We have supervised hundreds of patients during a trial of a gluten-free diet. What we have seen has been nothing short of amazing. About half of patients report dramatic improvements. This does not just include GI problems like bloating, gas, heartburn, constipation, stomach pain and diarrhea. We see improvement in fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain. Less depression and anxiety. Better sleep. Swelling and edema, blood pressure and blood sugar, and many other problems improve.
In medical school, we are taught that gluten allergy is called celiac disease, and that it affects about 1% of people. Recent studies, and the experiences of millions of ordinary people, point to another problem with wheat and other gluten-containing foods. It is called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), and it appears to be a silent epidemic. No one knows exactly how many people suffer from NCGS, but it is one of the most common reasons why some people who suffer a minor injury are not able to ‘bounce back’.
When we suspect NCGS, we recommend a strict, 100% gluten-free diet for three months. This means no wheat, rye, barley, spelt or kamut. This means no bread or beer, pizza or pasta, cookies, pies, cakes, donuts or muffins. It means reading ingredients, talking to servers in restaurants, and sometimes saying ’no thank you’ at social gatherings. But for people with NCGS, these small sacrifices pay huge dividends.
We have blamed all of this on gluten, but this new study points to a new possible cause. Researchers have reported that amylase-trypsin inhibitors can trigger inflammation in tissues. This may help explain why a gluten-free diet can improve symptoms throughout the body. Inflammation is at the root of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression and dozens of other chronic diseases. While we know that gluten can disturb the immune system, this new finding suggests that ATIs may cause additional problems, leading to a one-two punch.
If you have any health problems at all, you should definitely consider a trial of a gluten-free diet. If it does not help, then you can try other dietary approaches to see if they make a difference. Avoiding nightshades, going vegetarian, occasional fasting, raw food diets and low-carb ‘paleo’ diets have also helped many of our patients.
In the words of Hippocrates, the great Greek physician, ‘let food be thy medicine’. And keep seeking.