Things You Must Know About Gluten Sensitivity

Things You Must Know About Gluten Sensitivity

More and more “gluten free” is showing up in our food markets, advertising and in daily conversation. This could easily be written off as another food fad much like low fat, low carb, and numerous other recycled food crazes. We may have someone we know that is trying to convince us that “gluten free” is the lifestyle “you just have to try.” Our doctors often tell us that if you do not have celiac disease there is no need to subscribe to this trend and that it is too radical to remove gluten from the diet. So why is this “fad” gaining momentum?

  1. This is not a fad.
    Gluten free is a lifestyle change and the reason for the momentum is because it works for numerous medical conditions and not just gut-based symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and heartburn. In my practice, I recommend that most patients eliminate gluten immediately. Why?
    Simply because 80-90% of my patient population responds to this therapy. Patients with seizures, migraines, anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder, multiple types of arthritis, fatigue and many other non- gastrointestinal related conditions are feeling better than they ever have before. First, let’s define gluten. Gluten is the protein portion of the wheat kernel. It is also the hardest protein to digest and process.Gluten now makes up about 26% of the kernel compared to 3% just 30 years ago, due to the hybridization of wheat. So, when you eat two slices of bread today, it yields about the same gluten equivalent as 17 slices did back in 1980. Gluten is also found in barley, rye, spelt and often in oats due to cross contamination from wheat in harvesting and processing. It is also found in numerous other processed foods.
  2. Gluten sensitivity is not celiac disease.
    The gluten sensitivity disease classification is brand new, although it has been a term utilized by functional medicine practitioners for years. Gluten sensitivity as a “medical diagnosis” has just appeared in the medical literature as of March 2011 and that article strongly advocates that gluten sensitivity is a separate disease from celiac.Celiac disease is mainly oriented to small intestine destruction/dysfunction. This is present in about 1% of the population and increasing. Celiac disease is the only autoimmune disease of the small intestine completely initiated by a food protein – gluten. Celiac disease destroys the villi (the absorption “fingers” of the small intestine) resulting in poor absorption of food and nutrients. Gluten sensitivity, unlike celiac disease, is not an autoimmune disease, but rather it is a
    generalized immune reaction. This is much like the flu virus, where symptoms present because of the bodies response to the irritant.
    In the case of gluten sensitivity, it is gluten, and not the flu virus you are reacting to, but with a lot of similar symptoms such as joint pain, headache, fatigue, brain fog etc which all starts in the small intestine where 60-70% of your immune tissue resides.
  3. Gluten sensitivity is not diagnosed with blood tests but rather a trial of elimination of gluten from your diet for at least 4-6 weeks.
    Celiac disease can be diagnosed with blood tests or the gold standard, intestinal biopsy, but even negative test results do not rule it out. Celiac disease, however, is still easier to diagnose and confirm than gluten sensitivity. The test for gluten sensitivity is this: if your symptoms get better when you avoid gluten, then you are sensitive.It takes about a 4-6 week trial of being off gluten and then reintroducing it to see if you are sensitive. If symptoms go away with removing it and then reappear with reintroducing gluten after 4-6 weeks, viola you are gluten sensitive. There are stool tests and saliva test for this from specialty labs but they are still
    considered experimental. Gluten sensitivity affects about 10% of the population, but I would say from clinical experience, the more subtle presentations of this disease make this percentage much higher. Under this conservative percentage, it means 30 million Americans are gluten sensitive.
  4. Gluten sensitivity is not an allergy to wheat.
    Wheat allergy is different than gluten sensitivity. Wheat allergy causes immediate symptoms, as it is a histamine driven reaction, much like other food allergies or bee stings, which cause quick onset of swelling, airway problems, rashes and redness. This reaction is much like a peanut allergy.
    In gluten sensitivity it is a more delayed response driven by a different immune pathway in the small intestine. When the small intestine is inflamed by gluten then the whole immune system is inflamed (Note: 99% of our immune response is due to our interaction with food in the small intestine.). When the immune system feels it is under attack, it sends out the signal to the body to defend itself. This defense to certain foods causes an overreaction of the immune system to normal stimuli such as dust, pollen, pet hair, etc. In my experience, this is where we get a lot allergy symptoms-runny nose, sinusitis, sneezing etc., although this is not “wheat allergy” technically.The same thing happens with imperfect areas of the body such as joints to name another. Our immune system then attacks that which is not “perfect” due to this up regulation of the immune system and a lot of arthritis sufferers joints are being assaulted because of what they eat. The same thing occurs with the brain as it is exquisitely sensitive to ramping up of immune function through cytokines (chemicals released by the immune system which can cause inflammation and regulation of other pathways) which are why you feel like crap when you have the flu.Depression and anxiety are severe in a lot of patients with gluten sensitivity due to the cytokines which block production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters which are essential in upregulation of mood. With the elimination of gluten and often dairy, many patients (myself included) have been freed from allergies, arthritis, and numerous other medical conditions due to overactive immune function.
  5. Gluten free is a lifestyle.
    When going gluten free you are choosing to eat a majority of whole foods. This is the same diet that prevents diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, just to name a few. Whole foods are best described as foods that are not processed. Processed foods are those that are manually changed from their original structure. This is done by grinding, adding sugar, preservatives and dyes.

BONUS: Gluten free grocery tips:

Shop on the outside of the grocery store and avoid the middle.

When shopping in the middle, read every label and choose products with 5 ingredients or less in them (most of these should be spices or things that you can pronounce). “If you can’t read it, don’t eat it!”

You should try not to spend hard earned money on gluten free items such as bread, cookies, and pasta. These foods as a whole have little to 0 nutritional value. They are still processed and/or refined gluten free grain products.

Google the Internet for ingredient and product lists to help you avoid gluten. and are good places to start.

Dr. Nathan Morris, MD

Sleeping on ADD and ADHD

The diagnosis’ of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is skyrocketing among primary care physicians.
Although I am not the first one to get on my soapbox and holler about dietary modifications, supplementing for deficiencies, and lifestyle changes, I have discovered, through more research and even self experimentation, yet another common thread among these wonderful, complex children: Sleep disorders.
According to the data, 25-50% of Attention Deficit Disorder is sleep related. When I ask a parent, “How does he/she sleep?” I will usually get an immediate response because they have been dealing with these issues for years.

  • The child sleeps 12 hours per night, yet they are fatigued all day.
  • The child wakes up constantly.
  • The child has problems falling asleep.
  • The child wets the bed.
  • The child does not dream regularly, and if he does, he has night terrors.

These are the typical things I hear in the office, and as I’ve learned, they are many times a result of sleep and airway problems. These kids cannot get enough oxygen because many of them have mouths/airways that are not allowing them to breathe properly, therefore, both the quantity and the quality of their sleep suffers.
It is easy to see things like dark circles and drowsiness in these kids, but there are multiple things that can produce those symptoms, so I’ve had some training recently from dentists and orthodontists who are concentrating on airway problems and sleep apnea to identify some physical factors that will allow for proper diagnosis.

These physical characteristics include:

  • The child has poor posture with rounded shoulders.
  • When looking at the child in profile, their head will jut forward so that the ears are in front of the shoulder instead of being lined up on top of of the shoulder.
  • The child may have crowded teeth, indicating narrowed facial structure, which does not allow the tongue to fit correctly in the mouth.

Problems with concentration, inability to settle down and relax, feeling the need for stressful physical activities in order to keep a higher heart rate, and snoring are all considered for objective diagnosis.

Sleep studies are helpful and seeing a dental sleep specialist is a good place to start.

I can say that almost all of the kids I see, whether they are on the autistic spectrum, have depression, or diagnoses such as oppositional defiant disorder, have a sleep issue plaguing them as well.

From what I’ve seen in my office, and judging from all of the research I’ve done, ADD and ADHD have never been caused by a Ritalin deficiency. If you are concerned on any level about your child’s sleep and/or sleep patterns, consider having them evaluated properly. You too can rest easier with more knowledge on your side. With that in mind I have included a link to look at another major cause of attention issues. Best 5 minute presentation I have seen on this subject
Another Hidden Cause of Attention issues