Monday, May 14, 2007

Modern day Twinkie legend, wheat gluten, leaky gut and two food doctors' thoughts

Is the non-decaying Twinkie story an urban legend? Well, this Twinkie is officially two months old today. Apart from being very hard, it looks the same to me as it did when I removed it and it’s sibling from the package on March 14, 2007. The twin suffered a fatal drop from my six year-old son’s hands a couple of weeks ago. It was soggy from being placed in a zip lock bag and had been in the dark loset, only being brought out for photos. My son picked it up to look for mold (he found none) when the accident occurred. We continued with the surviving Twinkie dry and in the light. No mold or signs of decay on this Twinkie now at two months prompts me to ask if anyone really believes that a food that shows no sign of deterioration after this long is really safe to eat. The makers of Twinkies already concede they aren’t healthy but they taste good. One of my friends in medical residency, Dr. Bruce Caldwell, affectionately called fast food “garbage food”. He or someone else in my past commonly referred to various junk foods as “food-like substances”. I doubt they knew how right they were over twenty years ago.

Now, though I would like to blame gluten on the failure of the Twinkie to mold, I cannot honestly attribute this attribute to that amazing but frightening property. I guess other ingredients contribute to the legendary long shelf life of the Twinkie. It is like the cockroach of foods, destined to survive any environmental assault or disaster.

My concern is that processed food capable of surviving uncovered in the air exposed to mold causing bacteria and yeasts, can’t be completely benign in our human digestive tract. Nearly one hundred year old research proved wheat or wheat gluten alone is toxic to cattle and dogs. Flour in the U.S. is required to be supplemented with vitamins due the the nutritional deficiencies in wheat. Scientific studies have also shown gluten can injure normal human and rat intestinal cells causing increased gut permeability or "leaky gut".

Considering most of the food proteins we now eat come from organisms that have been genetically modified or enhanced and are mixed with other chemicals or food proteins in the digestive tract, the possibility of toxic effects is not far fetched.

Knowing our gut has altered bacteria levels from chemicals used to treat foods and water, antibiotics given to animals under the guise of protecting us and we are often over prescribed antibiotics, our intestinal lining cells are more prone to be injured. Intestinal damage is known to occur from infections, chronic stress, and medications like aspirin, ibuprofen and others. The resulting leaky gut is vulnerable to these genetically modified food proteins and industrial chemicals.

The hygiene theory suggests we may be too clean and not getting enough good soil bacteria in our food supply. Instead the bad bacteria are overgrowing empowered by the overuse of antibiotics. The dysbiosis, or altered gut flora state is believed to be triggering increased gut permeability that allows bacteria, yeast and food proteins direct contact with our immune system. Ongoing self-perpetuating immune stimulation reactions, especially in the genetically predisposed, results in various autoimmune diseases.

Altered gut bacteria levels have recently been suggested as a cause of the obesity epidemic. Food proteins, known as like gluten and others known as lectins have been been suggested to be linked along with gut bacteria, in the epidemic of autoimmune diseases.

As a gastroenterologist I see an increased incidence of Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, microscopic colitis, and eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders. The neurologists and rheumatologists are observing greater numbers of patients with MS like conditions, ataxia, migraines, brain fog or attention difficulties, autistic spectrum disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia. It is no wonder that if toxic chemicals such as melamine have been routinely added to food to falsely raise the protein content, improve the color or appearance or lengthen the shelf life, that despite great health advances our gut seems to be more upset and at risk for injury. It is as if our bodies are slowly being poisoned.

Instead of feeling safe by the FDA’s new reassurances every several days to weeks in regard to the wheat gluten-melamine issue, the public seems to be wondering about the safety of our food. It doesn’t help when we find out that contaminated wheat gluten containing melamine has been fed to chickens, hogs and farm raised fish even if various “experts” claim there is no danger from the chemical in foods made from those animals.

My surprise was not the fact that our food supply is not safe from contamination. That I know personally and professionally. Personally, my wife has Celiac disease and I am gluten sensitive, though she is many times more sensitive to gluten than I am. I also have many patients who struggle continually to avoid being exposed by hidden sources of gluten or foods that are cross-contaminated with gluten during processing. However, the sobering reality that hit me was that in fact, all these other food sources were being fed wheat gluten.

Does wheat gluten get through in meat, fish, eggs, and milk? I don’t know the definite answer. However, I was talking by phone with my good friend and fellow gluten crusader, Dr. Rodney Ford, the real “Food Doctor” from New Zealand www.doctorgluten.com or www.thefooddoctor.org) about this issue this weekend. As a pediatric gastroenterologist in New Zealand, he has been treating and publishing about food allergy and intolerance for over thirty years. We both agreed that since we know gluten survives high heat baking and gets through human breast milk, it is not inconceivable nor is it illogical to believe that foods produced from animals fed a lot of wheat gluten may contain enough gluten to cause some patients ill effects. We also agreed, this latest news should cause anyone on a gluten free diet to consider not eating any meat, fish, eggs or dairy that has been grain fed.

Rodney and I share a common concern about the dangers of gluten, though this conviction has costs us both some credibility with our colleagues. We both however are collecting data on our patients who fail to meet strict criteria for Celiac disease yet respond to a gluten free diet. Despite most of our colleagues and peers criticizing or questioning our “imposing” such a burdensome and restrictive diet on our patients without Celiac disease, it seems, most not only don’t mind but they continually thank us for helping them feel better. A few on other hand, would rather feel bad and still be able to eat that Twinkie, because it tastes so good, even if it’s not natural, healthy or is possibly toxic. Join Dr. Rodney Ford, the New Zealand Food Doctor, and me, Dr. Scot Lewey, the Food Doc, as we continue our journey for a “healthy gut, healthy life”. Once my site, relaunches in it's premier form, hopefully in mid June, Rodney has graciously offered to allow me to resell his very helpful books on my site.

Copyright © 2007, The Food Doc, LLC, All Rights Reserved.
www.thefooddoc.com

1 comment:

jcc said...

Rodney and I share a common concern about the dangers of gluten, though this conviction has costs us both some credibility with our colleagues. We both however are collecting data on our patients who fail to meet strict criteria for Celiac disease yet respond to a gluten free diet. Despite most of our colleagues and peers criticizing or questioning our “imposing” such a burdensome and restrictive diet on our patients without Celiac disease, it seems, most not only don’t mind but they continually thank us for helping them feel better.

Many patients, like myself, have been dismissed and even diss'ed by our doctors who believe that gluten sensitivity without celiac disease, in the terms one doctor used with me, "is poppycock". As frustrating as it has been, I've often wondered what it must be like "on your side"... medical professional to medical professional.

As patients like myslef struggle within this divide of medical opinion, we cling to the writings and research and opinions of doctors, like you and the handful of others, who understand the reality about gluten sensitivity.

And yes... WE DO THANK YOU!!!!! And many of us continue to do everything we can to help educate other patients, too, about gluten and other food sensitivity!

Visit the Virtual Practice of Dr. Scot Lewey on HealthTap