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Dr. Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

As co-author of a new book titled "Cereal Killers" slated for release in the fall of 2009, the study of the impact of gluten continues to be a driving passion in my life.

I am fascinated by the way that gluten induces illness and impedes learning while it alters mood, behavior, and a host of other facets of human existence. Sure, gluten's impact on health is an important issue, but that is only the most obvious area of impact. Mood disturbances, learning disabilities, and the loss of quality of life due to psychiatric and neurological illness are even more tragic than the plethora of physical ailments that are caused or worsened by gluten.  The further I go down this rabbit hole, the more I realize that grains are a good food for ruminants - not people. I teach at the Royal Roads University, Continuing Studies.

My Web page is:
www.DangerousGrains.com


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Photo: CC--Damian Gadal

We know that celiac disease afflicts almost 1% of the general population. We also know that about 12% of the general population has non-celiac gluten sensitivity, as indicated by elevated IgG class anti-gliadin antibodies in their blood. Although elevated antibodies identified by this test are often dismissed as "non-specific", they are clear evidence that the immune system is mounting a reaction against the most common food in our western diet.



Image: CC--mattwi1s0n

Norelle R. Reilly, M.D., has offered several of her opinions regarding gluten-free diets in a commentary published in The Journal of Pediatrics, earlier this year (1). It is important to recognize the difference between this publication and a report of findings arising from a study. She didn't conduct a study. No ethical approval was cited or needed.



Photo: CC--Todd Huffman

Vice President Dan Quayle famously stated: "what a waste it is to lose one's mind, or not to have a mind is being very wasteful, how true that is," when speaking to people involved in the United Negro College Fund (1). While it is entertaining to read and ponder, this statement evokes some ideas I have about senility, which is increasing, along with many other modern diseases, at a frightening speed. The prospect of losing my mind, my memory, my sense of connection with friends and loved-ones, and even my sense of identity and personal hygiene is a frightening spectre.



Many of us continue to struggle with a wide range of health concerns, digestive complaints, neurological symptoms, and/or apparently unrelated wellness issues such as low energy levels or continuing episodes of brain fog.



Image: CC--Image Catalog

One part of our natural protection from the microbes and toxins in our environment is the innate part of our immune systems. This includes everything from our skin, to the mucous we produce in various tissues which engulfs unwanted or harmful particles, isolating them and ultimately expelling them from the body in fecal matter and mucous, such as from our sinuses. While our immune systems have other components, it is the innate system that provides most of our protection from the world outside our bodies.



Photo: midweekkauai.com

Newly diagnosed with celiac disease, late in 1993 or early in 1994, I was reading a paper that turned my perception of this disease upside down. I learned that it takes more than susceptible genes and eating gluten to cause celiac disease. 



Photo: CC--dan4th nicholas

Is the rate of food sensitivity and allergy growing? Or are we just more concerned about it because children experience anaphylactic crisis, sometimes even dying from exposure to peanuts, strawberries, and all the other foods that most of us think of as harmless?



The Y Net News article quotes one of these investigators as warning ALS patients against experimenting with a gluten-free diet: "Patients should not be tempted to use a gluten-free diet without clear evidence for antibodies, because an unbalanced diet might harm". This is the kind of advice that frequently appears in the popular media. There can be little doubt that a gluten-free can be unhealthy, just as gluten containing diets can be unhealthy.



In his article titled "Against the Grain," published in the November 3, 2014 issue of The New Yorker, Michael Specter likens the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo to "a travelling medicine show" in the first paragraph (1). Just in case a reader was half asleep and missed the bias embodied in that phrase, Specter ends the same first paragraph with: "There was even gluten-free dog food." It's hard to miss the harsh, cynical tone, and it is a shame that he usurped the name of Melissa Diane Smith's informative book to title his invective.



Photo: CC--thebittenword.com

Experts have decreed that pure oats are safe for people with celiac disease.  The definition of this disease is based on a very specific type of injury to the intestinal wall that heals following the removal of gluten from the diet.  This intestinal damage, called villous atrophy, is caused by the interaction between the immune system and certain proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley.



CC--ITU/I.Wood

Dr. Catassi and colleagues reported, in the September of 2013 issue of Nutrients, that during the previous 21 months for every ten reports about celiac disease, there was one report of non-celiac gluten sensitivity (1).  They plotted the publication ratio over the last 60+ years, showing that there has been a steady increase of reports on non-celiac gluten sensitivity in the medical literature...



We're talking about the dietary staple of Western Civilization, right? This is not the staple of the Asian diet or the African diet or the diet for the Americas. Not even all European populations have been eating it as long as those earliest farmers in the Middle East.



Photo: CC - opensourceway
I was disappointed to read the opinion article by   Dr. Di Sabatino and Dr. Corazza  published in February 2012 by Annals of Internal Medicine (1).  The article itself is mostly  reasonable and thoughtful. However,  they implicitly assert gluten to be a healthy food by stating that they wish to prevent "a gluten preoccupation from evolving into the conviction that gluten is toxic for most of the population" (1).  In that single statement they are making dietary recommendations in the absence of evidence; the very situation they claim to want to rectify.


I was disappointed to read this opinion article in The Atlantic (titled: A Gluten-Free Diet Reality Check) when there are three U.S. studies demonstrating that about half of overweight and obese children and/or adults with newly diagnosed celiac disease lose weight following institution of a gluten free diet (GFD).


Photo: CC-RDECOM

Through the hard work and concerted efforts of many support groups and individuals throughout the US, along with the generosity of Instituto Di Ricerca in Italy, research funding was accumulated. Early in the Twenty-First Century, under the auspices of the Center for Celiac Disease Research, a new epoch in celiac disease awareness was born.



Subscribe to Journal of Gluten Sensitivity for more articles like this one.
This is a controversial topic. Elizabeth Hasselbeck`s book, The G-Free Diet (1), has been attacked because it suggests that a gluten free diet can help some people lose weight. One celiac support group has condemned this book as misleading (2).  However, I thought it was a pretty good book, and I’m grateful for the public attention that Hasselbeck has drawn to celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.


Through the hard work and concerted efforts of many support groups and individuals throughout the US, along with the generosity of Instituto Di Ricerca in Italy, research funding was accumulated. Early in the Twenty-First Century, under the auspices of the Center for Celiac Disease Research, a new epoch in celiac disease awareness was born. Spearheaded by Dr. Alessio Fasano and several other prominent gastroenterologists, a large multi-center study was undertaken and the rate of celiac disease in the general U.S. population was determined to be at least 1 in 133



Ron Hoggan responds to recent article.
Mr. Dunning represents corn as a choice for bread-making prior to the advent of wheat, rye, and barley cultivation. However, the evidence suggests that corn was not yet available 10 to 15 thousand years ago when wheat, the earliest of these three grains, was first cultivated so it wasn’t available more than 20 thousand years ago when wild barley was first exploited ( 1 ). The evidence also indicates that corn was not available in the Near East, where wheat was first cultivated, as corn was a New World food developed by Mesoamerican indigenous peoples ( 2 ) half a world away.  In short, corn was not a discarded option for bread making when and where gluten grains were first cultivated.

One of several early mentions of geographic tongue (glossitis) in association with celiac disease may be found in the medical textbook "Coeliac Disease" by Cooke and Holmes, Churchill Livingstone, 1984, on pages 84 and 85 under the heading "glossitis". They say that it occurs, to a greater or lesser extent, "in a majority of celiac patients". 

Thank you for your interesting article on gluten-free dieting.  I was very pleased to read that you include patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity among those who should follow a gluten free diet.  I assume that you have arrived at your estimate of 20 million who are afflicted with wheat allergy, non-celiac and celiac gluten sensitivity using Dr. Fasano’s  estimate that 6 to 7 percent of Americans have what you refer to as this “milder form of gluten intolerance”.