Food allergies and intolerance aren’t just on the rise — they are reaching a dangerous crescendo.
Today we stopped at a local café for a taco and asked for corn tortillas as opposed to flour. The cashier’s reaction was immediate: “Are you allergic? Gluten-free?”
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. When someone has an issue with gluten, eating the protein causes damage to their intestinal lining, making it hard for them to properly absorb vital nutrients from their food. This can wreak all kinds of havoc on a person’s body in lots of different ways. Some people have an auto-immune reaction to gluten that is so bad that eating gluten can can cause the body to attack itself. This life-threatening condition is called Celiac Disease.
Even for those who have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, eating wheat can manifest in myriad painful ways, so most people are misdiagnosed for years with other disorders and given medications that only help them mask symptoms without ever solving the real problem.
According to Gluten Free Network, these negative symptoms include:
- Weight loss or gain
- Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorption (e.g. low iron levels)
- Gastrointestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
- Fat in stools (due to poor digestion)
- Aching joints
- Irritability and behavioural changes
- Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage
- Cramps, tingling and numbness
- Slow infant and child growth
- Dental health decline
It’s also easy to see how people with gluten issues get misdiagnosed with everything from depression and anxiety to irritable bowel syndrome and are likely just prescribed medicines that mask part of the symptoms, and all the while their eating habits are contributing to the slow destruction of their intestinal lining and their inability to absorb nutrients properly, thus ultimately making them sicker and sicker over time.[pullquote]How many more people getting stick, staying sick and eventually dying will it take to start realizing that something isn’t right in our kitchens?[/pullquote]
The network goes on to say that, undiagnosed, this bad reaction to gluten and the intestinal damage it causes can eventually lead to bowel cancer, diabetes, anemia, and osteoporosis.
It can take up to two years of being gluten-free before a person’s intestine fully heals. For some, it never does and the continued gut inflammation and inability to properly absorb nutrients can lead to an early death, leaving one open to a multitude of diseases and a 77 times higher chance of getting cancers like lymphoma. Some studies even suggest that an inability to properly metabolize gluten is linked to autism.
Back to our taco shop cashier. Gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease have become such commonplace knowledge now, that cashiers and waitstaff at most restaurants are at least familiar with the basics. Many eateries have a gluten-free section or designation on the menu, and most grocery stores carry at least a small selection of gluten-free items.
Where was all this gluten-free stuff even ten years ago?
The real question: Why the sudden epidemic in wheat-based gut inflammation?
In a 2009 study “Increased Prevalence and Mortality in Undiagnosed Celiac Disease” published in the Gastroenterology journal, researchers concluded, “The prevalence of undiagnosed CD seems to have increased dramatically in the United States during the past 50 years.” Research once suggested that one in 5,000 Americans had Celiac Disease; in the past decade, now it’s grown to a staggering one in 133. One in 133.org figures suggest upwards of three million Americans suffer from Celiac and another 18 million from non-Celiac gluten sensitivity. (It’s also worth noting that autism rates have skyrocketed in that same time as well.)
The number could quite possibly be much higher, considering symptoms do not present as glaringly in some people as they do in others, and due to the wide range of possible indications that can lead to misdiagnosis. While some have posited this increase is just an increase in people being tested for it, recent research suggests this is not the case.
A measly decade is not long enough for wide-scale genetic changes to take place, leaving the problem’s cause likely environmental. So what’s been going on in our environment?
Here are a few things to ponder:
Modified Grains, Modified Diets
In 2002, Monsanto provided its own safety evaluation to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that its genetically modified (GM) glyphosate-tolerant wheat is safe and as nutritious as conventional wheat. The FDA, in turn, accepted this conclusion, using the apparently logic that billion-dollar companies out to make big bucks on their own science experiments that claim their products are safe because they said so is somehow a perfectly legitimate way to determine true product safety. The United States and Columbia are the only two countries that allow Monsanto’s transgenic wheat.
Aside from that, it’s worth mentioning that in just the period between 1997 to 2002 (the years GM food was really beginning to crowd our grocery store shelves), food allergies began to skyrocket. The number of people hospitalized due to allergic food reactions rose 265 percent in that time. And food allergy figures continue to rise.
One doctor has also noted that the wheat we are eating today is actually a genetically modified creation of the ’60s/’70s, and it contains another protein called gliadin that he refers to as the “perfect chronic poison”. Why? It binds to the brain’s opiate receptors and stimulates our appetites, causing us to eat more of it.
See how those two proteins together could form a very dangerous combination?
Other studies have also suggested that our brain function and physical abilities peaked just prior to the agricultural revolution when the regular addition of grains to our diets first began. It seems this recent health fad of eating tons of whole grain is a relatively new idea that hasn’t always been commonplace in the human diet. Let’s not forget the addition of highly processed foods (many containing gluten) filled with additives and preservatives and manufactured derivatives like high-fructose corn syrup (that is mostly from genetically modified corn) over the last 50 years.
So, transgenic mutations or conventional, we are basically being sold wheat’s dire necessity in our diets in a big way. It’s the third largest crop in the U.S., and it is an industry worth over $10 billion annually. (No fodder for propaganda there, right?)
Now additional markets are cropping up across the country to cater to gluten-free, organic and other “specialty” health food requests (all at a higher cost). If we don’t opt to pay the price, what does that leave us? Potentially-disease causing grains and genetically altered science projects served up as the cheaper norm?
What in the past few decades has triggered new waves — no, tsunamis — of inflammation, food intolerance and chronic disease? It’s a question worth asking, and soon.
At what point do we point to the organization of society and ask who decided this for us? How many more people getting stick, staying sick and eventually dying will it take to start realizing that something isn’t right in our kitchens?
We need to stop racing for the cure, and start demanding the cause.