First there’s a backlash, then a backlash to the backlash. Once, wheat was considered the staff of life. But in recent years, research has been pointing out that more people nowadays actually do have bona fide Celiac disease than in years past, and among many others, a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Noone is quite sure why this is so. Some say the hybridization of wheat is to blame, that we aren’t eating the same wheat that our forebears did. Others point to the sheer volume of gluten in the diet. (As an example, nearly noone in the West is allergic to rice, but some populations with rice-heavy diets develop that intolerance.)
Books, blogs and research papers are legion at the moment about the dangers of wheat: from autoimmune disorders and intestinal damage to symptoms such as headaches, stomach pain, depression and many others. Others say that gluten-free diets are a fad and that wheat is harmless or beneficial.
Several years ago, I began a wheat free diet after extensive tests (blood, skin, and, um… other) showed wheat allergy (as well as cat, which explains why I always began rubbing my nose after entering a secondhand shop). I didn’t notice dramatic effects, so I gave it up. Looking back, I probably didn’t give it a long enough trial. I also didn’t completely eliminate gluten.
Fast forward a couple of years.
After a health crisis my husband began a strict gluten free diet. One year later, he’s noticed some pretty dramatic benefits, the most recent being the elimination of his severe seasonal allergies. After moving from Florida to Georgia 20 years ago, spring time became torture for him. For 6 weeks or so he would have miserable symptoms: sneezing, itchy, swollen, watery eyes, fatigue, rashes, ear infections, even fever.
This year… nothing.
I’m generally a skeptic about nutritional fads and extreme diets, but you can’t argue with results.
He also no longer suffers from reflux, and lung issues have resolved. He’s sleeping better and doesn’t struggle to breathe at night. Some other problems, probably related to an autoimmune/inflammatory response, are improving.
I decided to begin the process of testing my children for gluten intolerance. According to Enterolab, where I sent the… uh… deposit, around 35% of people have the genetic predisposition to have a problem with gluten. That population simply cannot eat foods that contain gluten without health consequences.
Years ago, I asked my 14 year old son’s pediatrician to test him for Celiac. He had been diagnosed with reflux and I didn’t want to put him on antacids, feeling that it would just mask the symptoms, not resolve the underlying issue.
My son’s doctor (actually, two doctors by this point) insisted that gluten couldn’t be the problem because my son wasn’t losing weight, a marker for Celiac in kids. They seemed to ignore the fact that my son is quite underweight, despite eating more food than anyone in the house!
Julien started complaining of headaches. And stomachaches. And chest tightness and breathing difficulties. And he developed some other symptoms that could be related to a gluten intolerance.
When he was just a toddler, my son had massive tooth decay. I couldn’t figure out why, as I was always a “health nut” and didn’t do anything different with him than I did with his older brother. I began to wonder if something was keeping him from absorbing nutrients in the healthy food he ate.
“Julien, did you mail your poop yet?”
There are a lot of crazy things I’ve heard spoken in my home since becoming a Mom, but this one takes the cake.
The test came back positive.
According to Enterolab, a lifelong gluten free diet is the answer to the resolution of these symptoms. There is no “healing” from gluten intolerance. I like how the site puts it: it’s like a positive pregnancy test. You are, or you aren’t. There isn’t a “little bit pregnant”, nor a little bit of gluten intolerance.
Just a few weeks in to the diet, his headaches have disappeared. Another symptom I won’t mention has also disappeared. I’m excited to see how his health normalizes with more time.
I plan on having the rest of the children tested in the next few months. (The tests are pricey and out of pocket.)
As for me, I’m back on a strict gluten free diet.
If you’re interested in the topic of gluten sensitivity, I highly recommend listening to or reading this podcast at Wellness Mama’s site.
And whether you are currently experiencing symptoms or not, if anyone in your family has wheat/gluten allergy or ANY autoimmune disorder (or any of the syndromes on this list), you should strongly consider getting tested or going gluten free yourself.
What do you think about gluten free diets?
If you’re on a gluten-free diet, you may be interested in my book, Gluten-Free and Family Friendly.
I tend to get really snarky about gluten-free diets because they’re touted as a cure for autism (which has no cure) but I’m pondering the idea of going gluten-free and seeing if some of my issues resolve.
Tsoniki Crazy Bull says
I have a non-celiac gluten intolerance, as does my Mom, and maybe my daughter. Since moving to Europe though, wheat doesn’t affect us in any way at all. We’ve been able to eat any and everything here, and I am not looking forward to being restricted when we go back for a visit. I do not believe that a gluten free diet is the be all, end all, but I agree with results.
Momma has be gluten free for about 6 months now. She has a terrible patch of psoriasis on her head that she’s dealt with since she was a child. It bleeds and scabs up and leaves the tell-tale sign of “dandruff” on her shirts, all of which is embarrassing. I suggested she just try to go gf for a week to see if the itching stopped. She did so for 3 days and no itching. They went out of town and stopped by McDs to get a breakfast sandwich. She got a bagel. She had half of it and within 20 minutes her head was itching so bad she said it felt like ants were crawling on her scalp. She has since given it up and her head is healing slowly. BTW – I’ll have GF triple chocolate brownies at Austin’s grad party so there will be something yummy for everyone. 🙂
@tsoniki: I have heard the same thing from other people. When I finally get to Paris I will be eating baguette and croissants lol!
@candi: we have two people who have dealt with psoriasis too, one is healing, the other likely will in time too
Carrie saw your comment on MrsDarcy’s blog and decided to check your blog. My eldest has always been a giant and the pediatrician told us too No way this kid has Celiac( despite being super skinny given the amount of food he ate). He( pediatrician) even gave our son the wrong test, I.e. Not Celiac panel, and told us ‘nope, no celiac’. 6 months later, switching pediatrician, our son’s condition was worse( headaches, ADHD like symptoms, what looked like absence seizures but not confirmed through brain MRI, pain in legs, knees, arms, etc.), the new pediatrician reviewing the tests done so far saw that we never were truly tested for CD. He told us it would be almost impossible because our son has been way over the 97th percentile all his life. Well, results came back his antibodies were over the roof! We were told in some European country that would be enough to diagnose as CD but here had to go for biopsy. Of course the biopsy confirmed that his villi was severely damaged. Almost 2 years later of a very strict GF diet, no more headaches, body pain, his speech which was severely delay is pretty much normal, etc.
GF is not a fad for many people. Unfortunately there is still a lot of ignorance about Celiac disease and non Celiac gluten sensitivities( even in the medical community!).
If you take your kids to Paris, visit Helmut New Cake!
Sorry for long comment…it could be much longer if I had to tell all we went through before proper diagnosis and even afterwards!
Sorry to be even longer but our son also showed symptoms of autism and was referred to autism clinic when the CD diagnosis came. His second pediatrician thought he most likely had regressive autism( no eye contact, speech regression, very sensitive to sensorial stimuli, etc) and did the pre- screening for it. His neurologist also thought the same, though initially he suspected absence seizures but thought he should be assessed for autism as well and threw ADHD in the equation( he took the stimulant prescription back when I mentioned during his last appointment that our son was positive on the CD blood panel). He said’Oh, Celiac kids tend to present ADHD symptoms, start him on GF diet and come back in six months if no improvement’. Well, we never went back because we do have a different child now.
2 years later, no one who did not know him then can believe that he could have behave that way.
Here is a link to a publication about CD presenting as autism.
It is not the only scientific paper on the neurological impact of CD. It can present as other diseases which makes it harder for doctors to diagnose especially if they are not familiar with the non GI symptoms of gluten intolerance.Our son in particular barely had any GI issues.
Also, it has been shown that patients with Celiac Disease who develop Alzheimer can see their symptoms halted and in high percentage reversed by going on GF diet.
Again, sorry I could write and talk for hours about this.