Could it be Lyme?

Could it be Lyme?

I always have a high index suspicion for Lyme as I see my chronically ill patients. It, like mold toxicity, is often missed because of inadequate testing. Do I think all my patient’s issues directly relate to just Lyme? It is unlikely, as I find that things like mold toxicity, Lyme Disease, and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome get all jumbled up together, and if they are not addressed separately, a patient will not make progress. It is like sitting on three tacks, taking one out, and expecting the person to feel better.  

Lyme is the last thing I treat as gut health has to be addressed as a priority because a healthy gut leads to a healthy immune system which will help me rid the body of Lyme. Getting rid of mold, if present, is step 2, as a healthy immune system cannot exist in the presence of mold toxicity. Finally, I look at Lyme if most of the patient’s symptoms have not completely cleared with the above steps. As many people without symptoms have Lyme, I am judicious in looking for it because, as we say in Louisiana, “why kick a skunk?” or, in other words, why look for something when the treatment has its risks? 

Is your home silently making you sick?

Is your home silently making you sick?

Living in Colorado and its arid climate, most of my patients never consider that their home may be harboring a deadly healthy disruptor, mold, and mold’s health-disrupting toxins. Despite some very reasonable arguments from my patients that there is no way that they could have mold, I persist in ruling this out because mold toxins are notorious immune system disruptors and lead to everything from multiple sclerosis to cancer if they are present, including more common things like chronic fatigue and persistent depression. Even here in Colorado, it is rampant, as I have found it over and over in my chronically ill patients, and by addressing the source of mold, those same patients have started to heal.  

Keep a very open mind to this as a hidden health disruptor. Testing is vital, and many mold companies use air testing, and those tests notoriously miss mold toxins. Hence, an excellent place to start is an ERMI (Environmental Relative Mold Index) test to perform in your home, which you can order online, or get a blood test at mymycolab.com, where they will mail the kit to you to see if you are currently being exposed. If you are being exposed to mold, having the right company discover where that mold is vital by using moisture sensors to find the areas in the home with mold and remediate is critical. 

What to do if you know you have mold is essential. Your home’s typical air filter will not address the toxins that make you sick, as mold toxins are tiny. Start with an air filter like IQ Air and put it in your bedroom. Eat many cruciferous vegetables for improved detox, and drink a lot of water. Phosphatidylcholine helps your liver make bile which binds toxins and lets you get rid of them through your stool. There are also binders that can help, taken away from meals and other supplements, which will keep the toxins in the GI tract to be excreted.

 Keep a very open mind when it comes to mold and the insidious role it plays in health. The more humid the climate you live in, the more of an issue it is likely to be. Knowing the answer to the air quality you’re breathing and whether it is full of mold toxins is essential to staying healthy.  

Solve the Puzzle of Baby Eczema

Solve the Puzzle of Baby Eczema

There are few things worse than seeing your baby struggle with bright red cheeks, oozing wounds, and scratching themself bloody. Watching their skin flake off and leave piles where they sat is horrible. The sleepless nights and tortured cries are gut-wrenching. 

As a parent and a clinician that sees this on a weekly basis, my heart goes out to the parents who are watching their little ones suffer. I’ve been there myself having had eczema and with little ones that had it too, so I can relate to the experience of the parents and the kiddos suffering through it. 

Thankfully, you can solve the eczema puzzle with the right steps. The key is identifying the underlying root causes and treating them appropriately. 

In adults, the underlying causes are many ranging from genetic predispositions, stress/trauma, and toxicity, to dietary factors, hormone and nutrient imbalances, and a disrupted microbiome- especially in the gut. Inflammatory conditions like eczema arise when the environmental factors mentioned collide with genetics (dig deeper into this subject in another article I wrote).   

The GREAT news is that eczema in little ones is much easier to resolve since they don’t have decades of stress, trauma, and environmental exposures that make it trickier in adults! Plus, their little bodies have an incredible capacity to heal.  

Taking a Thorough History to learn more about your baby’s eczema

The first step in this process is taking a thorough history to uncover predisposing factors. Some of the issues we commonly see in little ones with eczema are:

  •  C-section birth or birth complications/ interventions 
  •  Mom had Group B Strep, UTI, or yeast infection during pregnancy 
  •  Stress for Mom during pregnancy
  •  Mom having known GI issues that were not resolved prior to pregnancy.
  •  Family history of the allergic triad (allergies, asthma, and eczema), 
  •  Nursing or feeding troubles, colic, or early food allergies (rejection of solids or food   avoidance can be a sign something is off with the gut)
  •  Seasonal skin flares indicating an allergic component
  •  History of mother or baby living in a moldy environment or near high chemical or pollutant concentrations such as farms, golf courses, airports, highways, industry, etc.
  •  Baby or child having constipation, diarrhea or loose stools, gas, burping or bloating

Having a thorough history allows us to see the big picture of what the likely causes are and what tests we need to order. I always order a comprehensive stool analysis so gut imbalances like dysbiosis can be identified, as well as the bacteria, fungi, and parasites that may be causing it. GI health markers are also helpful in determining inflammation, immune activation, and digestive function. 

Additional Testing for an accurate diagnosis and treatment

Additional testing is sometimes necessary and could involve: 

  • serum labs to assess the immune system or allergens 
  • organic acids to assess fungi/mold and harmful bacteria
  • food allergy or sensitivity testing or other specialized testing 
  • we can also do genetic analysis if the child or parent has completed a 23andMe.  

Regarding testing, it’s important to note that you should wait until you see a qualified provider to decide which tests are needed. If you order them on your own, you may order the wrong ones and end up having to spend extra money unnecessarily on the right ones. In my practice, the only tests we order are ones that directly inform the course of treatment. 

Once the test results are received and reviewed, a treatment plan specific to the needs of the patient is made. The bulk of treatment in little ones is generally focused on balancing the immune system, replacing nutrients, and supporting proper gut and digestive function. 

Skin healing typically begins during the first 1-2 months and is often almost resolved by 3-4 months. Total treatment time for babies is generally around 4-6 months total and sometimes a little longer in older children. 

Our goal is not only for your child to find relief and have soft, smooth skin, but also to give parents the tools to support their kiddos if skin issues crop up again. 

Dr. Stephanie Davis

Restore your Gut to Calm Allergies

Restore your Gut to Calm Allergies

It’s that time of the year again. Allergies are running rampant, and with it come all the associated sinus infections, runny eyes, and perpetual “colds.” Allergies are big business, and between all the pharmaceuticals, skin testing, and allergy shots, there is no real impetus to teach the public what is causing these allergies.

 

It is essential to understand allergies in their simplest form. Modern allergies to pollen, dogs, dust mites, etc., are really nothing more than the overreaction of the immune system to elements that have been in our environment since the dawn of man. Sure, if cave dwellers ran through a field of pollen (think “Sound of Music” with a loincloth), they may start sneezing to clear the excess pollen, but today’s over sensitization is extreme. “Normal” exposure to the elements causes immune system meltdowns, and people become snot factories. So what has changed to make us so susceptible to our environment, and why are our immune systems overreacting and creating allergic reactions?

Surprise, surprise, it is our gut. Yep, you heard me-it’s our gut. This is where 60-70 percent of our immune system lives and where over 90% of our daily immune response occurs.

Simply put: a healthy gut equals a healthy immune system and fewer allergies.

If the gut is not healthy and is “leaky,” this increased intestinal permeability allows the immune system to feel like it is under attack all the time. It becomes overactive and attacks everything, including pollen, dander, and mites. What contributes to a “leaky gut” and eventually an allergic over-response? Well, it’s the things that make our gut healthy or unhealthy, and there are over 100 trillion reasons in our first example.

My first question to many allergy sufferers is whether they were C-section babies, and the second is whether they were breastfed. Why is this important? Well, this determines your gut’s initial bacterial health, which is extremely important. We are hotels for bacteria. There are 100 trillion of them and only 10 trillion of us (cells of the body). They have more to do with our health and our immune system than anything in our environment. Passing through the vaginal canal is a great start in life (insert joke of choice here) because of the bacteria we “inherit” as we pass through. Then the breast milk keeps these bacteria healthy and happy, and those bacteria then modulate the immune system.

When we are products of C-sections or are formula-fed, our bacteria get off on the wrong foot, and we are much more likely to have asthma and eczema.

If a person has taken over 5 antibiotics in a lifetime, it is usually a good indicator that they have a predisposition to allergies because antibiotics kill our good bacteria and allow bad bacteria and fungus to be overgrown, which sends the wrong signal to the immune system.

A good analogy is spraying roundup on your grass and expecting more beautiful grass. Instead, what you end up with is an overgrowth of weeds after the Roundup has worn off. Same with antibiotics and your gut.

Gluten and Dairy are the two most common inflammatory foods leading to overactive immune systems and allergies.

100 percent of people have an immune response to gluten. Severity depends a lot on things we have already discussed, such as birth history, breastfeeding, and antibiotic exposure. Still, regardless of previous exposure, in every one of us, it opens gaps in the gut allowing large food particles to pass through, stimulates the immune system, and causes it to become over-reactive, resulting in allergies.

Dairy is a homogenized, pasteurized mess. The type of milk we are drinking now is not the same as in the past. The A1 protein type of milk, which is the vast majority of our milk, along with the homogenization, pasteurization process, exposes our immune system to very inflammatory proteins (Raw milk and goat’s milk are usually A2 and much more immune friendly). These new proteins, evolutionarily, are not recognized by our immune system. Our immune system feels like it is under attack. This “alert” immune system then overcompensates when exposed to other things in the environment. People with chronic sinusitis that gets worse during allergy seasons usually find relief when they give up dairy.

So what interventions that can we make now to calm our allergies? To start, make a better environment for the immune system so that it is calm. Healing the gut will accomplish this.

Probiotics are temporary bacteria that we introduce into our intestines that act as immune messengers. The type of probiotics matters as certain bacteria send different messages, so not just any probiotic will do. An even better solution is using the foundation for bacteria health like prebiotics which are polyphenols and fiber. My favorite product is Poly-prebiotic powder. This will be the foundation for increasing your good bacteria.

Glutamine is an amino acid that the small intestine needs for energy. I use 2 to 3 grams per day to help the gut heal. I combine this with aloe vera and curcumin to calm inflammation and speed healing. A gut with no holes in it is no longer leaky, and the immune system will calm down.

Finally, feed that healthy bacteria. The Mediterranean Diet is an excellent choice: whole foods with lots of fruits and (mostly) vegetables and avoid processed foods (stuff that comes in packages). Avoid gluten and dairy and eat fermented foods (miso, sauerkraut, etc.).

Dr. Nathan Morris, MD

Two More Easy and Natural Ways to Combat COVID-19

Two More Easy and Natural Ways to Combat COVID-19

Going Nuts with COVID-19

One of the major concerns with Coronavirus is that it will lead to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) which seems to be caused by the body’s own immune system attacking the lungs.   Interestingly, there is data showing that selenium, 200 mg a day, can help prevent ARDS, as well as increase our ability to avoid catching viruses in the first place. If you are a smoker, selenium is protective of your lungs and helps with lung inflammation. Food is medicine, and 2-3 Brazil Nuts a day provide you exactly the amount a body needs. There may be a run on Brazil nuts…this would be understandable, unlike people hoarding all the damn potatoes. Love me some taters.

* More is not better with selenium as it can reach toxic ranges with 800 mg a day. 200 mg is the “Goldilocks” dose.

 

Sweat It Out

I grew up with lots of anecdotal remedies, which were quite wise in retrospect, and one of those was to “sweat it out” when I got sick. In theory, you were to crawl under a blanket and sweat like a sinner at church until the fever broke. Come to find out, this was right on par. Taking fever reducers like Tylenol and Advil prolongs the illness, and allows shedding of the virus for longer, although it gives blessed temporary relief. Fever is nature’s way of fighting infection. We are putting one hand behind our back to fight illness when we take these items, although when in the throes of the flu, I have been known to knock back 400 mg of Ibuprofen just for some pain relief and sleep, so no judgment here. The body is wise. We may not always be comfortable with its wisdom, but we would do best to let the body/immune system fight the fight as nature intended.

*Babies, pregnant women, and those with cardiovascular disease should avoid temps of 103-104 and above, as this could be harmful.

Time for a Parasympathetic Response to COVID-19

Time for a Parasympathetic Response to COVID-19

There are so many things right now that can upset us about the new pandemic that is sweeping the world. Who to believe, how to protect ourselves and our family, how much toilet paper is enough? With all these questions and more, it really is hard to avoid having a major sympathetic response, which is our flight or fight mode. This response, when in a sustained state, is counterproductive to staying healthy, because what we need now, more than ever, is to have a parasympathetic response. Which state we are in determines how our immune system interacts with and reacts to our environment, and of particular relevance right now, to COVID-19.

We now know that the importance of slowing COVID-19 is that we can flatten the curve of spread and not overwhelm our health care system so that when people really need it, it will be there. The attached diagram explains it well. We will not “stop it cold” with school closings and canceling events, but we will flatten the curve which I think is extremely important.

COVID-19 Healthcare System Capacity

This is a bigger picture approach to coronavirus, but what can we do personally to get ready? (And no, it does not involve stockpiling toiletries.) There are things that have been covered ad nauseam on a personal level to control the pandemic, if you have not been living in a cave, such as

  • Washing your hands. I won’t get too deep into the importance of washing your hands, but I will say wash them like you’ve been cutting up jalapeño peppers and have to put in contacts or have to pee. Being from Louisiana and loving all things hot, I know what this entails and I imagine you do too. Whoa, Nelly!
  • Don’t touch your face. Ok, this is hard. Touch it with tissues as much as possible, or I guess we’re all going to be walking around with a bunch of crusty noses.

There are other tips that the CDC is sharing via their website. Be sure to read it. None of these things, however, address how to create a dynamic immune system that can take on the challenges of viruses. How do we make a dynamic immune system? Well, one answer is to get into a parasympathetic mode and support it with some very familiar interventions.

The parasympathetic mode of our autonomic nervous system, which is the opposite of fight or flight, sympathetic mode, is the relaxation mode. It’s when we are in this mode that our immune system is better able to identify pathogens, think COVID-19, cancer, and other threats. This is the reason stress, anger, and anxiety are so counterproductive, and when we see people who live in these states, they respond poorly to curveballs like cancer and infection. So how do we shift our autonomic nervous system to this pathogen-killing vigilance of parasympathetic mode? Well, you have heard most of it before, but I want to remind us of the simple things that will help us during this time of uncertainty.

Sleep. This is the most powerful tool we have and most Americans are only getting 6 hours a night or less. They have shown this deprivation to increase our risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and yes, increases our risk of infection. Let me urge you to make this a priority now and in the future. Here are some small steps that may help:

  • Blue light avoidance 1-2 hours before bed (cell phones and computers) or use blue light glasses that filter this cue to wake up.
  • No exercise 3-4 hours before bed.
  • Tape your lips. (See blog on this cheap fix–I love it.)
  • Be careful of caffeine intake. (See blog on how this affects sleep, even what you consume in the AM.)

Food. What you eat matters in the way your immune system responds. If we eat processed, high-sugar foods, then our immune system gets revved up, and not in a good way. It moves toward attacking self, and not toward attacking non-self, or things like coronavirus. That’s why this lifestyle choice of healthy eating is associated with health and not disease. Our immune system likes things it recognizes, such as foods that are in the form nature intended. This helps with the parasympathetic state, which allows the immune system to monitor our environment, and if we get coronavirus, not overreact to it, but to efficiently remove it. COVID-19 gets nasty with overreaction, as it causes our immune system to attack our own systems. Keep it simple. Eat whole foods and avoid inflammatory foods which are processed, high in sugar, and contain preservatives.

Meditation. The simple process of focused breathing qualifies. It’s not necessarily 2-hour deep dives into the Universe I am talking about here, but focused breathing that takes us from a sympathetic state to that most important parasympathetic, virus-killing, state. For some of us, this is a big step, clearing our mind and focusing on breathing, but there are apps for that like 10% Happier. Try it. It could start with just 5 focused breaths and trying to not think about where you are going to get enough toilet paper because the leaves are not yet on the trees for backup.

Exercise. The good news here, as well. No need to be a Tri-athlete, as prolonged intense exercise may be counterproductive, but moderate exercise is key, and here is some support for that:

Exercise has a profound effect on the normal functioning of the immune system. It is generally accepted that prolonged periods of intensive exercise training can depress immunity, while regular moderate intensity exercise is beneficial.”[1]

Even that staple of just walking 30 minutes a day showed the following:

“A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.”[2]

Another well-researched exercise that improves parasympathetic response is yoga. If you have the flexibility of an oak branch like me and have done yoga, then you understand it is exercise. The great thing about yoga is that it can meet you where you are physically and help you get as intense as you want it to be, or not be in my case. This is the exercise you can do at home and still be in a virtual class.  This is one of my favorite options for exercise right now.

It may seem counterintuitive to say exercise improves our parasympathetic response, and improves our immune system, but data supports that although you stimulate your fight or flight sympathetic nervous system initially, you have increased parasympathetic nervous system response over time with regular mild or moderate exercise, which will keep you fighting and overcoming viruses.

Supplements. Disclaimer: I love science-backed supplements, and have used them with all the above interventions for years, to significant effect. I will not go in-depth here in supplement analysis but wanted to give some staples with another disclaimer, which is, make sure the supplements you get are FDA inspected, third party tested supplements as they do you no good if they don’t have what they say they have in them. This list is good for anyone who is immunocompromised as well, if tolerable. If needed, there are liquid forms available.

  • Magnesium– Here’s one that you might not be thinking of. This is big for the ability to have a parasympathetic response and it also helps immune function. Most Americans are deficient, so adding some to your regimen can only help (read more in this magnesium post). I would use chelated magnesium like Mag Glycinate or Sucrosomial magnesium like Ultra Mag and take 300 mg or more a day.
  • Vitamin D3– This one helps with immune function and improving responses to things like flu. I recommend at least 2000 IU’s a day. You can use more than 5000 IU’s per day, but be sure to get your levels checked every 2-3 months until you know this is a stable dose for you.
  • Zinc– I like 30-50 mg a day of zinc picolinate or zinc citrate, as most Americans are also low on this mineral. They have shown it to decrease the symptoms of the common cold by 2-3 days in some studies and is essential for a healthy immune response.
  • Vitamin A- because of genetic issues, many people have trouble converting beta carotene from things like carrots and sweet potatoes to retinol (Vitamin A). Vitamin A is a super potent virus fighter so adding in 2500 to 5000 units a day is not a bad idea. You need to make sure you are taking this with Vitamin D, and more is not necessarily better as there can be toxicity with higher doses.
  • Vitamin C- This is a no-brainer for me. My Mama gave this to us every day during cold and flu season and for good reason. It has extensive literature that supports its use to both prevent and treat viral infections. To prevent, I would look at 500 mg a day, and if you get an infection increase this to 2000 mg a day. Here is a paper with an overview of Vitamin C and its benefits.

Though not all the above supplements are directly parasympathetic oriented, they’ll help you get through this time in which a highly efficient immune system is so important.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are in unprecedented times. It’s time to empower ourselves and control what we can control. We cannot control the hoarding of bizarre things that will have no bearing on outcomes, but we can calm our autonomic nervous system and get our bodies in tiptop virus-fighting shape. We will all know someone with COVID-19 before this is done, I’m afraid. Yet, we have to go on living and hopefully, thriving, knowing we are doing all we can by taking care of ourselves.

[1] “Exercise and Regulation of Immune Functions” Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci, 135, 355-80 2015

[2] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-surprising-benefits-of-walking

 

How Did We Forget our ABC’s?

How Did We Forget our ABC’s?

There are few things worse than seeing your baby struggle with bright red cheeks, oozing wounds, and scratching themself bloody. Watching their skin flake off and leave piles where they sat is horrible. The sleepless nights and tortured cries are gut-wrenching. 

As a parent and a clinician that sees this on a weekly basis, my heart goes out to the parents who are watching their little ones suffer. I’ve been there myself having had eczema and with little ones that had it too, so I can relate to the experience of the parents and the kiddos suffering through it. 

Thankfully, you can solve the eczema puzzle with the right steps. The key is identifying the underlying root causes and treating them appropriately. 

In adults, the underlying causes are many ranging from genetic predispositions, stress/trauma, and toxicity, to dietary factors, hormone and nutrient imbalances, and a disrupted microbiome- especially in the gut. Inflammatory conditions like eczema arise when the environmental factors mentioned collide with genetics (dig deeper into this subject in another article I wrote).   

The GREAT news is that eczema in little ones is much easier to resolve since they don’t have decades of stress, trauma, and environmental exposures that make it trickier in adults! Plus, their little bodies have an incredible capacity to heal.  

Taking a Thorough History to learn more about your baby’s eczema

The first step in this process is taking a thorough history to uncover predisposing factors. Some of the issues we commonly see in little ones with eczema are:

  •  C-section birth or birth complications/ interventions 
  •  Mom had Group B Strep, UTI, or yeast infection during pregnancy 
  •  Stress for Mom during pregnancy
  •  Mom having known GI issues that were not resolved prior to pregnancy.
  •  Family history of the allergic triad (allergies, asthma, and eczema), 
  •  Nursing or feeding troubles, colic, or early food allergies (rejection of solids or food   avoidance can be a sign something is off with the gut)
  •  Seasonal skin flares indicating an allergic component
  •  History of mother or baby living in a moldy environment or near high chemical or pollutant concentrations such as farms, golf courses, airports, highways, industry, etc.
  •  Baby or child having constipation, diarrhea or loose stools, gas, burping or bloating

Having a thorough history allows us to see the big picture of what the likely causes are and what tests we need to order. I always order a comprehensive stool analysis so gut imbalances like dysbiosis can be identified, as well as the bacteria, fungi, and parasites that may be causing it. GI health markers are also helpful in determining inflammation, immune activation, and digestive function. 

Additional Testing for an accurate diagnosis and treatment

Additional testing is sometimes necessary and could involve: 

  • serum labs to assess the immune system or allergens 
  • organic acids to assess fungi/mold and harmful bacteria
  • food allergy or sensitivity testing or other specialized testing 
  • we can also do genetic analysis if the child or parent has completed a 23andMe.  

Regarding testing, it’s important to note that you should wait until you see a qualified provider to decide which tests are needed. If you order them on your own, you may order the wrong ones and end up having to spend extra money unnecessarily on the right ones. In my practice, the only tests we order are ones that directly inform the course of treatment. 

Once the test results are received and reviewed, a treatment plan specific to the needs of the patient is made. The bulk of treatment in little ones is generally focused on balancing the immune system, replacing nutrients, and supporting proper gut and digestive function. 

Skin healing typically begins during the first 1-2 months and is often almost resolved by 3-4 months. Total treatment time for babies is generally around 4-6 months total and sometimes a little longer in older children. 

Our goal is not only for your child to find relief and have soft, smooth skin, but also to give parents the tools to support their kiddos if skin issues crop up again. 

Dr. Stephanie Davis

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. www.LivingWithout.com and www.Celiac.com are good places to start.

Dr. Nathan Morris, MD