As of late there has been a great debate around the issue of gluten in our diets. This discussion goes beyond the effects of gluten on people who are obviously allergic to it or have developed some sort of an intolerance.
Many people report feeling better on a gluten-free diet despite not having an allergy/intolerance to it. Some proclaim it to be the miracle cure for weight-loss and low energy levels while others say the issue lacks empirical evidence, write it off as a fad and scientifically unfounded, and claim that any “health benefits” experienced are nothing but a simple placebo effect. What is it with gluten that makes this issue so heavily discussed?
More than 10 years ago my own laboratory test results showed that I was significantly intolerant to gliadin (gluten). Cutting gluten and all related items completely from my diet eliminated my chronic congestion, post-nasal drip, chronic GI-symptoms, and inflammation in my body within less than one month. Besides being happy I was honestly pretty surprised.
I had never really given the subject of gluten intolerance much attention but that changed. Over the years I treated many people for similar health issues and had many very interesting observations. Some of my patients who normally had quite immediate reactions to gluten were, for instance, able to tolerate gluten when traveling to Europe. This really sparked my curiosity.
After looking into this issue I found not only differences in how wheat is grown and treated in the US vs. Europe but also noticed that common American hybrids of wheat have a much higher gluten content than those traditionally found in the US or Europe. This higher gluten content makes for the really fluffy bread we like so much. This could trigger symptoms more easily when comparing the American wheat hybrids with European versions.
An even more interesting discovery was the increased use of glyphosate (active ingredient in the broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup) on wheat crops. According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), glyphosate appears to be strongly correlated with the rise in celiac disease [and gluten sensitivity]
Dr. Seneff and Dr. Samsel believe that the binding of glyphosate to the gliadin in wheat causes an immune reaction, which in turn causes celiac or gluten intolerance.
In addition glyphosate has other negative effects on the digestive system:
- glyphosate interferes with the absorption of crucial minerals
- it causes intestinal inflammation
- glyphosate can break down the intestinal lining resulting in dysbiosis
- dysbiosis can lead to the overgrowth of pathogens in the gut
Due to its gliadin content, wheat is already much more difficult to digest than rice for instance. The effort the digestive system has to make in order to break down wheat is already considerably high. Together with the effects of glyphosate on the digestive system it is no surprise that wheat consumption can lead to indigestion and other related symptoms in so many of us.
Chinese medicine suggests not consuming wheat at all. Weakness of the digestive system (called Spleen vacuity) is the most common diagnosis in Chinese medicine. With all our energy and nurturing substances (e.g. Blood) being produced by the digestive system (through the conversion of nutrients into ATP, Blood, hormones, enzymes, etc) the GI tract is obviously very important to our overall health. This includes energy levels and weight regulation. If we eat a lot of foods that are hard to digest we will spend more energy doing so and get less energy in return.
Given how much wheat we consume in the US today it is easy to explain how cutting out wheat from your diet can cause you to feel more energy and lose some weight regardless if you are intolerant to wheat or not. You probably end up eating a lot more whole-foods and less “junk”, which in return will cause you to feel much better anyhow. Not disregarding the power of placebo this diet might have on some individuals, I do believe that being gluten-free generally is good for your well-being and can make you feel better. And given that researchers at a prestigious institution like MIT discovered a direct link between commercially grown, non-organic wheat and celiac disease/gluten intolerance leads me to think that individuals claiming negative health effects of wheat to be scientifically unfounded are simply misinformed.
Other health factors Dr. Senef and Samsel list that might potentially be linked to glyphosate are:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Impaired Nutrient Absorption
- Anorexia Nervosa
For the full article please download the PDF here