Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Grains in the Spotlight

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? You've been to a number of doctors, had many tests, and nothing has shown up. Maybe there are answers to your feelings of ill health after all! The answer may just lie in something you are eating every single day. A food group that is the staple of the Western world! A group of grains that unknowingly results in a myriad of symptoms, the cause of which most of the population are completely unaware.

Could your ill health be caused by the gluten grains of wheat, rye, oats, and barley? You may just be suffering from gluten sensitivity or the more serious disorder called coeliac disease!

So what is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, oats, and barley. What damage can it do? In persons sensitive to it, a process of an autoimmune reaction causes flattening and shrinkage of the microscopic finger-like projections in the small intestine called villi. The purpose of the villi is to absorb nutrients from food and by a process of enzyme activity, digest, and break down food particles to a soft consistency. When the villi are flattened, digestion of food is impaired, and the full spectrum of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids, enzymes, fats, and water are not absorbed properly.

What is meant by Autoimmunity? Autoimmune reactions occur when certain white blood cells or lymphocytes, called T-cells, attack healthy bodily tissue in error. These T-cells are like "soldier" cells in our body. They protect our body from invading allergens that they recognize may be harmful to us. In the presence of the protein gluten, in many people (one in a hundred and thirty three), they see it as an "invader" that will harm the body. They then become very active to try and destroy this "enemy". In so doing, they over-multiply. They then not only attack the protein that is gluten, but they also attack our own bodily tissue which is also protein. It is a case of mistaken identity. An autoimmune attack can affect any bodily tissue: red or white blood cells, connective tissue, the myelin sheath on the nerve endings, the synovial membrane in the joints, the heart muscle, islet cells in the pancreas, the liver, gall bladder, lining of the b ladder, the kidneys, the adrenal glands, the thyroid gland, amongst other tissue or organs.

According to research done both in USA and UK in the last 10 to 15 years, gluten sensitivity, an hereditary complaint, could be at the root of any of the following GROUPS of symptoms.

• Upper and lower respiratory tract problems like sinusitis, allergies, and "glue ear" in babies, asthma, bronchitis, post nasal drip.

• Headaches and migraine.

• Symptoms related to malabsorption of nutrients like anaemia and fatigue (lack of iron or folic acid), osteoporosis, insomnia (lack of calcium), skin complaints like eczema, Urticaria, psoriasis, Dermatitis Herpetiformis (lack of vitamin A), mouth ulcers, irritability, nervous system complaints,(lack of B vitamins), underweight or overweight (imbalance of utilization of carbohydrates), poor growth in children and babies, (lack of absorption of all nutrients, and impairment of growth hormone), infertility (hormone production impaired because of malabsorption of other nutrients), thyroid imbalance, pancreatic problems, diabetes.

• Bowel or digestive system complaints:- diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and distention, nausea, spastic colon, Crohn's disease, diverticulitis, stomach cramps, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, IBS, (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), eating disorders like anorexia, lactose intolerance, gall bladder problems, bowel cancer, stomach cancer, lymphoma.

• Autoimmune system problems:- rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis (muscles are affected), muscular dystrophy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Sj繹gren's syndrome(when the lymphocytes attack the body's moisture producing glands), Addison's disease (adrenal glands are affected), pernicious anaemia (the lymphocytes attack the lining of the stomach where a substance called intrinsic factor is produced, which is needed for the production of vitamin B 12).

• Diseases of the nervous system: - Motor neuron disease, some of the epilepsies, tingling and numbness in the extremities, stammering and stuttering in children and adults (the myelin sheath on nerve endings is impaired)

• Problems that affect the mind:- depression, including bi-polar depression, behavioral problems in children, autism, dyslexia, ME., ADD, ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, Schizophrenia (A Japanese Professor has discovered that there are no less than 13 opioid reactions that can occur from just 1 molecule of gluten - that is, mind-bending addictive-type reactions that upset brain chemicals).

• Genetic problems like Down's syndrome, Diabetes Type 1 (Mellitus), amongst others.

• Cancer and lymphoma: Particularly cancers of the digestive tract, from the mouth, oesophagus, duodenum, stomach and small bowel to the large bowel, the colon.

What are the tests for this condition? They are the IgA and IgG antibody tests for gluten or gliadin, which is the fraction of the gluten molecule which causes the problem. Then, the IgA-AEA (anti-endomysial antibody test), and, the most important of all, the TtG - Tissue Transglutaminase AUTO antibody test for gluten.

Nobody should eliminate gluten before the tests otherwise the results will be inconclusive. Other tests of huge merit are the Delayed Food Allergy Type III (IgG) tests. If the gluten grains showed up on these food screening tests, one would be advised to have further tests for coeliac disease, and possibly the small bowel biopsy to check the state of the intestinal villi.

What is the GOOD news about this condition? The good news is that the damage is reversible. The sufferer changes to a strict gluten free diet, after which the villi in the small intestine start to regrow and can then start digesting food and absorbing nutrients again. The autoimmune reaction of the T-cells also dies down so that autoimmune disorders are reversible.

Now, what of the diet itself? First of all, one has to change from wheat, rye, oats and barley based products to corn, potato, and rice based items. Lots of salads and vegetables and fruit form a large portion of the diet. Pasta must be avoided, although one can buy rice, corn and millet pasta from health shops. There are also other flours one can use like chick pea flour, millet flour and gram flour (made from lentils). One has to scrutinize all ingredients in supermarket products. One can bake homemade bread, muffins, cakes, and pastries.

It is actually a very healthy diet, as one avoids a lot of the processed foods and uses fresh whole foods.

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