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Amber Graves of Grain
on October 1, 2003
A BARGAIN: 244 pages and 383 citations with accessible science about hundreds of illnesses.
READ THIS BOOK, and if the symptoms and illnesses of yourself and/or esteemed others jump out at you, read it again (as I have) for relevance, understanding, connection, note-taking, retention, resolve and competence in sharing. Also read the appendices and the 28 pages of information-dense references. Also, if you have the fortitude, look up the definitions of all of the listed illnesses - such work and knowledge acquisition might provide the discipline required for making any recommended dietary changes.
MAIN TOPICS: illnesses and diseases in the US population resulting from 1) celiac disease which is "an ailment whereby the inside lining of the small intestine...is chronically damaged by gluten proteins and their interaction with the immune system" (~1% of population). and 2) "non-celiac gluten sensitivity (which) exists whenever an individual's immune system is mounting an abnormal reaction to gluten" (~ 20% of population).
USEFULNESS: The authors skillfully explain the role of gluten grains in almost 200 medical and psychiatric conditions as they emphasize about 20 auto-immune diseases. Some attention grabbers: ADHD, arthritis, asthma, autism, cancer, Crohn's disease, depression, dermatitis herpetiformis, diabetes, epilepsy, headache, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, liver disease, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, schizophrenia and thyroid disease. They strongly advise testing for food sensitivities and celiac disease when these (especially autoimmune) illnesses exist. They recommend providing doctors copies of reference articles, since they may not know about the rapidly-expanding repertoire of available tests. Already experiencing digestive improvement, I share this book with friends and relatives.
CELIAC DISEASE AND HEREDITY: first degree relatives 4.5-8.5%; siblings 13.8%; offspring 12%; identical twins 70%.
1. Humans have consumed grains during less than 0.5% of their history.
2. Gluten-related illnesses have newly occurred with "many aboriginal groups just recently introduced to a gluten-rich diet."
3. History: Stanislas Tanchou published findings over 150 years ago that imply that foods from grains cause cancer. Samuel Gee provided a highly-regarded description of classic celiac disease by 1888 and Willem Karel Dicke realized that wheat caused celiac symptoms by 1936. Incidence is 40 times that claimed a decade ago.
4. Schizophrenia incidence During WW-II substantially decreased among European populations suffering grain shortages. Ca 1969 F. Curtis Dohan et al reported that schizophrenia is frequently found in celiac disease and the reverse.
5. Genetic markers for gluten sensitivity or celiac disease occur in 43% of US population.
6. Genetic marker testing, especially if there is gluten-induced illness in relatives, is also advised for the asymptomatic because, "Those who do not feel ill in response to allergic substances in their environment are more likely to succumb to the harmful effects of these allergens."
7. Celiac disease waits for an average of 11 years before diagnosis and only 2.5% are ever diagnosed.
8. Malabsorption may not be permanent - villi, the millions of nutrient absorbers that line our small intestines, which can be flattened by disease, can be raised up again.
9. Depressive illness is the most common symptom of gluten intolerance
10. Rheumatoid arthritics (about half) show clear signs of gluten sensitivity.
11. AIDS death rate is increased by 20-fold when there is selenium deficiency which is commonly found in non-celiac, gluten-sensitive persons.
12. Significant bone loss occurs in 70% of persons with undetected celiac disease. Dairy products and calcium supplements may actually decrease bone density, while, for celiacs, a year on a gluten-free diet with proper supplementation can increase bone density.
13. Diabetes (IDDM) can be prevented by a gluten-free diet if genetic proneness is detected early.
14. Diet and nutrition's medicinal value is indicated in tens of thousands of studies.
BREAKING THE GLUTEN ADDICTION: There are certain peptides, or protein fragments, found in gluten (in grains) and in casein (in milk) that look and act just like the narcotic known as morphine. Hence, while a gluten-free diet is essential for management of celiac disease, only 50% are able to stick with it, even when they know their health risks. Supplemental to the authors' comprehensive advice about nutrition, support groups etc., I would suggest that, after reading Jacquelyn Rogers' book, You Can Stop - whether you are a smoker or not - you will be able to quit just about anything addictive, including gluten foods.
MSG CONNECTION: There seems to be overlap in msg-free and gluten-free diets. Either substance may be found "hidden" in hydrolyzed plant/vegetable protein, textured plant/vegetable protein, soy sauce, barley malt, stock cubes etc. They write that gluten can even be found "hidden" in msg (monosodium glutamate).
VEGETARIANISM & VEGANISM: The authors urge inclusion of high quality meat in the diet, but some dieters are so militant (and perhaps so disabled by a gluten-induced depression) that they might actually prefer dying to eating meat. I hope that the gluten-sensitive among them will identify vegetable and plant glutens and hidden glutens that might be used as meat substitutes in vegetarian and vegan prepared foods, and I hope they will develop therapeutic gluten-free diets. The authors do report that rheumatoid arthritics experienced "significant objective and subjective benefits" when they were subjected to fasting followed by a vegetarian, gluten-free diet.
WHATEVER WORKS: One could argue that the authors' program is so broad that a conscientious follower might improve his health but never know whether it was the removal of gluten grains (wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, kamut, triticale), dairy products, non-gluten allergenic foods or hundreds of food additives and chemicals; or whether it was the addition of supplements and more wholesome foods that was the primary factor. But removal of a potential causative element (gluten) of a host of illnesses would certainly tend to simplify the symptom set, enabling easier identification of any remaining dietary offenders.
Revised 1-Oct-03 (now fewer than 1000 words)