According to Dr Jonathan Wright of Nutrition & Healing, experts have known for years that certain whole grains (wheat, rye, barley, spelt, triticale, kamut and possibly oats) are the cause of caeliac disease in some people.
Caeliac disease affects the intestinal tract and its symptoms can vary from mild gas, bloating and loose stools to life-threatening conditions like malabsorption of essential vitamins and nutrients, weight loss and malnutrition. But caeliac disease is somewhat rare.
So why worry now?
Because “for the past two to three decades, at an accelerating pace, researchers have demonstrated that the offending proteins (including gluten, gliadin and glutenins) found in the above mentioned grains can cause symptoms and sometimes full blown diseases that reach far beyond caeliac disease,” explains Dr Wright.
These diseases can affect nearly any area of your body, not just the intestinal tract. They are often called ‘non caeliac gluten sensitivity symptoms and diseases’, or ‘gluten sensitivity symptoms and diseases’ or simply ‘gluten sensitivity’.
According to Dr Wright, the list includes symptoms and diseases in the following areas:
The link between gluten sensitivity and disease conditions
Hepatology (liver disease): Autoimmune hepatitis, gallbladder malfunction, primary biliary cirrhosis and elevated liver function problems thought to be “of unknown cause”.
Haematology (blood diseases): Iron and vitamin-deficiency anaemias, vitamin K coagulation disorders, low white-blood cells (due to autoimmunity) and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP, a low platelet count again thought to be of “unknown origin”).
Internal medicine: Unexplained weight loss, chronic fatigue syndrome, IgA nephropathy (an autoimmune kidney disease), kidney stones and recurrent urinary tract infection.
Pneumonology (lung diseases): Bronchiectasia (a disorder of small bronchial tubes).
Obstetrics/Gynaecology: Infertility, amenorrohea (a lack of menstrual periods), recurrent spontaneous miscarriage, low birth weight and vulvodynia (a painful vulva).
Rheumatology: Rheumatoid arthritis in adults and children, Sjogren’s syndrome, autoimmune connective tissue disease, systemic lupus erythematosis (“lupus”), scleroderma and polymyositis.
Neurology: Seizures accompanied by brain calcifications, cerebellar ataxia, brain atrophy, neuromuscular disorders and peripheral neuropathy.
Psychiatry: Depression, schizophrenia and autism.
Dentistry: Defects in dental enamel.
Immunology: IgA deficiency (IgA is a specific immune globulin).
Orthopedics: ‘Spontaneous’ fractures and osteoporosis.
Parasitology: Relapsing giardiasis (an intestinal infection).
Infectious diseases: Delayed recovery from infectious disease.
Endocrinology: Type I diabetes, autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s), Addison’s disease (weak to very weak adrenal functioning) and Graves’ disease (another autoimmune thyroid problem).
Genetics: Down’s syndrome, Turner’s syndrome and other chromosome problems.
Paediatrics: Unexplained weight loss in children over two years of age, dirt eating, recurrent infection, failure to thrive and short stature.
Remember, that while gluten sensitivity is one possible cause of each of these symptoms or diseases; it’s not necessarily the entire or only cause.
Is there anything you can do about gluten sensitivity?
Yes, ask your doctor to help you determine your gluten sensitivity. This means you’ll have to undergo allergy testing and desensitisation, along with gastric analysis.
In addition, if you have any of these illnesses, it’s also advisable to completely avoid gluten-containing grains.