First of all, what is gluten?
It is a protein found in grains such as wheat, wheat, kamut, spelt, rye, barley, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). The gluten makes these flours easy to use for bread and pastries. If you try to use a gluten-free flour, your cakes will crumble. Gluten acts as a “glue” to keep cakes and breads together and from crumbling.
Difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
Celiac disease is the only disease related to gluten intolerance officially recognized by allopathic medicine. This disease is diagnosed by a blood test revealing positive antibodies against transglutaminase, and by a biopsy of the small intestine. When both tests are positive, the diagnosis is made and is called celiac disease. This disease affects between 0.7% and 2.0% of the world’s population (1), with a prevalence in Northern European countries. The symptoms of celiac disease are mostly digestive: chronic diarrhea, abdominal cramps, weight loss, but also pallor, anemia, and nutrient deficiencies due to lack of absorption by the small intestine.
Gluten intolerance, on the other hand, is much more common, affecting about 30% of the population (2), and can manifest itself in hundreds of symptoms, sometimes related to the digestive system, but much more often related to other parts of the body. In fact, two thirds of people with gluten intolerance do not have digestive symptoms (3), but suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, and also many autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or Lupus. Many also suffer from symptoms on the autism spectrum: dyslexia, Asperger’s syndrome, obsessive behaviors, stereotyping, attention deficit, behavioral disorders, social disorders, and of course autism.
Practitioners of alternative medicine, of which I am a part, recognize that there is a real epidemic of illnesses due to gluten intolerance, and unfortunately today, these patients are not recognized as such by the allopathic medical current. This leads to confusion and misunderstanding for many people who think they have gluten related disorders, but when they talk to their doctor, they are not heard.
The symptoms related to gluten are enormous:
There is behavior: Autism, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, learning problems with writing… Autoimmune diseases (Hashimoto’s, Multiple Sclerosis), food and environmental allergies, chronic fatigue, hormonal disturbances. We also observe cases of chronic anemia, chronic respiratory problems: bronchitis, asthma or chronic skin problems: eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis. To go further, cases of brain diseases are sometimes detected such as: depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s… And chronic digestive problems: acid reflux; Crohn’s disease; colitis, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion…
Why such an epidemic?
Many patients wonder and do not understand why so many people now, more than ever, have reactions to gluten. Indeed, there are several reasons:
- Gluten is added as a stabilizer to products such as ketchup, mayonnaise, ready-made meals, ready-made sauces, and even French fries!
- Modern wheat contains about 80% gluten compared to old-fashioned wheat which contained only 50 to 60%.
- Unleavened bread contains more gluten and other difficult to digest molecules that irritate the digestive system.
- More and more patients have a porous small intestine, which creates intolerances.
What is a porous intestine?
The small intestine is the organ that allows us to absorb nutrients and be nourished. The wall of the small intestine is covered by a thick layer of a mixture of bacteria, viruses and yeasts, which protect it from invaders. This is the intestinal flora. If the small intestine is irritated by foods that we do not digest properly, such as gluten, then the poorly digested gluten molecules disturb the intestinal flora. The intestinal flora weakens and is no longer able to protect the intestine; the tissues of the intestine become inflamed, creating microulcers, and the undigested gluten molecules pass through the wall of the small intestine into the bloodstream.
Reactions to gluten
Once in the bloodstream, gluten proteins create several problems:
- Either they attach to other proteins and are transported to different tissues in the body. For example, they attach to proteins that are supposed to regenerate the thyroid gland. But because undigested gluten molecules are considered “abnormal” by the immune system when they arrive in the bloodstream, the immune system will then attack the gluten molecules and unfortunately at the same time, attack the cells that have arrived on the thyroid. This creates what is called an auto-immune disease. It is often said that it is a self-destructive process, when in fact the immune system is only doing its job.
- Either the undigested gluten molecules turn into opioid peptides (4), and their opioid nature will disrupt the functioning of the brain: lack of attention, ADD, ADHD, depression, rage, obsessions…this is how we explain the unreasonable behaviors of children who are on the autism spectrum, but also of depressions.
- Either the gluten molecules attach themselves to proteins that go to the mucous membranes of the body and at this point, it can create chronic infections of the ears, nose, bronchial tubes, sinuses, vagina or bladder. This is how we explain the cases of chronic infections.
In fact, the reactions to gluten are very diverse, but I am convinced, as are many colleagues here in the United States, that we are suffering from the effects of gluten on a very large scale, well beyond the diagnosis of celiac disease.
You should also know that most of these symptoms and illnesses are actually curable and even reversible in some cases! Yes, you read well… by adopting a gluten free lifestyle (and without other foods sometimes) I have many patients who have managed to stop their epileptic seizures, no longer have ulcerative colitis, no more depression, no more attention deficit, and even no more joint pain! What may seem miraculous to you is possible with proper nutrition, a change in lifestyle, and adapted food supplements.