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Gluten-free is hot these days. There are books and websites, restaurants with gluten-free menus, and grocery stores with hundreds of new gluten-free products on the shelves. Is this a fad, or a reflection of response to a real problem?
Wheat is the major source of gluten in our diet. Unfortunately, its history parallels chronic disease and obesity across the world. Supermarkets today contain walls of wheat disguised in literally hundreds of thousands of FrankenFoods, and it’s no surprise each American now consumes about 55 pounds of wheat flour every year.
That consumption takes a toll on our health and our waistlines. Full-blown celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that triggers body-wide inflammation, creating insulin resistance that causes weight gain and diabetes, as well as over 55 conditions including autoimmune diseases, irritable bowel, reflux, cancer, depression, and osteoporosis.
In a study comparing blood samples taken 50 years ago from 10,000 young Air Force recruits to recent samples from 10,000 people, researchers found a 400 percent increase in celiac disease over the last 50 years. That increase parallels our increased wheat consumption.
Even if you don’t have full-blown celiac, a low-grade autoimmune reaction to gluten propels your immune system to create low-level antibodies. In fact, seven percent or 21 million people have these anti-gliadin antibodies.
Most doctors dismiss gluten sensitivity if you don’t have a diagnosis of celiac disease, but new research proves them wrong.
Celiac disease results when the body creates antibodies against the wheat (adaptive immunity), but another kind of gluten sensitivity results from a generalized activated immune system (innate immunity). People can be gluten-sensitive without having celiac disease or gluten antibodies and still have inflammation and many other symptoms.
That inflammation contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, depression and so many other modern ills. These non-communicable chronic diseases will cost our global economy $47 trillion over the next 20 years.
In America today, 69 percent of us are overweight and over 35 percent of us are obese.
Researchers predict if these trends continue, one in three Americans could have Type 2 diabetes by 2050. In less than a decade, the rate of pre-diabetes or diabetes in teenagers has risen from nine percent to 23 percent.
A major study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found hidden gluten sensitivity (elevated antibodies without full-blown celiac disease) could increase risk of death by 35 to 75 percent, mostly by causing heart disease and cancer. By this mechanism alone, over 20 million Americans are at risk for heart attack, obesity, cancer and death.
Gluten-triggered inflammation also damages our gut lining, so all the bugs and partially digested food particles inside our intestine cross the gut barrier.
Our immune system starts attacking these foreign proteins, leading to systemic inflammation that contributes heart disease, dementia, cancer, diabetes and more.
Dr. Alessio Fasano, a celiac expert from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, discovered a protein made in the intestine called zonulin that increases with gluten exposure. Zonulin breaks up the tight junctions or cement between the intestinal cells that normally protect your immune system from bugs and foreign proteins in food leaking across the intestinal barrier.
It isn’t just the gluten in wheat that creates problems. A non-gluten glycoprotein or lectin (combination of sugar and protein) in wheat called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), found in highest concentrations in whole wheat, also increases whole body inflammation. While not an autoimmune reaction, it can be just as dangerous and cause heart attacks.
Wheat’s problems go beyond gluten. In part two of this blog I’ll also explain how, and why this new dwarf wheat can create bingeing, addiction, and other problems.
Continuing evidence will support that going gluten-free can make you feel better and lose weight but also literally save your life.
Have you gone gluten-free? Do you notice improved symptoms since you eliminated gluten? Share your story below or on my Facebook fan page.
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“Take-Out Foods, Restaurant Meals Tied to Obesity Trend.” – Online Medical Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 May 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.
“Study Finds 23 Percent of Teens Have Prediabetes or Diabetes.” Study Finds 23 Percent of Teens Have Prediabetes or Diabetes. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.
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