Gluten Sensitivity: Is this an epidemic?

Gluten Sensitivity: Is this an epidemic?

The number of adults in America who are think they should cut back or avoid gluten-containing foods has grown to 30% as of January 2013 according to a survey by The NPD Group, a global information company that conducts bi-weekly surveys on health trends. Every year since 2009 when NPD started tracking this trend, growth of gluten avoidance has steadily climbed, culminating in 1 in 3 adults now expressing the intention to avoid gluten. Is this a fad or do we have an epidemic of gluten sensitivity?

The Mayo Clinic published a report that analyzed the blood of Americans from the 1950s and compared it to samples taken now and found that celiac disease is 4 times more common today than it was 50 years ago. Alongside the increase in gluten sensitivity, there is a steep rise in food allergies, which according to the CDC has jumped 18% between 1997 and 2007.

Is the increase in gluten allergies linked to pesticides?

Now healthcare professionals are asking, could there be a connection between the increased quantities of toxic pesticides and fumigants in our food, water

and the environment and the rise in food allergies including gluten? If you are part of the one third of Americans intending to avoid gluten, think about this. It may be that eating organically grown food and drinking filtered water could help lower your sensitivity to gluten.

Elina Jershow, MD, a researcher who specializes in allergies, analyzed the incidence of antibodies to food in the blood associated with high levels of chemicals called dichlorophenols (DCP). DCPs are metabolites of chlorinated chemicals used in our water supply and other herbicides in common use on our food supply. She found that people who have food sensitivities are twice as likely to have high levels of DCP in their urine.

Other researchers have speculated that the fumigants used in wheat storage might be the cause of its intolerance. Pesticides, fumigants, and herbicides are accumulating at higher levels in our food and water supply every year. Fumigants are used on conventional wheat to prevent insects from infecting it during the warm summer months when it is stored in silos. These chemicals are known to cause central nervous system damage, heart and vascular disease in workers who handle them. What could their residues be doing to our intestines?

Stick to organic!

Organic wheat is stored without the use of fumigants. Organic farmers have to use cooling air flow, cleaner equipment and other natural management techniques to keep stored organic grains insect-free. Buying organic not only helps your own health, but it also helps protect the health of the workers who bring that grain to you!

It is probable that there is a convergence of multiple reasons why so many people are becoming more sensitive to or intolerant of gluten.  Many of these problems may be out of our control.  However, there are a number of things you can do to support your immune system and protect your health.

  • Eating organically grown whole grains, fruits and vegetables makes a great first step.
  • Taking probiotics and consuming prebiotics like inulin found in Teeccino should be part of your health regime to support a healthy population of beneficial microflora.

* Following a detox program at least once a year to help reduce the levels of chemical toxins in your body is a great defense.

  • Avoiding antibiotics unless absolutely necessary is another important way to support your intestinal microflora.

Protecting your intestinal health is clearly the best defense that you can employ to maintain good health and a strong immune system. Keep in mind, some health professionals and researchers believe that 80% of our immune function starts in the intestines!

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