Gluten Free Fitness

Celiac disease

Is celiac disease a “blessing in disguise?”

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Is celiac a “blessing in disguise?”

Yes, I know, some of you are going to get a little upset about that. But really, think about it.

Having celiac disease makes us EXTREMELY aware of what we put into out bodies. Now the trick becomes making sure that it is high quality nutrition, not processed but “gluten free.” Now, I am not going to say all processed food is bad all the time. Heck no, I indulged in some Honey Nut gluten free Chex cereal after my weight training workout this morning. However, in my opinion that should be an exception.

I am a firm believer that if you eat well 90% of the time, (and that could easily be extended to 80%, keep in mind I am a physique athlete and so personally choose to be a bit stricter) that you can eat pretty well whatever you please the remaining 10-20% of the time. Including ice cream, my personal favorite splurge.
But I digress.

My point is, celiacs can’t chew mindlessly on the breadbasket while waiting for dinner. We can’t grab a pretzel at the movies. We have to THINK before we put food in our mouths. So really-if you’re already thinking about it anyway, why not take a little extra time.

Is what you are putting into your mouth not just gluten free, but free of empty calories? Free of artificial ingredients? Is it full of nutrition?

I was once told by a very wise person:

Everything you put in your mouth takes you one step closer to, or one step further away from your goals.

Which direction are you stepping?

You don’t have to have celiac disease to be sensitive to gluten

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By Dr. John Briffa Aug 13, 2009

Many grains people eat contain gluten, which can cause various gastrointestinal symptoms.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), sometimes referred to as functional bowl disorder (FBD), is characterized by symptoms such as abdominal bloating and discomfort, constipation, and diarrhea. Its cause is often said to be unknown. However, I find two approaches to be effective in combating the symptoms of IBS:

  • Identification and elimination of food triggers.
  • Correction of any underling imbalance in the ecosystem in the gut.

It is possible that any food can trigger IBS symptoms. In my experience, wheat is the No. 1 offender. Sometimes wheat sensitivity is caused by sensitivity to a protein found in wheat (as well as oats, rye, and barley) known as gluten.

In conventional medicine, gluten sensitivity is a recognized condition that is known as celiac disease. This can be tested for using blood tests and biopsies of the lining of the small intestine. If the tests come back positive, celiac disease is diagnosed. If they come back negative, it is often assumed that not only is there no celiac disease, but also there’s no sensitivity to wheat or gluten. But is this really so?

I have seen over the years many patients who have turned up negative test results for celiac disease, but who nonetheless have IBS symptoms that seem to have a very clear relationship with wheat consumption. Last year, a 4-year-old girl came to my practice whose parents told me she got diarrhea when she ate wheat, but had no diarrhea if she didn’t eat it. The test of celiac disease was negative, and her dietician (with the support of her gastroenterologist) enthusiastically advocated a diet for this child that was full of grain-based foods, including wheat.

What are we to make of individuals who don’t appear to have celiac disease but nonetheless appear to react adversely to wheat? It’s possible that individuals may react to wheat in a way or through mechanisms that are not necessarily related to full-blown celiac disease.

This concept was put forward recently in a paper that appeared in the American Journal of Gastroenterology [1]. Doctors based at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, and the Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, United States, put forward the idea that gluten can induce symptoms similar to FBD “even in the absence of fully developed celiac disease.”

In short, just because someone doesn’t have celiac disease, doesn’t mean the bowel symptoms are not due to gluten.

Some people are keen to be tested for food sensitivity, though in my experience, no tests are foolproof. One reason is that the body can react to food through several mechanisms. Let’s imagine that someone has a food sensitivity as a result of an antibody reaction to that food. If the test specifically looks for this antibody, then it’s got a fair chance of picking up the problem. However, if it’s testing for something else, then it’s unlikely to identify the problem.

One simple but often effective way of identifying food sensitivities is to eliminate foods to see if it helps. One problem here is that some individuals are sensitive to a range of foods, and if all of them are not removed, symptoms may persist even though problem foods have been eliminated. To be on the safe side, I tend to recommend that when they take out wheat, they take out other gluten-containing grains and dairy products.

In my experience, the overwhelming majority of IBS sufferers improve dramatically on this regime. Foods can be added back into the diet (about one every two days) to see which foods cause a return of the IBS symptoms.

References:

1. Verdu EF, et al. Between Celiac Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The “No Man’s Land” of Gluten Sensitivity, American Journal of Gastroenterology, May 19, 2009 [epub ahead of print publication]


Dr. John Briffa is a London-based physician and health writer with an interest in nutrition and natural medicine.

His website is drbriffa.com

Where to begin on the healthy eating journey…

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It can be overwhelming, can’t it? Eat this, don’t eat that, not too much of this, yes-eat that, but only on alternating days every other week when the moon is ascending…yikes! It’s enough to make you want to dive headfirst into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. (Which is fine, as an occasional -yes, occasional-like 1 serving once a week-and a serving is NOT the entire pint-but I digress.)

It does not have to be that complicated.

_market_4 Michael Pollon said:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

And truly, although it’s not quite that simple, it’s not too far off. We are deluged with marketing campaigns of food companies, especially in the celiac community.

It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there are TONS of wonderfully healthy, tasty, NATURALLY GLUTEN FREE foods!! YES!! A chicken breast is gluten free, as are green beans and sweet potato! Viola! Dinner!