Thursday, November 8, 2012

To Wheat or Not to Wheat

Beautiful image of wheat growing in the amazingly gorgeous Palouse region of Idaho found on Wikimedia. 

The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association posted a YouTube link yesterday, the topic of which is a potential link between consuming gluten and autoimmune disease. The twenty minute video was made by Joe Rignola, the founder of Wellness Punks, and it presents a somewhat complex discussion. Mr. Rignola makes an interesting argument about the direct, causative, and body-wide effects of gluten on our immune systems, and he's not alone in his assertions.

But other scientists have a differing view, read this study which concludes that children with celiac disease - true gluten allergy - are not predisposed to other autoimmune diseases, and this, written by Tanya Zukerbrot MS RD:
"Of course eating gluten free makes sense for anyone with Celiac Disease or a significant sensitivity to gluten. But for the majority of us who are not bothered by gluten, are there real benefits to banning foods containing gluten?  Not really. Just because a food product is billed as “gluten-free” does not mean that it is healthier. Gluten-free products can be high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates.  Some people who go gluten-free actually gain weight. There’s probably no harm in cutting out gluten as long as you continue to eat a balanced diet. But unless you have medical reason to avoid foods containing gluten wouldn’t you prefer to stick with whole foods, which are likely to be cheaper, better tasting, more convenient and nutritious?"
Hm. What I want to know is this: is autoimmune disease "a medical reason to avoid foods containing gluten"? This, people, is the REAL question that I want to be definitively answered.

Take some time to watch, and let me know what y'all think. Has adopting a gluten free diet diminished your autoimmune disease activity? Or are you able to consume gluten without any adverse effects?


Anonymous said...

I tried a strict gluten-free, casein-free, egg-free diet at the recommendation of a naturopathic doctor for two months. When that didn't help, she suggested eliminating nightshade vegetables as well. I lost 20 pounds, looked like a skeleton, and saw no improvement in dryness, insomnia, energy, or kidney function. I don't eat a lot of meat or high protein foods (trying to stave off dialysis as long as possible), so I was basically eating vegetables and rice and probably not getting enough calories. Maybe gluten-free helps some people, but unfortunately it didn't help me at all.

Anonymous said...

I don't have time to watch the video this morning but I will do so when I can. I have read more and more about autoimmune disease and gluten but have always caved in when trying to avoid it. Over the last few months I have decided just to cut "way back". I can say for SURE that my hip inflammation from bursitis is MUCH better, and I still have Sjogren's symtons, yes. But it does cause me to question if those could get better also if I completely avoided it.

Anonymous said...

Julia, I was diagnosed with Sjogrens three years ago (after having symptoms for six or seven years). I eliminated gluten from my diet two months and am amazed at the increase in my energy level. No more three hour naps and a returned enthusiasm for life! I'll be interested to hear from your other followers.

Kelly said...

Regarding my experience with gluten: I am on a strict low-carb regimen to control pre-diabetes and prevent it from becoming actual diabetes and since I was very close to being gluten free anyway, I decided to try eliminating the last few items in my diet with grains, Wasa fiber crackers. There is a definite resultant uptick in energy and a slight improvement in Sjogren's symptoms across the board, but certainly no miracles. Everything is still there, just a little better.

Interestingly, I went to a local GI specialist for a colonoscopy screening (all clear!) and in the consultation prior where he took my history he mentioned that recent findings indicate that "even though we don't completely understand the immunity involved," avoiding gluten helps many patients with IBS symptoms and that if you find it benefits you, you should stay away from gluten even if your celiac screening is negative and if you have IBS, you should definitely get screening for celiac markers and even if they come back negative, give gluten free a try and see if you do better.

Nicole said...

While waiting for my rheumy appointment this summer, I did an elimination diet to try to figure out if any foods were effecting me. Turns out that gluten was a culprit! I am still not sure if it contributes to my RA and possible SS, although this week after having a tiny touch of gluten I did feel like I was starting to flare - hard-core rest paid off. But I know that gluten gives me major GI issues. I do not know if I'm celiac. So all that to say that I really have no idea yet if being GF helps my autoimmune issues, and I probably never will since the GI issues alone are reason enough for me to be GF forever.

Heda said...

Have been trying to leave this comment multiple times since yesterday as feel so strongly about this topic but so far no luck. Hoping this attempt is successful.
I was diagnosed with Sjogren's in 2004 and with Coeliac Disease in 2011. Last year I did a very graceful and controlled fall but still managed to break my wrist. Bone density scans showed I had the spine of the average 100 year old woman and I'm half that age. Pretty jolly scary. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is strongly correlated with Sjogren's Syndrome. Please, please do not take any chances. So simple to get blood tests for antibodies and gene testing. Just do it. Don't get to the point that I am at where your bones are like honeycomb. And my opinion for what it is worth is do the testing because eating gluten free is really expensive and not all that delicious so not worth going gluten free unless you need to.

annie said...

I've been going gluten free/lactose free and closely reading all my labels for all kinds of additives/preservatives in my foods since I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 10 years ago.It is proven that people with autoimmune diseases do better with blander diets, and eliminating anything that will be an irritant to the system.
I read afood blog where the young woman was recently diagnosed with RA, and she changed her way of eating..she became vegetarian, cutting out all meats. She lost a sizeable amount of weight, but is doing so much better on her present way of eating. When she tried eating meat, she started with stomach and all overjoint pain, so maybe there is something to eating right for our illness.