Problem: Wheat belly. Grain brain. Celiac disease. Gluten intolerance. A lot of people are reporting problems eating bread and other sources of gluten. Where did this come from, are you one of them, and what should you do about it?
Solution: It’s not random that people have started having problems with gluten. The way gluten is produced today is different from how it used to be. For all my gluten free friends out there, I’m here to explain this epidemic to you, to tell you that you may still be able to eat bread, and, either way, your diet can still be delicious.
The reason why gluten intolerance seems to have taken off in recent years is the way that many products with gluten are produced.
Most US farmers spray their wheat with a product called Roundup, because it yields a larger harvest. Roundup contains the chemical “glyphosate.”
Dr. Stephanie Seneff, who has 3 degrees from MIT, believes that there is a link between glyphosate and gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity is a broad category. Within this category is celiac disease, which is traditionally very rare. It is screened for with a blood test and diagnosable by a biopsy. While up to a third of Americans are gluten sensitive, only about 1% have celiac disease.
If you are gluten sensitive, or intolerant, but do not have celiac disease, you may experience these symptoms: bloating, diarrhea, skin rashes, nausea, anemia, depression.
People with celiac disease experience these and it also increases their chances of: kidney failure, thyroid disease, cancer, infertility.
For the purposes of this article, it is not important to distinguish between the different forms of gluten intolerance. It is enough to know that more people have been experiencing problems from consuming wheat products, however extreme their symptoms.
The reason I want to clarify this is that it’s too early, based on the evidence we have, to claim a link between glyphosate and celiac disease. However, it is plausible to claim a link between the use of glyphosate, gluten sensitivity, and the fact that more and more people are buying gluten free products.
Additionally, many adults believe gluten free products are healthier, since they tend to be organic and lower in carbohydrates. This is not necessarily true.
But it partly explains why statistics of the gluten sensitive population can range anywhere from 1% to 30%, depending on whether you’re counting the number of people with actual celiac disease or simply the people who are buying gluten free products.
A study conducted by Dr. Seneff on the effects of glyphosate states, “We propose that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup, is the most important causal factor in this epidemic.”
The study also finds a connection between a rise in kidney failure among farmers in Central America and their use of herbicides that contain glyphosate. It also states that “fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems reminiscent of celiac disease.”
So that’s a bit of an explanation as to where this epidemic is coming from, and why. If you are someone who has been avoiding gluten but doesn’t have celiac disease, you might be able to try homemade or European wheat products.
For example, some people who are gluten free in the US are able to eat pasta when in Italy. Basically, if you can get your hands on wheat products that are not sprayed with chemicals and herbicides, you may find that you are in fact able to eat wheat! Even some organic brands at the grocery store might do the trick!
If you have made the decision to go gluten free, hopefully these tips will help you out:
If you eat a lot of bread right now, don’t be discouraged. Once you start looking for other options, it’s pretty easy adjust to eating fewer gluten-filled foods.
Sometimes, getting used to it takes a bit of creativity. You may have to research what to buy at the grocery store and look up new recipes to keep dinner exciting. But like anything, it gets easier with time.
It may seem hard to believe, but wheat may no longer be the staff of life.
As a doctor, I think it’s important to provide you with information you can use to reclaim the good health you’re entitled to. Giving up certain foods might seem like a chore. But it’s a small price to pay for your wellbeing.
Action Plan: Find a recipe for a gluten-free version of your favorite food. If you like something made of wheat flour, like pasta or cake, you have two options: you could either look for a great gluten-free version, or an alternative dish that has some of the same flavor elements. For example, if you like pasta with tomato sauce, you could try spaghetti squash lasagna.
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Abarikwu SO, Akiri OF, Durojaiye MA, et al. “Combined effects of repeated administration of Bretmont Wipeout (Glyphosate) and Ultrazin (Atrazine) on testosterone, oxidative stress and sperm quality of Wistar rats.” Toxico Mech Methods. 2014 Nov 18:1-31.
Gress S, Lemoine S, Seralini GE, et al. “Glyphosate-based Herbicides Potently Affect Cardiovascular System in Mammals: Review of the Literature.” Cardiovasc Toxicol. 2014 Sep 23. Epub ahead of print.
Bradberry SM, Proudfoot AT, Vale JA. “Glyphosate poisoning.” Toxicol Rev. 2004;23(3):159-67.