Health A-Z Archives: Gluten Intolerance & Celiac Disease

Wheat and Gluten

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease of the gut, may be more common than previously thought, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine June 19, 2003.

Celiac disease is a classic example of food sensitivity. It is caused by an immune response to gluten (the protein portion), found in WHEAT, OATS, RYE AND BARLEY.

The classic symptoms have always been severe diarrhoea, growth failure and malabsorption of nutrients resulting in growth failure.

New research indicates that dermatitis, anaemia, loss of bone density, arthritis, joint symptoms, dental defects, infertility and neurological symptoms such as intellectual deterioration and seizures and possibly multiple sclerosis are other manifestations of celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Gluten Intolerance in Children

The disease may affect as many as one in 99 children (the figures were at 1 in 300 a few years back) and is triggered when people who are genetically predisposed consume proteins found in the grain of wheat, rye, oats & barley. (Gluten is not found in the leaves and therefore wheat grass and barley juice as in Barleylife is gluten free and in fact helps people deal with gluten intolerance)

Children with severe celiac disease have trouble absorbing nutrients, which can lead to weight loss and anaemia. Researchers have also discovered mild forms of the disease that have symptoms unrelated to the gut.

Gluten Intolerance in Adults

Further, adults may have the condition for many years without knowing because the symptoms vary widely, making the disease difficult to diagnose. Undiagnosed celiac disease can result in osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, anaemia, miscarriages and behavioural changes, researchers noted.
In the United States, it took as many as 12 to 13 years after symptoms occurred for patients to be diagnosed with celiac disease, according to another study.


Celiac disease is treated with a gluten-free diet. Gluten is the protein that triggers the reaction.


Gluten is the protein that is found in the grain of wheat, oats, rye and barley. It is not in the leaves. Very often taking in enough essential fatty acids form dark green leafy vegetables (particularly barley leaves as in Barleylife) and flax oil sort the symptoms out. The diet used to treat celiac disease can be challenging as people can’t consume pasta, bread, cookies or beer, and gluten is often used in prepared foods especially as vegetable thickening but not often listed on labels.

Gluten and Anemia

Anemia is the one of the most common deficiency diseases among woman and children in westernized countries, where bread is considered the staff of life! It appears this staff could now be a curse! Could it be that gluten intolerance is the cause of this common problem and if so it would it not explain the inability to correct this with supplements and medication?

According to some researchers; “Clinicians need to consider the possibility of celiac disease when treating patients with any of these symptoms, even if the classic symptoms of diarrhoea and weight loss are not present. It is also important for physicians to be aware that the prevalence of celiac disease is increased in certain high risk groups, such as insulin dependent diabetics , people with either Down’s syndrome, IgA deficiency or autoimmune thyroid diseases, Alzheimer’s or autism and children with juvenile arthritis.”

References from :Lancet 14/7/97 & 10/2/96 & 22/1/94, Archives Internal Medicine 12/5/97,J Clinical Gastroenterology 3/97, J Family Practice, American 1/95, J Gastroenterology 10/96,& 8/97 & vol 89/94, Scandinavian J Gastroenterology 2/95, New England J Medicine 2/5/96, J Pediatrics 4/96, Medical J Australia 17/3/97, New England Journal of Medicine June 19, 2003;348:2517-2524,2568-2570

Gluten and Proper Bodyweight

I have found that gluten intolerance can cause both underweight and overweight problems, digestive disturbances, such as bloating and constipation and dry skin or acne and hot flushes. Basically it appears to upset the endocrine (hormonal) system and possibly the thyroid gland more than any other gland in this system, but any endocrine or hormonal problem could be caused by gluten.

Recent surge in Gluten Intolerance

I am often asked why gluten intolerance has become such an issue in recent years and in reflecting on the problem have seen that our diets have become far more processed and processed foods are far more likely to contain wheat or gluten. We eat more fast foods and the bulk of fast foods contain gluten (pizza, hamburger and hotdog rolls, sandwiches, biscuits, cakes, batter and crumbs on fish, chicken and vegetables) Many health foods have traditionally been whole wheat or rye or oat based.

We have grown up on cereals for breakfast, or toast, with sandwiches or crackers midmorning, more bread for lunch, biscuits for afternoon tea and possibly more bread or pasta for supper. Then grains have been hybridised to increase the protein (or gluten) content, so we are eating more gluten more often and it is now in higher quantities. Take into account that we have advanced storage processes that allow grains to be stored for long periods of time without deteriorating, which results in us eating gluten every day all year round.

In rural communities the grains are often organically produced so would be lower in gluten; they have to hand grind their own grain so eat it maybe once a day and then only in season and not all year round.

We have also come through two decades of dietary advice which promotes the daily (sometimes 3 x a day) in take of high carbohydrate products such as bread and breakfast cereals, many of which are gluten containing grains. After years of doing this it is not surprising that more people are not gluten intolerant (possibly more than we think!) I believe this is one of the main reasons no carbohydrate diets and The Blood group diet results in weight loss and initial improved health (in the long term these diets are not great on your health – see “Perfect Weight” chapter 2)

The increase of gluten in our diets together with the increase in growth hormones from animal flesh could be the main factor contributing to hormonal disturbances and the frightening increase in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or Syndrome X, infertility and menstrual and menopausal symptoms (See chapter on Happy Hormones in my book Perfect Weight). I know of one 50 odd year old woman whose diet and lifestyle was perfect but she kept suffering from hot flushes as she was going through the menopause. Only when she stopped eating oats for a few weeks did the flushes go. She tested herself by eating oats again and the flushes returned.

What to do

If you suspect that you are gluten intolerant, then remove any foods made from wheat, oats, rye and barley for a period of at least 6 weeks. Be patient this takes time.

This could be bread, crackers, whole wheat anything, muffins, cakes, oat cereal, oat crunchies, rye bread or biscuits, many tinned foods such as canned sweet corn (which are thickened with wheat flour) or barley found in soup!

Be careful not to be conned by many supermarkets selling gluten free rye bread, rye is not gluten free and usually the staff in the stores are taking a chance or just ignorant. Rye bread may be wheat free but as long as it is rye it is not gluten free.

Gluten free flour is made by processing wheat with chemicals and definitely not a healthy natural option.

Rice and rice cakes are a delicious gluten free option. If your rice cakes go soft in an open packet, toast them in your toaster. Cold short grained brown rice also makes a great pizza base. Just blend the cold rice in food processor with the steel bade and spread on a baking sheet. Bake at high temperature to get a crisp base. If you prefer a thicker base then make Polenta pizzas, using cooked polenta as the base. Spread the cooked polenta on a counter top of board so that it is about 1 cm thick. Cool and cut into large squares, big enough for one portion. Refrigerate until needed (keeps about 1 week) then grill or bake in a hot oven with topping of your choice.

All maize or corn products are gluten free as is millet, buckwheat, rice, sweet potato and potato.

Precooked, cooled and grated potato can also make a great pizza base. Press down and top with your choice and bake on a sheet until golden brown.
Your health will improve so much that you will not mind not eating the gluten containing foods.

Possible symptoms indicating gluten intolerance
Dry or oily skin
Diarhea or constipation
Bumps or pimples on the back of the upper arm
Dry eyes
Thick fuzzy head – feeling unconnected and sometimes spaced out
Dry or oily hair
Fertility issues
Blood sugar problems
Irritable bowel or bladder


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