Disease and gluten:food for thought

Food as medicine and it's links with good health and ill health prevention has been a keen interest of mine for years.  The recent debate about the role of gluten and health is a red hot debate and, on both sides of the Atlantic,  the medical establishment is divided.Two leading medical figures - Dr Tom O'Bryan and the neurologist Dr David Perlmutter. have recently hosted a Gluten Summit with a number of leading keynote speakers, all of whom gave some fascinating insights into  the issue of non coeliac gluten sensitivity and the role of gluten and health.

Common to all the speakers was the assertion that  a high carbohydrate/gluten diet is generally bad for health and that's not just gut health. One expert after another supported this assertion and, from their own medical perspectives, gave well reasoned arguments supported  by the science.

For decades now we have been fed the lie that we can achieve weight loss, good health and prevent life threatening conditions like heart disease and stroke by eating a high carbohydrate/low fat diet. From what some of these experts are now saying the shocking truth  is  that this is  simply not the case.

At the heart of this dietary myth  runs the reliance on grains and wheat, which exposes us to gluten - a protein that our body is not designed to accommodate. David Perlmutter and others claim that a high carbohydrate/gluten diet has been proven to cause inflammation and  problems with the immune system, brain function and blood sugar control.

With regards the inflammatory process, it is now thought that this is the underlying cause of a diverse array of non gut related conditions like heart disease, migraine and Alzheimer's. In fact it is thought that some 54% of Alzheimer's cases worldwide are caused by brain inflammation which is due to  the presence of gluten in the diet.

Some of these experts are now supporting the benefits of a  Paleo-diet; which is the way our hunter gatherer ancestors used to eat. Essentially, it's about a high good fat/ low carbohydrate diet, which may include short periods of fasting. My take on it is fish and low GI vegetables, avocados and berries. (What's not to like!) The health writer Leslie Kenton is a keen proponent of fasting and states that the benefits to her heath have been significant. She's also written extensively about the adverse effects of high carbohydrate diets on health. (Both Leslie Kenton  and David Perlmutter stress that, before embarking on a fast, consult your doctor and it's best avoided if you're a Diabetic.)

So,  let's get clear about what is meant by a high carbohydrate/gluten diet. The type of food stuffs included in this list ares are grains and all food containing wheat - which includes bread, pasta, bulgar wheat  and couscous.

A word about bread. The stuff of life since the bible and beyond, yes. However, the bread that we  now eat  is simply not the same thing as that broken by the disciples all those centuries ago. For one thing it has an entirely different genetic and chromosome structure; to say nothing about the issue of crop sprays, pesticides and other additives  involved in the modern mass  production process.

So what about the growing number of artisan bread makers? Surely, it's not all bad? Regrettably, the basic problem here is that the wheat produced by ancient civilisations hundreds of years BCE is now no longer available. I'm not aware of anyone growing the non-gluten variety of wheat  (Einkorn and Emmer) as was first produced in the Fertile Crescent. In our current world economies it would probably not be considered financially viable. However, I'm happy to be proved wrong. If there's anyone out there who knows of anyone growing either the Einkorn or Emmer vaiety let's all know about it.

So, what's at the heart of this lie. For me it's one word and it's Capitalism. If you look at the world's top 10 grain producers - USA, China, France, UK to name but a few - wheat production (or over production) is at the heart of their successful economies. So, it's in the best interests of multinational agribusinesses and governments worldwide to perpetuate the lie abut wheat and grains.

The role of gluten and it's effects on health is fascinating and well worth delving into further. The science has it's critics and can be controversial. However, for me, a low/no gluten diet  feels intuitively the way to go. 

I'd  love to hear from anyone whose health has been improved by adopting a gluten free diet. I could create a scape book and even set up a notice board where recipes and other useful tips could be left for others to use. Look forward to any feed back you may have.

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