Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Are Food Allergies on the Rise? Part 2: Modern Wheat

In this second installment of my food allergy series, I want to focus on wheat specifically.  As you may know, celiac disease is a destructive disease caused by an immune reaction to gluten, a protein in wheat.  In recent years, the prevalence of celiac has been rising; today it is about four times more common than it had been in the 1950s.  According to recent estimates, about 1% of the population suffers from this disease, many of which are still undiagnosed (1, 2).  But still more people suffer from something called gluten sensitivity.  While not a true allergy, gluten sensitivity can manifest in a variety of ways... chronic migraines, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia... you know, all those pesky, seemingly random conditions that you're told you have when your symptoms don't fit neatly into a real disease.  According to the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland, gluten sensitivity affects 7% of Americans (3).  But some estimates have been as high as 15-20%.  Researchers and practitioners agree that gluten sensitivity is far more common today than ever before. 

Very likely about 1 in 10 Americans have some adverse, acute reaction to eating wheat.  So what gives?  Why the sudden problem?

The story of modern wheat is a fascinating one.  It's something I've never seen discussed in any mainstream media outlet, but the reasons for that will become clear later.  Quite frankly, I didn't believe it when I first read about it in "Wheat Belly", mostly because it's a horribly biased book based on scientific fairy tales.  I dislike it so much I won't even link to it.  Don't bother.  But a recent Mark's Daily Apple article has convinced me that it's true... The wheat and flour products we eat today are distinctly different than what we've eaten in the past.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis Without Drugs

I want to tell you about a patient I had in my clinical rotation at UConn Health Center.  She was in her 60's, and she was hospitalized following a surgical procedure to fix a pericardial effusion (fluid buildup around the heart).  Other than this acute issue, she had very few health problems, and nothing heart-related.  What she did suffer from, however, was rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a nasty autoimmune, inflammatory disease in which the body attacks its own cells in joints, often in the hands or feet.  Over time, this can lead to deformities in the structure of the hands and feet, like here:

And this is what her hands looked like.  I asked her if her RA bothered her in everyday life, and she said only rarely.  But I saw her hands.  Maybe she could perform easy tasks without any trouble, but she's not opening a jar of tomato sauce any time soon.  Of course, this patient was being treated the same way most RA patients are treated:  with glucocorticoids like Prednisone.  But drugs like Prednisone come along with approximately 4,732 serious side effects, such as increased blood pressure, weight gain, mood swings, osteoporosis, increased risk of infection, and diabetes.  Not exactly "safe" over the long-term.

I am fully aware that a paleo-type diet would help her control her RA; I thought long and hard about whether or not to bring it up with her.  But in the end I didn't, because I'm a student, and paleo isn't exactly protocol at UConn Health Center.  Besides, she eats a super-low-fat, cholesterol-is-deadly, 80s-style diet, full of egg beaters and vegan sausage.  (Her total cholesterol was an extremely low 87 mg/dl by the way, something none of the doctors seemed to be even remotely worried about *palmtoforehead*).  I wasn't about to broach that subject with a 10-foot-pole.  She wouldn't have believed me, and my preceptor never would have signed off on it anyway.

Ironically, later on that week, I listened to a Chris Kresser podcast in which he discussed how he treats RA using diet and supplements.  No Prednisone.  No side effects.  This is the information my patient really needed, along with everyone else who suffers from this debilitating disease.  This is how you get to the root cause of RA and fix it, not simply cover it up with corticosteroids. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Prop 37, Labeling GMO Foods, and the Evilness of Monsanto

Okay that's it.  I've had it up to HERE with Monsanto and their shenanigans.  Who is Monsanto, you may ask?  The giant biotech company producing most of the genetically modified foods here in this country (and probably the world).  Yes, genetically modified foods, or GM foods, or GMOs.  Any of those.  Those franken-foods created in a lab and fed to the United States citizens without their knowledge.  If you're slightly confused and need a basic education on GMOs, look through my previous blog post here.

In case you haven't been paying attention, the state of California had the opportunity this past week to vote to have genetically modified foods labeled.  Seems like common sense, don't the people have a right to know what they're eating?  Shouldn't you and I have the right to know if what we're eating came from nature, or if that tomato was created from DNA found in a maggot eating the feces of a retarded sloth?  I'd like to know.  But they voted NO!  They voted to allow Monsanto, Dow, and the big food producers to feed YOU genetically modified foods, and NOT tell you about it.  This makes me very angry.  Which makes my writing significantly more interesting to read.  So read on.

Why on earth, you may ask, would anyone be opposed to labeling GM foods?  It seems like an obvious right-to-know case.  And quite frankly, it is.  Unless... somebody has a shit ton of money lying around to change that.  Somebody who would lose a great deal of that money if Californians happened to vote yes on that ballot.