Could gluten be damaging your health?

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Previously published on Gluten Factsheet

It's unlikely anything in this shot is safe for celiacs and other gluten intolerants

It’s unlikely anything in this shot is safe for celiacs and other gluten intolerants

Do you suffer from some or all of these problems: IBS, depression, difficulties with your weight, aches and pains in your bones and joints, chronic fatigue? If so, you may be gluten intolerant.

Gluten is a protein found in cereals, specifically, wheat (the main culprit), barley and rye. A similar protein is also found in oats. These cereals are relatively recent additions to the human diet, on the evolutionary timescale. Basically, our bodies haven’t had very long to learn how to deal with gluten – so it’s not surprising if a high proportion of us have difficulties digesting it.

During man’s evolution, our diet consisted mainly of fruit, berries, nuts and large seeds, plus vegetables, roots and the occasional piece of meat when the hunt went well. It was only about 12,000 years ago that grasses were introduced. There’s a theory that this change of diet was what killed off Neanderthal man in favor of Homo sapiens, although many believe that assimilation accounted for this. Perhaps it was a bit of both.

Whatever the case, the fact remains that our ancestors had a very short time to get used to the sudden change in diet. Within 10,000 years bread had become known as “the staff of life” in many parts of the world. Even today people in some places don’t eat much of these grains – the area of China where rice is grown, for example.

Wheat flour is consumed in huge quantities in the West – think pies, bread, pasta, pizza… It’s very likely that someone who eats a lot of something they can’t digest properly will develop health problems. And that is what seems to be happening, although the health profession, as usual, is taking a while to catch up.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Surf the net for a little while, looking for the words “gluten intolerance”, “gluten and depression”, “gluten and health”, “gluten and obesity”, and so on. There are many studies, stories from sufferers, and a few doctors and other medical types saying it’s all a load of rubbish.

(I guess it’s understandable that doctors don’t want to put a health warning on wheat, barley and rye – after all, they’ve already warned us off almost everything else – though they do seem to change their minds quite a lot. What would their patients eat?)

It’s well known that a deficiency in certain vitamins can result in serious health problems. Because gluten based products form such a high proportion of most people’s diets, which many of them can’t digest properly, malnourishment is becoming common in the West – even in the chronically obese.

Despite what some in the medical fraternity would have you believe, gluten intolerance is not a fantasy. The most severe form, celiac disease, is a very nasty disease. I have a healthy disrespect for doctors. Remember when they were trying to get us to eat Mad Cows? ‘Nough said!

If you’re happy to accept irritable bowel syndrome, arthritic symptoms and depression in exchange for a bowl of pasta, you’re braver than I am. I used to suffer from all these problems, until I cut gluten out of my diet. I wish I had known about it before.

If you do have symptoms like the ones listed at the top of this article, it’s important you try and find out the cause. Gluten is a prime culprit. And there is quite a bit of evidence to link gluten to bowel cancer, as well (which has been increasing steadily for years).

How should you go about this? There’s little point in going to your doctor, because even if he doesn’t laugh at you, the only form of gluten intolerance that can be detected (sometimes) by a blood test is celiac disease. So you need to do a bit of detective work for yourself to establish whether or not gluten is a problem for you.

The best way to check it out is to cut gluten out of your diet for two or three weeks and see how you feel at the end of it. There will most likely be changes, though some symptoms may take quite a while to fade away completely. But at the end of the trial, go and get a pizza or a sticky bun or something, just to see what your body’s reaction is.

Gluten intolerance is much more common than people realise. Don’t be a victim, check it out. You really are worth it.

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