Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gluten-Free Diet

My father who practiced internal medicine for 42 years in Taiwan used to tell us “ 90% of what I know about medicine, I learned them from my patients”. The longer I am on this path, the more I agree with him. Gluten-Free Diet is one of the examples.

Since I became open-minded to holistic medicine 15 years ago, I have many children with autism spectrum disorder came to my practice. Their Moms always told me how gluten-free diet helped their children. At that time, I was like most of the other physicians who only knew Celiac disease, but never heard of Gluten sensitivity. After a few years, I started to recommend Gluten-free diet to some patients whom I ran out of treatment options. Miraculously, many of their symptoms improved with some of them had life changing experiences. Some mothers had their own chronic fatigue or thyroid problems improved or even cured after they went to gluten-free diet with their children.

Cases after cases of improvements happened to my patients, I couldn’t help but take a serious look into this situation. I found Gluten sensitivity did not always have digestive symptoms like Celiac disease, but had vague symptoms that mimic many chronic conditions. Diseases that have strong association with Gluten sensitivity include but not limited to ADD/ADHD, Autism,atuto-immune disease, Asthma, Irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s Disease,Depression, Diabetes, Infertility, GE reflux, migraine/headache, thyroid diseases. obesity and osteoporosis. On top of this, the regular labs do not have reliable tests to diagnose Gluten sensitivity, Those reasons make Gluten sensitivity diagnosis a challenge.

Unlike peanut allergy which appears within few hours (an IgE response), gluten sensitivity is an IgG response that takes 2-3 days to show up and can be modified by our own immune system. Most of us eat Gluten on daily basis, so it’s almost impossible to recognize the symptoms associating with Gluten. The other reason that makes it hard to diagnose is that we need to stay 100% Gluten-Free for 6 weeks to see the full benefits of Gluten-Free diet. Even a slight amount of cheating will make the results not obvious.

Gluten is a protein very hard to digest. Gluten-rich grains appeared in humans diet only in the past 12,000 years which is a very short time comparing to 2.5 millions of diet consisting mainly fruits, vegetables, meat and fish since our ancestors were on the earth. It’s no wonder many of us can’t tolerate Gluten. One third of our population has Gluten sensitivities. Since I paid close attention to Gluten sensitivity, I found 50% of the patients walking through my door actually have their symptoms improved with Gluten free diet. Many of the changes are dramatic. I believe any patients with any neurological disorders, behaviour problems, any digestive symptoms, any auto-immune disease(include Diabetes), any thyroid conditions and any undiagnosed chronic conditions should give himself/herself a honest 6 weeks trial of Gluten-Free diet.

Gluten does appear on wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, many of the sauces and processed foods. If making such a commitment is hard for you, we can also order IgG food sensitivity tests through holistic labs to get more definite diagnosis.

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