Gluten Sensitivity – A Thoughtful Letter From a Serious Minded Reader
Majid Ali, M.D.
Here is my response to a letter I received on the subject of gluten senisitivity. It raises many important questions that deserve clear answers, which I try to answer in my library of articles and videos of “Dr. Ali’s Gluten Sensitivity Course.”
I thank you for your letter. I read it and value it for its thoughtful content You raise several important issue. This letter richly deserves to be read and carefully considered by a large readership. Below, I offer it to all my readers who I know will benefit from it. Thank you again. Majid Ali.
Dear Dr. Ali,
I understand that you are saying that the general issue of what is happening in the oxygen homeostasis of the body in question, and the general issue of the gut ecology of the patient in question, predominate over issues of gluten.
But about the gluten and the bread we are eating some interesting issues came out in a recent article in the November 3, 2014 New Yorker article on gluten, the rise of the “gluten free” industry, and the massive number of people who are taking gluten out of their diets, “Against the Grain.” Sources cited in the article state that the wheat in the bread we are eating has undergone much genetic modification in the interests of increasing crop yields and ease of cultivation. However, the experts do not agree that this fact could have made any impact on our tolerance of gluten. According to this article, the US Department of Agriculture researcher, Donald Kasarda who has studied wheat genetics for decades “found no evidence that a change in wheat breeding practices might have lead to an increase in the incidence of celiac disease. “My survey of protein content in wheat in the U.S. over approximately the past one-hundred years did not support such an increase on the basis of historical data in comparison with recent data.'”
1.) But, is the amount of protein in the wheat, or the amount of actual celiac disease– are these only issues which would affect our tolerance of the gluten in modern wheat (other than our rates of bowel ecology problems?)? Or are there other issues, such as the similarity or lack of similarity of modern wheat proteins to the protein of the wheats which were grown historically? Thus, if the amount of protein content in the wheat has not changed, could part of the trouble be that modern wheat protein is different enough to provoke immune reactions in our bodies that it did not provoke before–especially in the presence of high rates of gut ecology disturbance?
According to “Against the Grain”, the as part of his research for the article, the author of it, Michael Specter, went to, “Mount Vernon, where Washington State University’s Bread Lab is situated. The lab is part of the university’s wheat-breeding program…”
2.) How substantial has the change been to the genetics of the wheat we are eating? Why is it that the antique wheat I buy which is grown down in Sicily, grows six feet high and seems not to cause problems in most people who eat at my local macrobiotic restaurant–many of whom have problems with digesting wheat, but that the modern wheat, like the wheat that grows near my house which grows much smaller–less than half as high as the antique wheat, does seem to cause problems in many of these same people? Are the genes and the proteins in the two types of wheat–modern and ancient really the same? Why are your patients tolerating the antique grains better than modern grains? Could the the issue be simply the amount of gluten we tolerate when we have leaky gut syndrome, or could there be issues about how well we tolerate the proteins in the gluten of modern wheat as compared to the antique wheat?
According to the author of the article, “The amount of gluten added to industrially made bread keeps increasing,” and the director of the lab at Washington State, Stephen Jones, ” has become acutely interested in whether that extra gluten may be at least partly responsible for the gastrointestinal distress reported by so many people.” The author writes about the common use in industrial bread of , “Vital wheat gluten , a powdered concentrated form of the gluten that is found naturally in all bread.” According to the article, “Vital wheat gluten increases shelf life and acts as a binder; because it’s so versatile. food companies have added it not only to bread but to pastas, snacks, cereals, and crackers, and as a thickener in hundreds of foods and even in some cosmetics.”
4.) Even if the amount of protein in the wheat has not changed, could not a large increase of wheat gluten in our diet be exacerbating the gut ecology problems you are writing about? And if there is an increase in those problems–such as leaky gut syndrome, could not a large increase in a difficult to digest protein be a factor in why, as the article says, “Nearly twenty million people contend they regularly experience distress after eating products that contain gluten, and a third of American adults say they are trying to eliminate it from their diets.”?
Chronic fatigue syndrome, candida, chemical sensitivity. Are we just creating diseases out of some collective neurosis? Or do we realize that something has gone wrong in our bodies, and like the “Blind Ones” in the Sufi tale of “The Blind Ones and the Elephant”, see only part of the beast? Is it rather than that these things don’t exist, that they represent an incomplete view of our problems?
Isn’t that what you are telling us? But could it be that our decision en masse to avoid modern bread also has some roots in just what is going into that modern bread?
In the New Yorker article the author seems to be trying to make a case against the existence of gluten intolerance, but he does decide to stop using the common bread additive “vital wheat gluten” when he makes his own homemade bread–citing that when subjected to heat the modern wheat protein in it becomes a rubbery, indigestible mass. He does make a point that the modern wheat gluten is less tender, and is tougher and stronger than the gluten of the antique wheat–that is why it is added to give more structure and rising power to the bread. Thus, he himself, concludes that he should not be using “vital wheat gluten” in his own bread, after the researcher at Washington State University, Stephen Jones shows him what the cooked “vital wheat gluten” additive is like after being subjected to heat. Jones comments to the author on his experiments trying to destroy “vital wheat gluten” by leaving it in Coke, ” The stuff is simply indestructible.”
5.) If there is a lot of leaky gut syndrome in the population, as you are saying, is not the “indestructible” wheat gluten which has been put into our diet in ever increasing amounts, more likely to end up in our blood through the leaky intestinal barrier, and raise havoc with our immune systems?
6.) Are we really wrong to know that something is wrong with the bread we are eating, and that we feel better if we don’t eat it?
Despite the fact that the author of “Against the Grain” seems to be siding with the experts he cited in the article– the expert from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the expert on celiac disease from the Mayo Clinic–experts who seem to be inferring that the problem with gluten intolerance is all in people’s heads, the author of “Against the Grain” does, almost unwittingly, make a successful case against the industrial breads we are eating, and not on the grounds of just a very high content of modern wheat gluten–a much higher content of gluten than was in the bread which was historically eaten.
Serious questions about what is in the bread we are eating are raised when the author mentions the number of additives that are being used in bread –other than the vital wheat gluten– chemicals like” acetone peroxide, chlorine, and benzoyl peroxide”, which, according to the author, are “masked as ingredients under the term ‘bleached.’ ” The author mentions other additives– “Optional ingredients are also permissible in products called bread: shortening, sweeteners, ground dehulled soybeans, coloring, potassium bromate…and other dough strengtheners (such as bleaching agents and vital gluten).'”
It is interesting that the author mentions Potassium bromate as a common bleaching agent for flour used in making bread. Potassium bromate has been the subject of a campaign by Dr. David Brownstein to raise people’s awareness, because, according to Dr. Brownstein, potsssium bromate blocks the action of thyroid hormone.
7.) Though, you are no doubt right that a third of all Americans may be wrong about WHY they are avoiding bread and other gluten containing products, can we conclude that they are wrong about avoiding bread and other gluten containing products when we read about the amount of modern wheat gluten they contain, how indigestible it becomes when cooked, and all the other chemicals, including a thyroid hormone blocking chemical, which are hidden in what is labelled simply as “bread”?
8.) Isn’t proper function of the thyroid hormone essential for metabolizing oxygen and keeping our bodies in oxygen homeostasis? Should we really be eating breads which are bleached by a thyroid hormone blocking chemical?
Are we–a third of all Americans– who are taking gluten (or in my case, modern wheat, and foods with added gluten and flours and breads with bleaching agents and chemical additives) out of our diets, really just trying to hang on to our illnesses in a massive collective psychosis, or is it like other recent plagues of illness which we were also told by the experts didn’t exist– chronic fatigue syndrome, candida, fibromyalgia and chemical sensitivity–we know things aren’t right with our health, we know something is making us sick–we don’t understand exactly what is going on–why we have these symptoms when we eat certain foods, but we know that something is terribly wrong, and are searching for the cause?