I wonder how many people who read Micki Rose’s Gluten: no grain, no pain article, featured in the FM newsletter on 6th February, realised quite how revolutionary her theses are and how massive a lobby would be ranged against her should she gather any significant following for her ideas.
Not that she is alone in her suggestion that coeliac disease is only one small manifestation of a far larger problem, gluten sensitivity, that underlies a massive range if illnesses and, possibly, most autoimmune conditions.
Drs Braly and Hoggan in their book Dangerous Grains suggest that NCGS (Non Specific Gluten Sensitivity) is 30 times more prevalent than coeliac disease.
Dr Peter Green, Director of the Celiac Disease Centre at Columbia University, says that 60–70% of the people he sees who think they have coeliac disease do not, but are actually gluten sensitive.
Dr Marios Hadjivassiliou, writing in the Lancet, states that ‘coeliac disease …. is only one aspect of a range of possible manifestations of gluten sensitivity.’
Vojdani, O’Bryan and Kellerman, writing in the journal Neuroscience, maintain that ‘Gluten sensitivity can exist even in the absence of an enteropathy [gut tissue damage]. The systemic nature of this disease, the overwhelming evidence of an immune pathogenesis and the accumulating evidence of diverse manifestations involving organs other than the gut, such as the skin, heart, bone, pancreas, joints, nervous system, liver, uterus and other organs necessitate a re-evaluation of the belief that gluten sensitivity is solely a disease of the gut.’
While Dr Peter Osborne in his tutorial Glutenology maintains that there are currently about 300 known illnesses, disease and conditions connected to gluten allergy, intolerance and sensitivity. Indeed, he goes further:
‘There are actually 140 autoimmune disease that we have identified, and the only scientifically agreed upon cause for autoimmune is gluten sensitivity. There are other triggers for autoimmune disease…. but gluten tends to be kind of that central hub that’s always present.’
Well, this is all, of itself, pretty revolutionary stuff – especially to traditionalist coeliac groups who regard any suggestion that the condition could relate to any symptoms other than digestive or be caused by any protein other than the prolamine gliadin found in wheat, barley and rye, as heresy. But once other interested parties (such as the food and pharmaceutical companies providing food and medication for those suffering from what is generally understood to be gluten intolerance) get their heads around the concept, then they will see it as a massive opportunity – a vastly much wider market than they had believed. Excellent news…
But they need to read on…
As Micky explains in the article and in more detail in her e-book , Truly Gluten Free, wheat, barley and rye may not be – indeed almost surely are not – the only grains involved in gluten sensitivity. Through an historical accident they have come to be identified as the grains which cause coeliac disease and are relevant for other gluten sensitivities but, as the followers of Dr Sidney Haas and Elaine Gottschall’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet understood very well, all grains contain gluten and therefore all grains contain the potential to cause sensitivity. Both the type of gluten and the amount to be found in each grain may differ, but the fact remains that all grains contain gluten. Indeed, corn, the grain most widely used as a wheat substitute in ‘gluten-free’ food has the highest level of gluten (55%) after wheat (69%).
Of course, this does not mean that everyone who is gluten sensitive is going to have the same level of sensitivity or that they will necessarily, all react to all gluten in all grain. We all know that sensitivity is, above all, a personal matter so some people may do perfectly well on a gliadin (wheat, barley, rye)-only-free diet – but others may not.
But what does this thinking do for the burgeoning ‘freefrom’ food industry and all those companies that we have just shortlisted for the FreeFrom Food Awards, virtually all of whom use corn (55% gluten), millet (40% gluten), oats (16% gluten) or rice (5% gluten) in those ‘gluten-free’ products which make up the the vast majority of their offering?
When ‘freefrom’ was merely a bunch of weirdo health nuts catering for a tiny group of super-sensitive souls, such a re-think of gluten sensitivity might have been on the cards but these days, ‘freefrom’ is a multi-million, heading for multi-billion pound/dollar industry with a massive investment in alternative grains, especially corn, as ‘safe’ wheat/barley/rye substitutes. No one is going to take attempts to upset that particular apple cart kindly. So if Micki’s theories are right and a significant number of gluten sensitives react as badly to corn or millet as they do to wheat, she could have an uphill battle on her hands…
If you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease and yet do not really feel that much better on a conventional gluten-free diet, or if you have unresolved health problems which just could be related to your gluten consumption, either read Micki’s article or, for the full story including a section on gluten in nutritional supplements and incredibly comprehensive and useful tables of hidden allergens, truly g-f suppliers – and ‘safe alcohol! – download her full e-book.