Chapter 5

Facing Food

chapter_5 Greens growing in an organic garden and organic peppers in a stirfry.

This chapter reviews toxics in foods and special diets used by people with MCS.

Excerpt from p. 107-108:

Gluten Free Diet

Some people have benefited from the use of a gluten free diet, although I am not aware of any research examining this diet for those with sensitivities. Gluten intolerance (Celiac Disease or CD) is said to affect over 1% of Americans, primarily Northern Europeans. African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians can be affected as well, but in lesser numbers. The Celiac Foundation says that research suggests that CD is genetic and associated with genes that control the body's immune response to the gluten proteins.

Persons with gluten intolerance experience intestinal harm from antigens in wheat, rye, and barley including damage to the villi (the folds that absorb food or even their complete loss. The damage or loss of the villi obstructs the absorption of nutrients. The Celiac Foundation lists diarrhea, bloating, gas, weakness, abdominal pain, vitamin deficiencies, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, constipation, weight loss, and even early onset osteoporosis as the symptoms of Celiac disease (http://www.celiac.org). Other symptoms can include depression, bone or joint pain, anemia, and problems with dental enamel. The NIH adds irritability, muscle cramps, failure to thrive in infants, seizures, tingling or numbness in the legs (from nerve damage), and missed menstrual periods (perhaps due to weight loss).

Symptoms may mimic many other problems and may emerge in a previously asymptomatic person after a stressor such as a surgery, pregnancy, or an emotional difficulty. A sometimes associated condition is Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH), an itchy and blistering rash found on elbows, knees and buttocks.

Left untreated, Celiac Disease leaves a person vulnerable to anemia, osteoporosis, vitamin K deficiency, intestinal cancers, and other food intolerances (http://www.celiac.org). A blood test can reveal whether a person has antigliadin (AGA) or endomysium antibodies (EmA). The Celiac Foundation suggests that a positive blood test be followed up with a biopsy.

The only treatment for Celiac Disease is complete abstention from gluten products in order to allow the intestines to heal (although the NIH says that some people with severe damage may not improve). To abstain from gluten one must avoid wheat, rye, and barley and anything containing their ingredients. Some sources say that oats are now thought to be gluten free, while others disagree. Some additional products listed by the Celiac Foundation as potentially containing gluten are brown rice syrup (frequently made from barley), caramel color (infrequently made from barley), dextrin (usually corn, but may be made from wheat), flour or cereal products, malt or malt flavoring (usually from barley-okay if made from corn), malt vinegar, modified food starch (from unspecified or forbidden source), and soy sauce (could contain wheat).

If you decide to try a gluten free diet be sure to educate yourself about some of the details relating to gluten free eating. For example, some foods will be lower protein after having the gluten removed, as gluten is a protein (http://www.vegsoc.org/info/gluten.html).

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