripped a lot. Some people in our small-ish town thought that "George has a drinking problem," when in fact he was a teetotaler. Finally, when he was in his 60's his lack of coordination got so bad that he had a slew of tests at the Mayo Clinic. They found nothing and gave him the diagnosis of "Cerebellar Ataxia, etiology unknown." Looking back, my father ate bread with breakfast and dinner. Wheat, of course. What if his ataxia stemmed from a wheat intolerance? He also slurred his words. Another symptom of a wheat allergy. Yet another symptom of a gluten intolerance is dystonia, or a movement disorder in which the person cannot control his muscle tone, resulting in wild and intense spasms.

Wheat allergies tend to run in families, especially those families of Northern European Descent. I am of Northern European Descent and also gluten intolerant (discovered late just a few years ago) and although I don't have ataxia, it could be that a hereditary or familial kind of ataxia could just be another undiagnosed wheat allergy wreaking havoc through generations of unsuspecting people.

To further scare you to death. Researchers have also made a connection between long-standing gluten sensitivity and a variety of senile dementias including Alzheimer's Disease. "A possible association exists between progressive cognitive impairment and celiac disease (NB. A severe kind of gluten intolerance), given the temporal relationships and the relatively high frequency of ataxia and peripheral neuropathy..." (Mayo Clinic, 2006)

Gluten intolerance has also been implicated in autism and schizophrenia: "... a boy with autism-like symptoms actually had undignosed celiac disease and recovered on a gluten-free diet." (Alessio Fasano, director of the Center of Celiac Research at Mass. Gen.)

Remember how I mentioned that gluten intolerance runs in families? My first cousin Johnny (my father's side of the family) was schizophrenic, a brilliant artist yet at 17 was diagnosed with schizophrenia and ran an elevator in the building his mother owned in New York City for his entire life. A life wasted through gluten? "A former professor diagnosed with dementia and institutionalized recovered on a gluten-free diet. Her doctors knew she had celiac disease, but thought it irrelevant to her degenerative brain disorder." (Alessio Fasano) My Uncle, my father's brother, was brilliant and wrote many scholarly books and died of Alzheimers, after 6 long years at 80. My father and his sister died young of strokes. My father's mother died of Alzheimer's at age 74. All brain stuff. All wheat stuff?

"Johns Hopkins University scientists found that nearly ¼ of serum samples from some 1,400 schizophrenic patients had anti-gliadin (this is the protein in gluten) antibodies, compared with just 3% of healthy controls.

I am hoping that no one from now on thinks that eating gluten is "irrelevant."

Here's the rub: You never know when you will sensitize to wheat gluten. (Remember the movie Days of Wine and Roses? Jack Lemmon was an alcoholic of the first order and Lee Remick was his teetotaling girlfriend. After trying many alcohols with her, he finally hit pay dirt with a brandy Alexander. She drank it and instantly became an alcoholic. Or, she sensitized and became allergic and addicted all in the same moment and her disease started.) It can happen at any moment with any bite of sourdough bread and you may not really be aware of it in any noticeable way, as a gluten allergy can masquerade as many different things  as trivial as some lower bowel gas, heart burn or a headache, like migraines, or it could be as serious and elusive as ataxia, schizophrenia or early dementia.

As you go merrily along slathering the butter on the free bread specials at Great Harvest, your gluten intolerance will be silently stripping your gut lining of its tiny villi. These little guys  graceful as the seaweeds waving in the currents of the Caribbean  allow us to absorb nutrients and when they are gone, there ain't no getting the goodies out of the organic food that you so carefully buy and prepare.

This permeable gut is called Leaky Gut syndrome from which you will eventually get massive nutrient deficiencies which may then make you vulnerable to major diseases which may or may not relate to your gut. For example, breast cancer, which I had 30 years ago, has been implicated in leaky gut syndrome (caused by gluten intolerance) as has rheumatoid arthritis and other joint disorders like achiness, swelling, stiffness. Gluten intolerance is also implicated in a slew of auto-immune disorders.

Can you see now that gluten intolerance can be devastating, long reaching, slow, silent and deadly?

I am now advising everyone to eliminate wheat from their diet whether or not they are sensitive. Today's wheat is just not good anymore  the grain has been messed with abominably and is no longer the wheat that we had as children. No more long lovely stalks waving and rustling in the breeze, but now I understand that the wheat is short and stubby. Then because we have too much wheat, crops sit in silos for up to 2 years, getting moldy, then are ground along with the mold to make your Orowheat bread.

Another problem with not honoring your food sensitivities  not just wheat and gluten  is that it will increase blood levels of eosinophils, which are the WBC's that are clinical bench markers for allergic reactions and parasites. I find that patients with a gluten intolerance and the subsequent leaky gut often have recurring parasites and yeast (a symbiont of parasites). Researchers report in the April Nature Immunology that "... allergic reactions to food coincide with an accumulation of eosinophils in the small intestine." and furthermore such a buildup "contributes to intestinal inflammation, damage to nearby nerves, weight loss or gain and stoppage of digestion." This may be why some people feel so horrible after eating due to the rush of eosinophils to sites in the gut that have released granules that contain toxins from the ingested food allergens.

Similar to the clean-up work Olivia Pope does for President Fitz, those beneficent little eosinophils are just trying to clean up our messes by getting the balance of power back to where it should be. But when we indulge ourselves in our food allergies - or sugar, the eosinophils are so busy trying to handle the allergic reactions that they don't have time to do their really important job which is cleaning up parasites and yeast and all of their debris. This deadly duo spells major ill health not only In the moment but esp. down the road.

My advice to you: Find out what foods you are sensitive to and stop eating them. Just stop. Plain and simple. Clean up your parasites and yeast. Heal your leaky gut, which may take up to a year, by the way, but it can be done. And take probiotics and digestive enzymes for life.

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