Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wheat is a Threat to Your Health, Even if You’re Not a Celiac

Why Everyone May Want to Avoid Wheat

To say there’s been a lot of talk about wheat and gluten would be an understatement. It continues to be the largest growing facet of the food industry for the past several years. But with 1% of the population suffering from celiac disease and an unknown percentage (personally I think it’s about 30%) suffering from gluten sensitivity, the cynics contend that many people choose gluten-free items because they like being part of a fad or they’re simply enjoying a placebo effect’.

If you are one of us who DO spend a great deal of time, effort and money to avoid gluten, I think you’ll agree that it’s more about how you feel than any fad. But how do we explain the numbers of people who choose a gluten-free lifestyle despite a negative lab test?


Wheat contains "WGA" which has toxic effects on the body. Avoid it!

Dr. David Perlmutter wrote a brilliant article on the topic, citing the research of Sayer Ji, that I think will help to explain a lot.

Gluten is the protein that is mostly present in wheat, about 85% of all the protein present. However, there are, unbelievably, 23,000 different proteins present in modern wheat that can create inflammatory, negative reactions in the human body, according to Dr. Perlmutter. 

I will admit that this is a number far beyond any I have heard, but I do trust the source.

Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA)—Not Your Friend

One such protein is called wheat germ agglutinin, or WGA. WGA is a lectin. Lectins are interesting proteins in that they are produced by organisms to protect themselves from predators.

However, and we have discussed this many times before, WE—meaning humans—may also be a ‘predator’ when it comes to wheat. And as a predator the wheat we eat is attacking us. How?

The WGA protein has a liking for a protein in the human body called N-Acetylglucosamine and binds to it. Don’t worry about the long name. What’s important is where the protein is found: namely tendons, joint surfaces, cartilage, the lining of the entire digestive tract and the lining of the miles and miles of blood vessels within all of us.

When WGA ‘binds’ to this protein it can leave the cells of the particular structure, e.g. the cells lining the digestive tract, vulnerable. Whether it’s damaging the lining of the gut that could potentially result in leaky gut or damaging the lining of blood vessels putting them at risk to inflammation, it is thought that WGA has truly direct toxic effects on the heart, brain, immune and endocrine systems.

WGA Affects Everyone!

The real stunner in this research is that it INCLUDES everyone—not just those suffering from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. The ability of WGA to damage human tissue requires no genetic susceptibility to gluten, but rather simply that you are human and you are consuming wheat! 

In my book, “The Gluten Effect”, I mention that historically, populations who consume wheat are at higher risk to certain degenerative and inflammatory disease. These diseases were not present prior to the introduction of wheat and are less present in those societies that do not consume it, even today.

Does this explain the vast numbers of people who can’t seem to tolerate wheat, despite negative lab tests? It certainly might. And it harkens us back to a truth that we’ve spoken of often: Man CANNOT digest wheat. 

It is an exceedingly complex molelcule with a high amino acid content of glutamine and proline, making it indigestible to man.

Between its indigestibility and its lectin content that destroys our tissues, perhaps wheat is best left in the fields for the animals that do have the ability to digest it—those with 4 stomachs!

And if wheat’s natural WGA content wasn’t bad enough, there is a move in the genetic modification community to increase the content of WGA in wheat—thanks, but no thanks, to that and GMOs in general.

There’s Already a Lab Test for WGA

I often mention that I use Cyrex Labs for my gluten testing. They have the most comprehensive testing in that they evaluate for many proteins present in glutinous grains. And I’m happy to let you know that WGA is one of those proteins tested. 

Here at HealthNOW in our clinical nutrition department, we have been evaluating our patients for a reaction to this protein for several years.

I hope you found this informative. If your health is not at the level you desire and you need some assistance, consider calling us for a Free Consultation: 408-733-0400. We are a destination clinic and treat patients from across the country and internationally.

To your good health,

Dr.  Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN

Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center

Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”


See Doctor bio here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Two Things About Gluten: Indigestible and Nutritionally Useless!

In the fall of 2013, we enjoyed some wonderful presentations by many of the world’s leading gluten researchers at “The Gluten eSummit”.

If you missed the summit, I wanted to share with you some of the gems that were shared.
 

Dr. Alessio Fasano
In this post I wanted to share with you what Dr. Alessio Fasano had to say when interviewed. I have always called Dr. Fasano “my hero” and nothing has changed in that regard. If anything, I now have him on a higher pedestal!

Did you notice the title of this blog? While it’s not news that gluten is indigestible, it bears repeating—until more of our population understands that it’s not the nutritional “staple” that many believe.

7 Myths and Facts About Gluten

Let’s look at some common arguments leveled against those who avoid gluten, and counter them with the facts as we know them:

Myth 1: Wheat has been around forever. Of course it must be good for us!


FACT: For 99.9% of our evolution, our ancestors have been gluten-free. We did not evolve to digest gluten. It only arrived 10,000 years ago.

Myth 2: Ancient wheat was fine and didn’t cause any problems. It’s modern wheat that is creating health issues.

FACT: The above statement isn’t completely false, particularly as it refers to problems with modern wheat, but let’s break it down. Gluten as a protein is indigestible due to its odd composition of high amounts of the amino acids proline and glutamine. The composition or sequencing of these amino acids literally is unrecognizable to our enzymes such that we—all humans—(not just those of us who are intolerant to gluten) are unable to digest it properly. The indigestible quality of gluten has always been the case, regardless of how ancient the cultivar.
 

However, what is true is that modern wheat is worse. According to Dr. Fasano, the amount of gluten per dry weight of grain has been increasing over time. It’s doubled in a few centuries. The result is that the indigestible nature of the grain has worsened. Gluten now encompasses 30-40% of the total protein content of wheat, when in the past it was half that.
 

Of course the recent problem of GMO wheat adds yet another health risk, but more on GMO in a future post.

Myth 3: A gluten-free diet can be dangerous because it creates nutritional deficiencies.
 

FACT: According to Dr. Fasano (and this is a direct quote): “Gluten is nutritionally useless. We evolved as a species without gluten.” 

Those who warn that a gluten-free diet is dangerous cite a lack of fiber and vitamins, substances that are readily and more beneficially replaced in a truly healthy diet, regardless of its gluten-free status. The fact that many Americans don’t consume a healthy diet is a different issue. But blaming the lack of gluten as a component in malnutrition, is foolhardy and false.

Myth 4: Genetics dictates what diseases we get. If it’s in your genes and family tree, there’s not much you can do about it.


FACT: According to Dr. Fasano, it’s the environment that influences our genetics to either express a disease or have it remain dormant. And the gut is where genetics and the environment meet. When it comes to the environment, we don’t just mean your diet. In addition to gluten and other food sensitivities, problems also arise from antibiotic overuse, pollutants, chemicals, GMO foods and infectious organisms.

Yet none of these things would create problems if we didn’t have permeability issues in our gut—leaky gut. The health problems that ensue from a leaky gut include:
  • food allergies
  • autoimmune disease
  • inflammation (known to initiate ALL degenerative diseases)
  • stroke
  • cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • and more!
Yes, Dr Fasano agrees with me that autoimmune disease often begins from a leaky gut. He considers that we are in the midst of an epidemic of autoimmune diseases such as asthma, diabetes, M.S., rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease. This epidemic, he says, has been taking shape over the past 40 to 50 years as our lifestyle has gotten less and less healthy, resulting in compromised gut health.
 

Can genetic change be held responsible for this ‘epidemic’? No, the rapid increase of autoimmune disease sits squarely on the shoulder of our environment. The facts are that genetic change takes centuries, not years. It is our environment that is changing and challenging us with substances with which we cannot maintain a proper equilibrium.

Myth 5: Autoimmune disease is an immune system disorder where the immune system gets "out of control" and begins attacking the body. There is no cure for these disorders; the only possible treatment is drugs to suppress the immune system.
 

FACT: While Preventional Medicine (steps that prevent the manifestation of the disease) far surpasses Interventional Medicine (treatment once the disease has already occurred), Dr. Fasano stated that you can arrest the development of autoimmune disease by addressing gut health, specifically leaky gut. 

Research has shown that the genes for a disease can be present along with the instigator of the disease (e.g. gluten in celiac disease) and yet the disease won’t manifest in the presence of a healthy gut.
 

The immune system only gets out of control in the presence of an unhealthy gut that allows the passage of "bad guys" from within the gut, where they should be annihilated and excreted out into the bloodstream where they can begin their destruction of various parts of the body.
 

It is the loss of the tightly controlled barrier function that initiates these illnesses by allowing unsafe passage of various molecules and substances.

Myth 6: Celiac affects 1% of the population. That’s significant perhaps, but certainly doesn’t explain the vast amounts of people (40% of population) who choose to follow a gluten-free diet and likely are just following a fad. There is no medical reason for the rest of the population, meaning 99% of them, to eat gluten-free.
 

FACT: According to Dr. Fasano, gluten creates a leaky gut in everyone who eats it. Gluten is ingested, it’s not completely digestible as we mentioned earlier, a substance called zonulin is released, and the result is a leaky gut. The consequence of gluten leaking into the bloodstream is inconsequential—for 70 to 80% of the population—those not reacting to gluten. But for 20 to 30% of the population, the consequences are quite severe—disease and earlier death, per research findings.
 

The point is that if 1% of the population has celiac (this percentage does increase with age at a rate of doubling every 15 years, according to Fasano’s research) then up to 29% has gluten sensitivity if you do the math. Personally I think the percentage is easily 30% of the population if not more, but this is the first time I’ve heard Dr. Fasano make a statement that went that high.

Myth 7: Gluten creates gut problems. If your digestion seems fine, you don’t need to worry about a gluten reaction.
 

FACT: Dr. Fasano cited that calling gluten a GI related disorder was “reductive”. The GI tract is where the immune system first encounters gluten, an enemy, but whether the reaction against gluten occurs there—or in the brain, the joints, the skin, the nerves, the thyroid, etc.—depends on the genetic makeup of the individual.
 

Gluten causes a wide variety of symptoms and conditions. Therefore if your doctor cites the myth above that gluten is solely gut-related, or he/she refuses to test you for a gluten reaction because you DON’T have any digestive symptoms, feel free to show him this article.

I hope you found this helpful. There exist many myths about gluten and hopefully this served to shine the light of truth on some of them. Feel free to share this with your doctor, friends and family, especially anyone who gives you a hard time about your gluten-free lifestyle.


To your good health,


Dr.  Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN

Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center

Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”


See Doctor bio here.