Why Gluten Free

Family-Exercising-at-the-Park-000080836875_optEverywhere you look, you can find something that relates to a gluten free lifestyle.  Whether you are walking down the grocery isle, reading a health magazine, watching a health show, or looking at a menu the words “gluten free” are becoming common place in our society.  Gluten free is being associated with a healthier way to eat and live. Many have asked…is eating a gluten free diet really more healthy?

The answer is a resounding YES for millions of people.

To be fair though, just because a product is gluten free, that does not mean that it is automatically healthy.  Many gluten free products are high in fat, high in calories, and have a high glycemic index. Just like anything else, if you are going to eat a gluten free diet, you need to choose your gluten free food with care.

I have read many articles that are on both sides of the debate. For many years and even presently many experts assert that eating a gluten free diet is only beneficial for those that have been diagnosed with celiac disease.  The argument here is that gluten only causes symptoms and disease in the intestines.

The problem with this argument is that these so called experts are either not aware of the recent studies identifying many other problems that are being identified under the diagnosis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity or they are choosing to ignore these studies.

1% of the population has been diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that is triggered by gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Studies demonstrate that 7-8% of celiac patients have not been diagnosed.  This is most likely due to their symptoms being milder than others. We all have a different tolerance as to when we consider a health problem severe enough to actually do something about.  Just think of your own family members and friends.  How many of them are suffering from symptoms like bloating, intermittent diarrhea, constipation, frequent stomach aches, and indigestion? Just think of how many of your family members are taking over the counter medicine like Tums, Alka-Seltzer and Rolaids on a regular basis?  How many people do you know are taking Nexium on a daily basis so that they can eat the foods that are causing them heart burn, ignoring the side-effects that these medicines have?

1% of the population is estimated to have the diagnosis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. As in celiac disease 7-8% of the population is estimated to have non-celiac gluten sensitivity that has yet to be diagnosed. When we add these numbers up we find that 16-18% of the population. In the United States alone this translates to an estimated 57 million individuals that have health problems that are either directly caused by or at the least aggravated by eating gluten.

We now have lab tests that can be performed to demonstrate that the body’s immune system makes antibodies against gluten in certain individuals.  Cyrex Labs in Pheonix, AZ are the leaders testing blood work for our immune response to gluten. Aristo Vojdani, Ph.D., M.Sc., C.L.S. is a clinical advisor and a key member in the Cyrex Labs team. Dr. Vojdani has been a researcher studying the immune system for over 40 years. He has published 120 peer review articles and is owner of over 15 U.S patents for laboratory assessments. Many of Dr. Vojdani’s laboratory assessments have been used in the process of developing specialized laboratory blood tests to examine if a person’s immune system is producing antibodies or a an immune attack toward this protein called gluten that we are all becoming so familiar with.

In summary, gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley. There is significant scientific evidence that puts 57 million people in the United States at risk to have some type of gluten allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance. Eating foods such as bread, pasta, cakes, pastries, pancakes, donuts, breaded foods, many sauces as well as drinking beer and malted beverages can be causing a variety of health problems for millions of people. Most of these people are either being prescribed medications with many side-effects or they are self-medicating with over the counter medications. Either way, if indeed they are gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant, they are allowing chronic health problems to go unchecked by continuing to eat gluten.

If you suspect that you may be sensitive to gluten, you need to either be tested to see if your body is producing antibodies to gluten or you can go through a gluten elimination trial.  We suggest that you avoid all foods containing gluten for a three week period. For most people that have milder gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, heart burn, abdominal pain, frequent diarrhea, or constipation, a three week elimination usually will offer significant relief of those symptoms.  For other health conditions that are more in the realm of autoimmune disorders such as eczema, autoimmune thyroiditis, autoimmune neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and a number of other conditions, someone may need to be gluten free from 3-6 months to see a significant difference in the disease process.

If a gluten free diet offers an improvement of symptoms, challenging the immune system with gluten daily for a few days to a few weeks is all that it takes for most people to see a return of their symptoms or an aggravation of their condition.