A Few Observations About Celiac Disease and The Gluten-Free Diet

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Please take this article as neither medical advice nor medical treatment. It just contains a few observations I’ve noted over the years in counseling people with celiac disease and other conditions for which the gluten-free diet is recommended.

Celiac disease is considered one of a growing number of “autoimmune” diseases. It concentrates in the small intestine, and it’s symptoms include diarrhea, fatigue, constipation, growth challenges in children, and constant pain. We are told that it is caused by gluten in the diet somehow causing the immune system to attack cells in one’s own body. So, essentially, the body is attacking itself.

 

A gluten-free diet is universally prescribed for celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in a number of grains including wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten-free foods now take up huge amounts of shelf space in both conventional grocery stores and health food stores. A few popular TV personalities have written books recommending gluten-free diets regardless of a diagnosis, claiming that gluten is a scourge even when one has no symptoms.

 

Here’s an interesting fact: The grains that contain gluten are also the grains that have been shown to have the highest levels of mycotoxins, according to Dr. Ruth Etzel. So is it the gluten that is causing the problem, or is it the fungal poisons that are causing the symptoms?

 

Here’s my take. I’ve counseled with lots of people who have tried the gluten-free diet for various reasons. An interesting trajectory seems to occur in these people more often than to be considered coincidental. They initially do very well on a gluten-free diet. They feel better and symptoms fade. Then, as time passes, symptoms start returning. It has taken years for me to recognize this pattern, but it happens so often that I now consider it to be a predictable feature for a large number of people on the diet.

 

But why? If you’re avoiding grains with both gluten AND mycotoxins, aren’t you limiting two potential toxins? Yes you are – initially. Since wheat comprises so much of the American diet, avoiding it for whatever reason seems to have an immediately positive impact. 

 

However, what tends to happen over time is that people begin learning that there’s a whole gluten-free world of food products out there. Instead of simple meals of proteins, fats, and vegetables, people expand their menu to include the pre-packaged gluten-free pastas, cookies, cereals, chips, bread substitutes, etc. And this is where the problems begin surfacing again. You see, a majority of these foods contain corn and other mycotoxin-laded grains as a substitute for the gluten grains. Dr Ruth Etzel’s study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that corn is “universally contaminated with mycotoxins”. Other common gluten-free grains and nuts used in these flours and pre-made food products are also loaded with fungal poisons. So, while the gluten is all but gone, the mycotoxin exposure continues.

 

Could this be why I’ve noticed such a predictable trend among gluten-free patients? How when they give up mycotoxin-laden foods, they feel better, but when they introduce new mycotoxin-laded foods (that are still gluten-free), the symptoms return?

 

We’ve written and commented a lot on the subject of autoimmune disease on the TV show and the website, and how some immunologists have questioned whether the body is truly attacking itself, or if it’s instead attacking a yet-to-be identified stealth pathogen. 

 

Taken in total, these observations, studies, and piecing the puzzles together have caused me to remain skeptical that celiac and other similar conditions are exclusively, mostly, or perhaps even partially due to gluten. This skepticism has grown even more as I’ve seen people thrive – without rebounding of symptoms – on a lifelong Kaufmann 1 Diet.

 

Just a thought.