I was reading a position statement from a national celiac organization regarding making it law that all gluten is removed from medications. While I completely concur, the issue I’d like to discuss involves a statistic that this organization gathered after surveying its members.
They found that according to survey, those with celiac disease take an average of eight oral medications per day. Eight!
Potential gluten contamination aside, when someone takes that amount of medication it is known that an adverse drug reactions is definitely occurring – the likelihood is considered 100%.
What I would like to discuss is why celiacs would be, on average, consuming so many medications. They should be following a gluten-free diet that would, theoretically, improve their health dramatically. But apparently that is not the case.
Here are my thoughts as to what might be contributing to this problem:
1. Some celiacs are a bit ‘sloppy’ on their gluten-free diets because they haven’t been well educated or they simply don’t notice a difference in their health when they knowingly cheat. Whether you 'feel' it or not, consuming gluten when you are gluten intolerant is increasing your risk of dying from all causes, especially heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disease, our three leading causes of death.
2. Due to our poor ability to diagnose celiac disease (95% remain undiagnosed in this country), even those who now have the diagnosis often waited about a decade to find out. During that time their health was so compromised that autoimmune and other diseases developed that are now being ‘managed’ by drugs. While those in this position may feel that drugs are their only option, I disagree. We have seen nice improvements in the diseases caused by gluten, even in those who have suffered for many decades. See #3 below for more information on how we treat this.
3. Generally speaking the treatment for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is a life-long gluten-free diet – period. Unfortunately, eating gluten-free alone is usually insufficient to restore health. What I like to call the ‘secondary effects’ of gluten must also be addressed, to truly restore optimal health. Such things as ‘hidden’ infections in the intestines, nutritional deficiencies, probiotic imbalance, enzyme insufficiency, the presence of cross-reactive foods, toxic overload and hormonal imbalance must all be evaluated and addressed if found to be lacking. Neglecting this type of follow-up, in my opinion, diminishes the chances of a full recovery and is currently one of our largest problems in treating the gluten intolerant population.
4. Those who do follow the diet, often happily replace all the gluten-containing foods they used to eat with a gluten-free option, but don’t take steps to really eat a healthy diet. The bad news is that a gluten-free diet doesn’t necessarily equate to a healthy one. Too often, in order to appease the feeling of deprivation, gluten intolerant individuals throw themselves into overeating the vast array of cookies, cakes, breads and other goodies offered by the gluten-free manufacturers. While we are all delighted that such an abundance of gluten-free food is available, it doesn’t make that cookie or cake any healthier for you. These ‘goodies’ should be relegated to special occasions and, instead, the bulk of the diet should be made up of healthy vegetables, fruits, beans, good fat and a small amount of healthy animal protein.
Please pass this post along to others whom you know suffer from gluten intolerance. It’s hard enough to get diagnosed. Once you do and you’re following a gluten-free diet, you deserve to be enjoying excellent health.
What are your thoughts on this?
Do you take more medications than you’d like?
I would love to hear from you.