Several recent articles on the net and in the medical literature have re-visited the issue of gluten intolerance. In its most potent incarnation, gluten intolerance is known as celiac disease or gluten enteropathy. Traditional medical literature described its severe manifestations as weight loss, anemia and as a progressive syndrome of malabsorption and eventual death. In a profound irony, before gluten was recognized as the culprit, unfortunate patients were actually loaded up with bread products in the misguided belief that they would gain weight and vitality.
The disease actually is an autoimmune syndrome in which the body mistakes a subprotein, gliadin as an offending agent. It produces antibodies against this subprotein which unfortunately attacks and progressively destroys the cells which line the small bowel–the major location for the absorption of ingested calories and essential vitamins.
In recent years there was been a welcomed recognition that more subtle forms of celiac disease can masquerade as irritable bowel syndrome. In my own practice I often order blood tests to determine if my patient falls may have this condition. Presently, the only treatment is a gluten-free diet. This is not a very simple or easy diet to follow because many grains, cereals contain gluten as well as an enormous number of food additives.
There has been a ground-swell of gluten-free products in the alternative health world as well. Many otherwise healthy individuals are being directed to eliminate gluten from their diets with promises of renewed health and vigor. This has produced an enormous financial boon to manufacturers and promoters of these products.
A recent re-evaluation of such a recommendation is in order. Why should ordinary individuals eliminate a food substance which is not harmful in any way to them? Granted, there are many individuals who suffer from gluten intolerance. This may manifest with symptoms of gas and bloating. Such patients may do well to reduce their intake of gluten as well as other varieties of fiber, since this is a common side effect of increased fiber.
My major point in this blog is this–becareful of fads in the elimination or promotion of new approaches to eating. Be the open-minded skeptic in all aspects of life. Don´t be afraid to try different combinations of foods and to systematically reduce or eliminate those which bother YOU as a unique individual.
Such an approach will keep all aspects of traditional as well as complementary and alternative healing and eating in check.