Why is Wheat Gluten Disorder on the Rise?

The disease occurs in people whose bodies cannot digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. The undigested protein triggers the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine, causing diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain.

According to statistics from the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, an average of one out of every 133 otherwise healthy people in the United States suffers from the digestive disease known as celiac disease (CD).

Previous studies have found that this number may be as high as 1 in 33 in at-risk populations.

Unfortunately, despite its rapidly increasing prevalence, it still takes an average of four years to reach a diagnosis if you’re symptomatic.
This delay in proper diagnosis can dramatically increase your risk of developing other diseases such as autoimmune disorders, neurological problems, osteoporosis, and even cancer.

For example, if you’re diagnosed with celiac disease after the age of 20, your chances of developing an autoimmune condition skyrocket from the average 3.5 percent to 34 percent. 

Additionally, according to this latest study, undiagnosed celiac disease was associated with a nearly four-fold increased risk of premature death.

What Causes Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease, also more casually referred to as wheat - or gluten intolerance, occurs when your body cannot digest gluten, a protein most commonly found in wheat, rye and barley. However, it’s very important to realize that these are not the only culprits that can cause severe problems. Other grains such as oats and spelt also contain gluten, and gluten can be found in countless processed foods without being labeled as such.

"Gluten" comes from the Latin word for glue, and its adhesive properties hold bread and cake together. But those same properties interfere with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, including the nutrients from other foods in the same meal.

The result is a glued-together constipating lump in your gut rather than a nutritious, easily digested meal.

The undigested gluten then triggers your immune system to attack the lining of your small intestine, which can cause symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, nausea, and abdominal pain.

Over time, your small intestine becomes increasingly damaged and less able to absorb nutrients such as iron and calcium. This in turn can lead to anemia, osteoporosis and other health problems. 

The rapid increase in celiac disease and milder forms of gluten intolerance is no surprise considering the modern Western diet, which consists in large part of grain carbohydrates.

Additionally, modern wheat is very different from the wheat your ancestors ate. The proportion of gluten protein in wheat has increased enormously as a result of hybridization.

Until the 19th century, wheat was also usually mixed with other grains, beans and nuts; pure wheat flour has been milled into refined white flour only during the last 200 years.

The resulting high-gluten, refined grain diet most of you have eaten since infancy was simply not part of the diet of previous generations.

The Many Symptoms of Gluten-Intolerance

In addition to nausea, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain, celiac disease may manifest clinically with an array of non-gastrointestinal symptoms, such as: Osteoporosis or osteopenia, Tooth enamel defects, Vitamin K deficiency, Central and peripheral nervous system disease, Dementia, and impairments in mental functioning that could cause or aggravate autism, Asperger’s syndrome, ADD or schizophrenia, Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH) a skin condition that causes intense itching and blistering; Anemia of various types, Infertility, and earlier menopause, Organ disorders, Weight loss or gain, Fatigue.

How to Treat Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease

The treatment for celiac disease or gluten intolerance is a gluten-free diet, which means abstaining from grains and any food that contains gluten. A blood test can verify whether or not you actually have the condition.

Typically, avoiding gluten for a week or two is enough to see significant improvement.

However, in my experience, about 75-80 percent of ALL people benefit from avoiding grains, even whole sprouted grains, whether you have a gluten intolerance or not. This is because, typically, grains rapidly break down to sugar, which causes rises in insulin that exacerbate health problems such as: Overweight, High cholesterol, High blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, Cancer.

The only consistent exceptions would be those whose nutritional type is a carb type and you don’t suffer symptoms of intolerance. However, it’s still important to realize that there is a major difference between vegetable carbs and grain carbs, even though they’re both referenced as "carbs." Unlike vegetables, grains convert to sugar, which is not something anyone needs in their diet in high amounts.

The rising prevalence of celiac disease is clear evidence that we’re simply not designed to consume such vast amounts of starch - and sugar-rich foods so many now indulge in.

In short, most people are consuming far too much bread, cereal, pasta, corn (a grain, not a vegetable), rice, potatoes with very grave health consequences.

Hidden Sources of Gluten

In order to combat gluten intolerance, it’s not enough to simply avoid grains. You must also pay attention to the quality of all the other foods you eat.

When you choose processed foods, not only are you bound to experience physical complications in one way or another, but if you have celiac disease it’s even more imperative you avoid processed foods due to hidden gluten.

Unfortunately, food manufacturers are not required by law to identify all possible sources of gluten on their product labels, so reading the label may not be enough. Gluten may still be hiding in processed foods like ready-made soups, soy sauce, candies.

That said, your best bet is to stick to a diet of fresh, whole foods (preferably organic whenever possible). Not only will you keep your celiac disease under control, but you will also experience numerous other benefits such as increased energy, enhanced mood, and a lower risk of chronic illness.

Natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola

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Sources and References:

Minneapolis Star Tribune July 1, 2009

Gastroenterology July 2009; 137(1):88-93