Gluten – Public Enemy Number One!

It makes me mad that patients are given simple dietary recommendations as part of their medical treatment plan.

My clients have often been shocked and dismayed to learn about the effects of gluten. It’s often tough to understand how foods so fundamental to everyday life might be causing harm.

Why? Because gluten is in wheat, rye and barley…and as you know, these grains are ingredients for bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, cakes, pastries, crackers, pizza bases and many other foods that are eaten by the truckload each day.

I have a 267-page manual packed with scientific and medical studies showing the detrimental effects of gluten.

There are 18,000 or more published articles in major medical journals showing how gluten causes problems and one 2012 report in the New England Journal of Medicine – one of North America’s most respected medical journals, stated that gluten is known to cause at least 55 different diseases.

My clinical experience is congruent with the research – most of our clients feel better when they stop eating gluten! Energy improves, skin rashes go away mood, memory and cognitive problems improve and even sex drive, skin and sleep can all improve.

If you’d like more detail on gluten, along with specific guidelines on how to avoid it without reducing your enjoyment of a varied diet, read The Hompes Method book or, better still, follow the Hompes Method Basics online health rejuvenation plan.

Let’s briefly highlight how gluten causes problems – I won’t blind you with science, but I want to emphasize that gluten is a massive, massive problem for many people.

  • In susceptible individuals gluten sets off an inflammatory reaction in the small intestine.
  • This inflammation can lead to significant symptoms such as pain, bloating and diarrhea in some people, but may not cause obvious symptoms in others.
  • The inflammatory process can spill over – like a fire spreading round a building – and begin to affect other areas of the body.
  • Thus, gluten can literally affect any and every tissue in the body: liver, brain, muscles, joints, pancreas, thyroid gland, stomach and skin.
  • If an individual continues to consume gluten (usually because symptoms are only mild, or he/she cannot feel the symptoms in the gut), the intestine becomes severely damaged.
  • Once the intestine is damaged, it becomes very difficult to digest and absorb nutrients, leading to nutritional deficiencies that cause even more symptoms.
  • At the same time, damage to the intestine allows undigested food particles and toxins to enter the bloodstream – a phenomenon known as “leaky-gut syndrome”.
  • Once in the blood, these particles can overload the liver, stimulate the immune system and create allergic reactions.
  • Eventually, the intestinal lining may become so badly damaged that it is barely able to function at all.

Ultimately you can develop toxicity and nutrient deficiencies because your gut allows too much bad stuff into your body whilst being unable to absorb nutrients such as proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.

Coeliac Disease – a misunderstood condition

Celiac disease is a medically diagnosed disease caused by gluten. It is sometimes called celiac sprue and may be viewed as a severe form of gluten-sensitivity.

In some celiac patients, gluten-ingestion causes crippling abdominal pain and explosive loose stools that may contain mucus or blood.

However other celiac patients do not even realize they have the disease because the gluten consumption causes no obvious symptoms.

This makes things very confusing for both patients and doctors.

A friend of mine became interested in my work when his daughter’s delay in onset of menstruation, despite passing her fifteenth birthday.

Upon running a battery of tests through their private medical arrangement, this young lady was diagnosed with celiac disease.

Yet she was experiencing no digestive symptoms whatsoever. The medics did a great job in reaching this diagnosis, but they failed to inform the family that celiac disease is actually a genetic condition and may be affecting family members and relatives.

This case highlights how a problem in your digestive system can cause a problem elsewhere in your body – it’s the Hompes Method Olympic Ring Health Analogy in action.

Here are a few quotes from medical journals regarding coeliac disease – I’ve highlighted parts in green to show you that gluten can cause problems right around your body:

“Celiac disease is one of the most common lifelong disorders in both Europe and the US.” NEJM 348;25 June 19. 2003.

“That gluten sensitivity is regarded as principally a disease of the small bowel is a historical misconception.” J. Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2002l72:560-563.

“Gluten sensitivity should be considered as a state of heightened immunologic responsiveness to ingested gluten proteins in genetically predisposed individuals. The brain seems to be particularly vulnerable.” (Pediatrics, Vol. 108 No.2, August 2001.)

“Gluten sensitivity it a systemic autoimmune disease with diverse manifestations.” (Lancet Neurol. 2010;9: 318-30.)

“Celiac disease, or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is only one aspect of a range of possible manifestations of gluten sensitivity.” (Lancet Neurol 2010;9:318-30.)

“Originally considered a rare malabsorption syndrome of childhood, celiac disease is now recognized as a common condition that may be diagnosed at any age and may affect many organ systems.” (NEJM 357;17 Oct 25, 2007.)

What does this mean? Well, it means that symptoms in any of the Seven Areas of Health can be caused by something as simple as eating foods containing gluten.

How Many People?

According to recent literature, celiac disease is diagnosed in approximately 1% of the US population. Given that the US population is just over 300 million, a 1% rate of diagnosis gives a total number of 3 million celiac patients – a hell of a lot of people.

It’s also estimated that only one in eight people are properly diagnosed. So if we multiply our 3 million Americans by eight, we get a staggering figure of 24 million celiac patients.

At an equivalent rate of diagnosis, the UK celiac population would total a whopping 4.8 million people.

Since celiac disease is hereditary, if one family member is diagnosed, all other family members should be tested, whether or not they experience symptoms.

Sadly, I’ve worked with dozens of people who weren’t told about this by their doctor, or even their specialist.

It’s not just about Celiac Disease

Dr. Kenneth Fine MD, a gluten highly respected gluten specialist, has estimated that up to 81% of the US population carries genetic susceptibility towards gluten sensitivity.

Research suggests that in some people, having intestinal inflammation from gluten but not actually having coeliac disease is a bigger problem.

A large study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with diagnosed, undiagnosed, and “latent” celiac disease or gluten sensitivity had a higher risk of death, mostly from heart disease and cancer.

This study looked at almost 30,000 patients from 1969 to 2008 and examined deaths in three groups:

  • Those with full-blown celiac disease.
  • Those with inflammation of their intestine but not full-blown celiac disease.
  • Those with latent celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

The findings were dramatic:

  • There was a 39% increased risk of death in those with celiac disease
  • A 72% increased risk in those with gut inflammation related to gluten
  • A 35% increased risk in those with gluten sensitivity but no celiac disease.

(Ludvigsson JF, et al Small-intestinal histopathology and mortality risk in celiac disease. JAMA. 2009 Sep 16;302;1171-8.)

A further study, reported in the The Lancet found that in people with gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten just once per month increased the risk of death by a mind-boggling 600%. (Lancet Vol. 358, August 4, 2001)

This is a major problem because most doctors don’t see gluten as a problem unless a person tests positive for celiac disease. But the truth is this: gluten is very damaging in gluten sensitive people, whether or not celiac coeliac disease is present.

Significant Problems with Diagnostics

A standard test for celiac disease generally assesses the following markers:

  • Tissue transglutaminase antibody, or tTG (the primary test ordered to screen for celiac disease).
  • The endomysial antibody (EMA) test (less frequently used).
  • A total immunoglobulin-A (IgA) may be ordered.
  • An anti-gliadin antibody (AGA) test may also be ordered.

To confirm a diagnosis of celiac disease, a biopsy of the small intestine may be examined to detect damage to the intestinal villi. However, given the invasive nature and cost of a biopsy, other tests are preferred.

There are major problems with the main tests. Please be aware of the that if you’ve been tested and have been told you are not coeliac, despite feeling unwell when you consume gluten, the test may not have been accurate.

Here are some of the problems:

Recent data showed that serology (not only EMA but also anti-tTG) seems to be ineffective in detecting most of the patients affected by subclinical/silent disease. (Digestive and Liver Disease 39, 2007, 30-32)

There appear to dozens of components within the gluten molecule that can cause reactions in different people and standard tests may not detect these reactions:

An in silico analysis of the gluten proteome has led to the identification of as many as 60 putative peptides that have similar characteristics. J. Dent Res 87(12):1100-1107, 2008.

We found that 50% of these patients do not respond to the alpha-GLIA peptide but to a diverse set of gliadin and glutenin peptides…Although some patients respond to one set of peptides, others respond to different sets of peptides…Our present results indicate that CD patients are capable of responding to a large array of gluten peptides. (Gastroenterology 2002;122:1729-1737.)

Interestingly, truncated peptides 17-mer, 18-mer, and 13-mer were as potent as 33-mer in eliciting T cell responses. (J. Immunol 2009;182;4158-4166.)

What Can You Do?

Before I reveal some of the excellent gluten sensitivity tests we use with our clients, I’d like to reiterate that coaching my clients to eat a gluten-free diet (GFD) has been the single most successful strategy in my toolkit.

It’s not hi-tech, it doesn’t give you pretty graphs and numbers like a lab test does, it doesn’t come in a pill, potion or lotion, but it works a treat. In fact a gluten-free diet is so effective that I feel everyone should minimize or avoid gluten.

By avoiding gluten, you automatically remove a host of other problematic foods and substances from your diet because many foods that contain gluten also contain a whole bunch of other crappy ingredients that do you no good at all!

In my opinion the best test for gluten sensitivity is when a client omits gluten and feels better either immediately or over a relatively short space of time. Nevertheless, simply using a gluten free diet (GFD) does have shortfalls:

  • Feeling better on a GFD tells you gluten is a problem, but it does not discriminate between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.
  • Reactions to gluten are not always obvious and in “silent” celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, a GFD may not make any difference to symptoms.
  • There is no way of knowing whether silent gluten sensitivity or celiac disease is causing problems elsewhere in your body unless you test.

Nevertheless, if you are experiencing chronic symptoms of any kind, it’s well worth adopting a GFD for 60-days to see whether your symptoms improve.

Enter The Hompes Method Testing Toolkit

In Hompes Method, we assess for gluten sensitivity using laboratories that have developed specialized testing.

These tests are ideal for you if your doctor refuses to run tests (which does happen) or if previous testing has come back negative and you still believe you have a problem with gluten.

To read about gluten testing in more detail, or for further information on how Hompes Method can help you assess your body’s relationship with gluten, please click here.