Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Gluten Free: Why are we going gluten free?

Going gluten free is not something that is easily or lightly done so with that in mind I am writing down the reasons so that whenever I get unmotivated I can come back here and get the pep talk. And yes there is some ranting in this post which you can feel free to ignore.

There are two reasons for this change, both of which require some explanation.

1. Andrew developed diabetes for an unknown reason.

In March 2009, a few months before Henry was born, Andrew was diagnosed with diabetes. We sort of guessed this before the official word came through. And funnily enough before we got married 12 years ago I told Andrew when we were discussing our vows that if he continued eating his terrible diet and got diabetes that I wasn't going to look after him. [So when he called me from the doctors office to say he had diabetes I told him I would stick with him! Aaaahhh!]

The point is that Andrew is not overweight, gets reasonable exercise and doesn't have a family history of diabetes. He doesn't fit the mold of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. They really don't know what type he has or how or why it developed. Rant 1 [I really don't understand why the doctors do not care how his diabetes developed. They just treat the visible symptoms and not worry about trying to understand what is really happening in his body. If things go wrong they just give him more drugs at higher doses. Really?]

So on my to-do list has been to research diabetes in some more depth. And I came across this fact: gluten damages pancreas cells that produce insulin.

Adult onset diabetes may be the result of gluten intolerance. However the gluten intolerance is not usually diagnosed or treated, just the diabetes symptoms that have appeared. There is a high correlation between celiac disease and diabetes.

Therefore it makes sense to see if gluten intolerance is the real problem. Eating gluten doesn't mean that the diabetes will go away, particularly if the pancreas is beyond repair, but it does mean that the underlying cause will be treated and further complications from gluten intolerance can be averted.

2. Before the villi are gone

In 2005 with non-specific symptoms I had a blood test result that indicated I potentially had celiac disease. A biopsy proved that I did not have celiac disease. That was a relief. BUT then there was no diagnosis for why I felt sick in my stomach all the time and kept losing weight. The gastroenterologist told me it was stress.

During my recent diabetes/gluten free research I came across a report that said: if a small bowel biopsy comes back normal or nearly normal, you are told that the blood test must have been a “false positive” and that gluten is not your problem. All that means (positive blood test, negative biopsy) is that the gluten sensitivity (evidenced by antibodies to gliadin in the blood) has not yet damaged your intestines severely.

Eureka! Wow! Why did I not know this before?

Celiac disease is the end point - there's no going back at that point. BUT there are points in between and going gluten free before that point can prevent it becoming full blown.

Based on this research because of my positive blood test there is a high likelihood that I am gluten sensitive and should go on a gluten free diet.

Now it's time for another rant [How on earth could that specialist gastroenterologist look me in the eye and give me the throwaway line that my symptoms must be caused by stress? Really? Given this research it is clear that many people are gluten intolerant and yet he wants to wait until full blown celiac disease arrives before the patient is treated!! I wish I could re-visit him today and give him the research (and a piece of my mind) so that in future he may be able to help others! As the research article says, no one waits for a heart attack to occur - they take steps to prevent it. The same for celiac disease, no one wants celiac disease - adopt a gluten free diet now]

So there you have it, two good reasons for our family to go gluten free.

And btw we are ordering gluten sensitivity tests from the lab to confirm a diagnosis either way.

Next Steps

Despite the evidence above, I am still resisting somewhat. It's not an easy thing to overhaul the way we eat and in fact seems overwhelming. There are so many questions. Can we still eat the meals we still love? How will we go out to restaurants? Can I still cook from Rose's Beautiful Cakes? How will we deal with school, parties, pot lucks, going out to friends houses? Why does soy sauce have wheat it in? Why does so many prepared foods have wheat in them? How can we make pizza dough?

I guess we'll work through the answers to these questions as we go.

Next post I list the steps I am going through right now to get to the end point.

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