Sunday, March 31, 2013

Evil or Just Misunderstood?

     A friend of mine mentioned that she would like to read about how gluten affects learning disorders, ADD and ADHD. I have been doing some reading and here are a few things I found:

....Because of this experience, I became deeply involved in research exploring the effects of gluten sensitivity on the brain. I learned that gluten sensitivity, known as celiac disease, is actually an extremely common human affliction. In fact, it has been described as "one of the most common human diseases." Current studies indicate that about one percent of Americans are gluten sensitive. This is an astounding statistic when you consider that at the time of this writing, there are approximately 297,000,000 Americans. That means, about 3 million Americans are gluten sensitive. When you consider the population from birth to age five years is 23 million children, that means that approximately 230,000 of these children are gluten sensitive....

Researchers in Israel have noted neurological problems in 51 percent of children with gluten sensitivity and further, describe a link between gluten sensitivity and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As authors in a recent issue of the journal, Pediatrics, stated in their research, "This study suggests that the variability of neurologic disorders that occur in celiac disease is broader than previously reported and includes softer and more common neurologic disorders including chronic headache, developmental delay, hypotonia and learning disorders or ADHD."  ...

The link between gluten sensitivity and problems with brain function, including learning disabilities, difficulty staying on task and even memory dysfunction, is actually not that difficult to understand. Gluten sensitivity is caused by elevated levels of antibodies against a component of gluten, gliadin. This antibody (anti-gliadin antibody) combines with gliadin when a person is exposed to any gluten containing food like wheat, barley or rye. Testing for the antibody can be performed in any doctor's office. When the antibody combines with this protein, specific genes are turned on in a special type of immune cell in the body.
When these genes are turned on, inflammatory chemicals are created called cytokines, which are directly detrimental to brain function. In fact, elevated cytokines are seen in such devastating conditions as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and even autism. Basically, the brain does not like inflammation and responds quite negatively to the presence of cytokines. Another problem with anti-gliadin antibody is that it can directly combine with specific proteins found in the brain. Specific brain proteins can look like the gliadin protein found in gluten-containing foods and the anti-gliadin antibody just can't tell the difference. This direct role of anti-gliadin antibody in combining with specific proteins in the brain, has been described for decades and again leads to the formation of cytokines, the chemical mediators of inflammation. This is an example of turning on genes that ultimately function in a negative way in relation to brain health and function
.-borrowed from

I have also read that it can worsen inflammation which directly impacts the pain levels of those suffering with arthritis. It has also been linked to insulin resistance and bone loss. Gluten can damage the micro villi which inhibits our bodies ability to absorb nutrients properly. Malnutrition can cause weight gain as our bodies hunger for more food, because they are not able to utilize what you are taking in.

I don't believe gluten is evil, but if you have a disease or disorder that is negatively affecting your daily life, then my feeling is that avoiding foods containing gluten is worth trying. Worse case scenario, you just don't have any positive changes and you have went without store bought white bread for a month or two. Best case, you find that gluten was the culprit and can now formulate a plan to change your life for the better.

There are many, many resources and recipes out there that make a gluten-free lifestyle easy to transition to. You no longer have to live without your favorite foods or sacrifice taste. And with more people learning about how gluten-free living can positively change your health, foods and staples are becoming more available and more affordable. Major chain stores are carrying more varied gluten-free offerings.
So don't be afraid to give it a try. Find an easy recipe, say for a biscuit ;)  or a quick bread. Go to Kroger or your local health food store and look for the ingredients. Then take it one meal at a time. Just don't give up until you have given it long enough to really be able to judge if it is helping. Find a good forum or a blog that will encourage you in your quest. Just try it!

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