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National Celiac Disease Awareness Day September 13th

September 21, 2010

Tags: food, agriculture, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, barley, bread, celiac disease (see: gluten), cake, cancer, celiac sprue (see: gluten), civilization, cookies, culture, dairy, depression, diabetes type II, Earth, exploitation, fat, gluten, gluten intolerance, God, gods, inflammation, Iran, junk food, milk, monotheism, National Celiac Disease Awareness Day September 13th, nature, neurological problems, oats, pasta, Persepolis, polytheism, rye, skin diseases, sprue (see: gluten), vitamin B12 deficiency, wheat

National Celiac Disease Awareness Day September 13th

Because we were traveling that day in Persepolis/Iran, I missed the date that reminded us of the most under-diagnosed disease there is: Gluten intolerance.

Sprue, celiac sprue, celiac disease, gluten intolerance – they are all different names for the same disease – the one that turns your daily bread into poison.

Inventing agriculture some five to ten thousand years ago was a huge step forward for mankind: Less people - especially children - starved, more survived – and more people had the leisure to turn to cultural endeavors (observing the stars, building cities, learning poetry). Agriculture is at the heart of our civilization.

Of course, there was a price to pay: Some children could not tolerate the new foodstuffs on the table – milk and bread – and died. But most did very well. The population grew.

Nature whispers to hunters and gatherers in the voice of the wind, the rustling of leaves, the babbling of brooks – everywhere spirits and gods seems to reside in holy nature places.

Once farming has been invented, there’s really need only for a single God – the one who lets the wheat grow and fattens the cows so that they give milk: Give us our daily bread was the prayer ever since then. Leaving Nature behind and turning to monotheism also meant to exploit Earth and go for effectivity in all our endeavors: It made us great – and destroyed our old mother-ship Earth.

Except that the gluten (the sticky protein in wheat that makes dough so doughy) can cause myriad diseases: diabetes, arthritis, cancer, depression, autoimmune disease, skin diseases, neurological problems, vitamin B12 deficiency, and so on, and so on. (I am working on a comprehensive list of gluten-related diseases – will come soon).

And gluten is not only found in wheat – it also is in rye, barley and – as a slightly different but related protein – in oats.

You know the story from the Bible about the Golden Calf? Well, in Persepolis I got an idea why the Golden Calf was such a threat Abraham’s God: It was a fall-back into the era of many gods, polytheism. Worse: it went directly to where the money was: to the cow. The One God had to be angry if they could circumvent him. Look at the picture of one of those double-cow capitals of Persepolis – on the “medical questions?” page here).

But back to gluten: About one in a hundred (or a little less – depending on your ethnic background) cannot digest gluten well. If you are reddish or blond, blue-eyed and fair-skinned, you have higher likelihood to be intolerant to gluten – but I have certainly seen the disease in dark-haired people; even in Africans and Asians.

There is not cure for celiac disease – the only recourse is to leave out all gluten in your diet. Some people have a hard time to let go of bread, cookies, cake and pasta. But once you realize that you can eat rice, beans, lentils, garbanzos as much as you want, you suddenly are not only disease-free but you certainly live healthier because all our junk food is based on wheat (and fat).

You might have guessed it: If you are already depriving yourself of all fun in life, you can as well drop milk and dairy products – as they are the other big culprit at the root of many inflammatory processes in your body.

Aches and Pains

May 11, 2010

Tags: food, aches, Aches and Pains, allergy, anti-inflammatory, apple, banana, blond hair, blue eyes, bursitis, celiac disease (see: gluten), corn, dairy, eggplant, fasciitis, fish oil, food allergy, food intolerance, food sensitivities, garlic, gluten, gluten enteropathy, inflammation, itis, joint pains, milk products, milk, nightshades, nuts, olive oil, pain, peanut, peppers, phlebitis, phyto-nutrients, potato, probiotic, red hair, rosemary, shrimp, sprue (see: gluten), arthritis, tendinitis, tomato, turmeric, Zyflamend

In my twenties doctors had different explanations about the weird aches and pains I complained of. They were either from aging (in my twenties!!), or they were all in my head, or – poor redheads all over the world! – it was just that redheads had lower pain thresholds.

Research meanwhile has confirmed that redheads have actually higher pain thresholds. Besides, I had a whopping but unrecognized case of gluten intolerance, probably since birth. Took me many years to figure it out.

You, too, might have gluten intolerance. Estimates go that one of one-hundred-five people has, most of them not yet diagnosed. Most of them are blond and blue-eyed – but not all of them (otherwise the diagnosis would be easy!).

Of course, aches and pains can have other causes than celiac disease (another word for gluten intolerance; as is non-tropical sprue). But food is often the culprit - dairy, in my opinion, the worst since it is highly inflammatory (besides fattening). If you have arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis, fasciitis – or any “…itis" in your body, leave out milk and milk products for at least a month, and see if you get better.

Other suspicious foods are nuts (which, on the other hand, are very wholesome if you can tolerate them), nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant, bell and hot peppers). Food additives can give bad reactions (and should not be in your food in the first place). Food intolerances can be very individual – for some it is an innocuous apple, for others shrimp or peanut or banana. By keeping a food journal you might find out – or help your doctor to find out.

Finding the cause and avoiding the offender, is the first step. On top of it, there are many herbs that reduce inflammation, like turmeric, garlic, rosemary. In fact, so many plants contain inflammation-dousing phyto-nutrients that eating more vegetables and herbs already might give you relief. If you want an herbal preparation, I usually recommend Zyflamend (be sure you have no allergy to any individual herb in there).

A good fish oil (you should not burp up fish!) has excellent anti-inflammatory action. As does olive-oil (unheated) in your salads. And lastly, a good probiotic, to quench the fire in your belly: Most inflammation originates in an inflamed bowel.

Food “Allergies”, Anyone?

April 29, 2010

Tags: food, allergy, arthritis, asthma, bleeding gums, bloating, cramps, breast soreness, bulemia, bursitis, celiac disease (see: gluten), coffee, corn, cravings, dairy, depression, diarrhea, dizziness, eczema, eggplant, eyes - itchy, fatigue, food allergy, Food “Allergies” - Anyone?, food intolerance, food sensitivities, gluten, gluten enteropathy, headaches, heartburn, interstitial cystitis, itch, joint pains, listlessness, low blood pressure, migraines, mouth sores, muscle weakness, nightshades, nuts, obesity, pain, peppers, phlebitis, potato, sinus problems, skin problems, sprue (see: gluten), tendinitis, thirst - excessive, tickling in throat, tomato, urine flow - slow, wheat

What we often call food “allergies” might be forms of intolerance with different pathways, physiologically speaking. The poisonous effect of wheat gluten in gluten enteropathy worked via a different mechanism than dairy-induced asthma; or the poison ivy dermatitis; or likely immune-complex regulated arthritis. Science has not totally elucidated these mechanisms; food “allergy” might be the incorrect term but has become common.

The diagnosis is difficult to make and to confirm; but if you don’t even think of allergy, the diagnosis can’t be made. Many physicians are not trained in this. However, you might need professional help if self-observation does not solve the problem. Since all of these conditions can also be caused by far more serious diseases, by all means work with your doctor.

Here is a list of signs that should make you wonder if you have an unrecognized food issue:

Food cravings: The more you like a food the more likely it is that you are allergic to that food. The more frequent you eat a certain food or a food group the more likely is that you will develop an allergy to it.

Fatigue: After a meal you are tired. We all are tired after a heavy meal; but if you are extremely tired even after a smaller meal you should search for an allergy.

Abdominal discomfort after a meal - often within minutes but unfortunately it can even take a day or two - you feel bloated and distressed in your stomach. Diarrhea is already a more severe sign and, if chronic or intermittently recurrent, should be evaluated by a physician. Heartburn seldom is recognized as stemming from food allergies – but it often goes away when you stop eating nightshades (tomato, bell and hot peppers, eggplant, potato), nuts or dairy.

Weakness: About fifteen minutes after a meal lift your arms: If they feel heavy or ache more than usual - compared how light you felt in the morning - this might be a case of allergy.

Musculo-skeletal system: joint, tendon and muscle problems, bursitis, etc. Leave out nuts and dairy. Get evaluated for celiac disease (gluten intolerance).

Mouth: Burning in your mouth, tickling in your throat or sores in your buccal mucosa or on your tongue might signal an allergy.

Bladder: Slow flow of urine can be a sign of food allergy, due to a swelling of the urethra. Or burning of the urethra in males. Or recurrent signs of urinary tract infections – with or without bacteria growing out in culture. Irritable bladder (interstitial cystitis) might respond to leaving out coffee and certain foods.

Thirst! If you are thirstier than other people – always running around with a water bottle in your hand – think allergy.

Other diseases and complaints that might be caused - but not necessarily - by food allergies headaches, asthma, swollen glands, bleeding and inflamed gums, abdominal discomfort and bloating, diarrhea, skin problems and itching of perfectly normal looking skin, recurrent infections (sinus, UTI, etc.), itchy eyes, listlessness and mild depression, obesity and bulimia, anal itch and/or rashes, low blood pressure, dizziness, breast pain - a long list that is probably longer, recurrent phlebitis.

Most common food "allergies" I have encountered in patients: dairy, nightshade (tomato, potato, eggplant, all peppers except black pepper, chili, cayenne, paprika), nuts, wheat, corn, beef, food dyes and food preservatives. But basically every food can become a culprit. If you have pinpointed one food item as allergenic for you, compare it with other items in the same botanical family (like nightshade).
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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