Jul, 04

Gluten Free - Fungus Free?

Michael Smith Blog - Know The Cause Any shopper who has paid attention to the offerings on the grocery aisle over the last few years has undoubtedly seen a rise in the number of gluten free products available on shelves. The gluten free revolution has it's roots in the rise in the number of diagnosed cases of Celiac disease.  


Sufferers of Celiac disease have problems digesting gluten, the protein found in wheat. Eating any sort of wheat or wheat product can cause those afflicted with the disease painful stomach cramping. The severity varies, from mild to those who can't even eat food that has been in contact with wheat. If the condition is ignored and the patient continues to eat wheat and wheat products, it has been linked with progression to certain types of stomach cancers - pretty serious stuff. With wheat's ubiquity in the American diet, Celiac patients must be ever alert about the things they eat, and as producers have become conscious of the demand for wheat-free products, we have seen the market flooded with a supply of gluten-free fare. 

Anyone familiar with Doug's work certainly won't be surprised at the ability of wheat to cause health problems. While wheat, especially of the whole-grain variety, is often touted as a healthy food and recommended by health advocates, wheat's problems go deeper than just gluten. Ruth Etzel, MD, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the American wheat supply is commonly contaminated with mycotoxins, which are fungal metabolites. Doug's work centers around the role that fungi and those toxic byproducts play in ill health. 

Fungi and mycotoxins, according to Doug's research, can cause some pretty sever gastric symptoms, some perhaps similar to those experienced by Celiac patients. Doug might argue that the sensitivity Celiac patients have to gluten might actually have more to do with fungi and their toxins than the actual wheat protein itself. Regardless, staying away from wheat is advised in either case. 

Interestingly, I listened to a podcast recently from the nutrition director of an athletic program who takes all of his athletes off of wheat, whether they show signs of gluten sensitivity or not. He argues that across the board, there is an inflammatory response to consuming wheat, which is particularly undesirable for athletes who must recover from workouts. Knowing this coupled with the known fact that mycotoxins contaminate wheat, it is odd that even as "whole grains" wheat is still recommended by health advocates. 


So is gluten free more healthy? Avoiding wheat in any form seems advisable. However, one thing that I have noticed is that corn does not contain gluten, and is therefore permissible for Celiac patients to consume. Many of them replace the wheat and wheat products in their diet with corn products. If you remember the Ruth Etzel article that I referenced above, she says that while wheat is commonly contaminated with these mycotoxins, corn is universally contaminated. In other words, the alternatives that Celiac patients turn to may be more detrimental in the long run. 

If you or someone you know suffers from Celiac disease, the Phase 1 diet might be a good thing to try. Wheat is excluded, naturally. However, so are the contaminated foods that Celiac patients often turn to. In addition to excluding the things that inflame your condition, you will also starve any pathogenic fungi that may have been the source of your problems to begin with.

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