New Groups of People Learning That Gluten is a Problem for Them

by Melissa Diane Smith

I don’t write about the harmful health effects of gluten in the diet nearly as often as I used to in previous years. That is not because I don’t think gluten isn’t a major factor causing widespread ill health in our society. I do. The reason is because I’ve been writing about the hazards of gluten for 13 years and most people who are my clients have read my books and articles and have already removed gluten from their diets before they begin working with me. Nowadays I don’t have to do much convincing to encourage my clients to avoid gluten. Instead, I focus on letting people know how to eat a higher-quality gluten-free diet that promotes optimal health.

Gluten-free symbol 2Though I’m not educating people about the hazards of gluten as regularly as in past years, new waves of people who never thought they had a problem eating gluten are learning that they do, sometimes in very unexpected ways and usually without any adverse digestive symptoms that people normally associate with gluten-related illness. Two cases in point involve two of my friends. They both happen to be named Anne.

Anne #1’s Story

Anne #1 was a volunteer who worked the information booth when I was a speaker for the GMO-free group in Tucson a few years ago. We were always quite busy during events, so we didn’t get to talk as much as I would have liked. I knew she was committed to eating well to promote her best health, and because of that, she avoided eating genetically modified foods. What I didn’t know – and found out about a year after I first met her – was that she had frequent and sometimes debilitating migraine headaches. She didn’t know that migraine headaches are often linked to gluten sensitivity, but she read my Going Against the Grain book and a few other books about gluten, learned about the connection, and decided to remove it from her diet as an experiment. In so doing, she experienced a noticeable improvement in her headaches. When she didn’t eat gluten, she didn’t get migraine headaches as frequently – or if she developed a headache, she didn’t get it as severely. The experience made her a believer in the healing power of eating gluten free and she has been avoiding both gluten and GMOs ever since.

Anne #2’s Story

Anne #2 is a local farmer from whom I often buy fresh, pesticide-free produce. Being that she’s a farmer, she is well aware of the many serious issues that surround GMOs and is staunchly against them as I am. She also does a lot of reading on health and nutrition and was aware that many people developed uncomfortable symptoms from eating gluten. However, she didn’t think gluten bothered her.

Last autumn she developed what at first seemed like bites from bugs like mosquitoes, fleas, or bed bugs, she thought. She repeatedly washed her bed sheets in hot water and she searched high and low to find the culprit, which she thought was some type of outside invader. She found nothing and the “bites” ended up getting worse. She developed an allergic reaction to them and a very severe rash that started on her ankles. It eventually went up her body and even onto her scalp. Much to her frustration, she saw several practitioners and tried in vain to figure out what was causing it. Half a year passed when I saw her on Sunday. She let me know that to her complete and total surprise, she discovered that the cause of the “bites” and rash was actually gluten! She thought the cortisone cream she had been prescribed was helping the skin irritation get better, but the real remedy was that she was not eating gluten for several weeks. She finally made the connection that when she again ate something with gluten, she developed strong cravings for wheat and the rash flared right back up. She also became noticeably fatigued. Anne is in her upper 70s and she was flabbergasted that such an obvious problem with gluten could just show up, seemingly out of the blue, after so many years.

Gluten and Ill Health

This is how it often is with gluten. It appears to do slow, silent damage for years. But if people don’t notice more subtle signs of ill health that develop from gluten, our bodies typically produce more dramatic symptoms and sometimes downright health crises to force our minds to pay attention and make the connection that we shouldn’t be eating gluten. Growing research suggests that gluten is  harmful to all of our health long term.

Though few people realize it, gluten sensitivity is associated with more than 300 different health conditions and symptoms. That means if you have some type of unexplained health problem, you should always consider whether gluten is a possible cause (even though most doctors that you see will never suggest that!).

Some people discovered dramatic health benefits from going gluten free more than 20 years ago like I did when I found that it was an important key to rebuilding my immune system and overcoming a mysterious case of chronic fatigue syndrome. New groups of people have discovered noticeable health improvements from going gluten free just recently. But make no mistake about it: Even though I don’t write about it as much as I did a dozen years ago, I am still a true believer in the benefits of going gluten free and always will be. Stories like those of the two Anne’s just continue to reinforce that.

Copyright 2015 Melissa Diane Smith

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