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Gluten Intolerant? It Might Not Be What You Think

Normally I’m a pretty healthy person, but this last summer my health took a nose dive. I went to my regular doctor and they ran all of the usual tests.  I was told I was low in Vitamin D (really, really low), and low in Vitamin B.  Nothing else stood out in the lab work.  But point of fact, I was exhausted, gaining weight (especially around my mid-section), and my hair was falling out.  Yes, you read that right – my hair was falling out.  Not cool.

During a haircut and color my stylist (who I’ve been with for years) mentioned how thin my hair was getting.  I replied that I was concerned but no one could turn up the reason for my thinning hair.  I went on to list my symptoms that included the aforementioned vitamin deficiencies, weight gain, and hair loss, along with bumps on the back of my arms.  My stylist got very quiet for a minute, and the she said something I’ll never forget.  “I don’t want to that asshole that says you have what I have, but you have what I have.”  That sentence and the journey that followed have changed how eat and live my life, and I am so much better because of it.

On this blog we talk a lot about the food system, and how screwed-up the system really is right now.  Many folks I know can no longer eat wheat products, but what I want you to know is that there are several possible culprits regarding why your body does not agree with wheat.  In no particular order, they are as follows:

  1. Wheat has been desiccated with glyphosate for about the last 15 years or so, a process that causes the wheat to push just a little bit further in seed production.  Wheat (at least so far – though an unauthorized GMO strain was recently discovered) is not GMO, so the application of glyphosate is a radical idea, and one that is raising eyebrows.  Conventional wheat is treated in this manner, but not organic wheat.
  2. Another concern regarding wheat is its extreme hybridization.  Some folks believe that the inbreeding of wheat may have caused some issues for many folks, and that ancient wheat strains (like Einkorn) are a possible solution for folks who otherwise can’t eat wheat.
  3. The final issue with modern wheat doesn’t have anything to do with the wheat itself, but rather national policy that requires Folic Acid be added to the entire wheat flour supply in the United States (and many other countries). This includes organic wheat, and while this sounds like a great idea, not everyone can process Folic Acid and turn it into Folate (Vitamin B).

Several blood tests turned up three genetic mutations that have been driving my issues, most likely exacerbated when Folic Acid hit the mainstream in the U.S.  The first two mutations disallow me to process Folic Acid into Folate, and the third mutation (a very rare mutation) disallows my body to discard the poisonous byproduct from the failed methylation process (hence the hair loss and other symptoms).  But what is important to note here is that roughly 40% of the human population carries one or more of these mutations.  That means that 40% of the population have some diminished capacity to turn Folic Acid into Folate.  How diminished (and how crappy you feel after eat wheat) depends on the number and severity of the mutations you carry.

As it turns out, I was also extremely low in Magnesium – required for both Vitamin D & B to be absorbed.  Huge Magnesium doses, huge Vitamin D doses, and a large doses of a very special Vitamin B (methylated B – gets around my genetic mutations), and a strict gluten free lifestyle and I’m back to my spunky self.  And thank GAWD, my hair is growing back.  Oh, and I’ve lost 13 lbs., so I’ve got that going for me.

Now I said I live a gluten free lifestyle, but not exactly.  What I’ve found through this journey is that I can eat organic, folic acid free wheat, but that means grinding the grains myself.  A dear friend gave me her grain grinder, and this weekend I made authentic Iris soda bread to go with our corned beef and cabbage.  The bread was delicious, and I’ve had no side effects from eating the bread for three days in a row (the bumps on the back of my arms usually show up within a day or so).  While I cannot and will not eat wheat products outside of my home, I feel confident that I can eat organic, folic acid free wheat products that I prepare for myself.  And if I could get Einkorn grains, even better.

I encourage you to continue to ask questions about our food supply, to continue to know the source of your food, and to continue to ask for second opinions regarding your health.  If I had not persisted in just one of those areas I would still be stuck, and I would still be sick.  If you are sensitive to wheat, or know someone who is (and don’t we all know someone who is sensitive to wheat?), share this information with them.  I’m not claiming that it will turn around the health of everyone that has gluten issues, but it helped me.  I’m notoriously skeptical about the health and safety of our food system, but honestly, this one came out of left field.

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20 Responses to Gluten Intolerant? It Might Not Be What You Think

  1. Cynthia March 21, 2017 at 11:02 am #

    Wow! Lots of interesting new information! Thanks for sharing 😊

    • Christine March 21, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

      You bet. I should have differentiated in the post about Celiac vs. gluten intolerance/gluten sensitivity. Celiac is of course well known and understood, but gluten intolernace/gluten sensitivity leaves us looking for the smoking gun. The three issues I outlined above, plus the one that Sandra added in the link below could provide clues for folks with gluten intolernace/gluten sensitivity. What a mess trying to sort all of this out!

  2. Paula March 21, 2017 at 11:14 am #

    This was very enlightening and scary at the same time. You’re right that the folic acid issue was totally unexpected. I have been sensitive to wheat for years, but thought it was the preservatives and “dough conditioners” (one of which I also use in my chicken coop). I can tolerate one day of my homemade sour dough (using enriched flour), but not three days in a row! I am going to try grinding wheat berries and making my sourdough — maybe it will pass the three day test! That would be so good!
    I was just reading about the GAPS diet which basically removes all wheat/grain/corn products, processed foods, etc. to heal one’s gut. Thank you for sharing your research!

    • Christine March 21, 2017 at 6:00 pm #

      Did you see the link Sandra posted below? Check that out – great article that adds another twist.

  3. Brad March 21, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

    Most interesting… thanks for the post, I have a lot of friends who grind their own flour, but they could not give a compelling enough argument as to why… the folic acid connection brings all the pieces together… mind blown!

    • Christine March 21, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

      At this point, I’ll never go back. I have to be honest, I’m now looking forward to homemade pie crust again. 🙂

  4. Gabi March 21, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

    I have been dealing with the same issues. In my case the symptoms were brain fog, hormonal imbalances and behavioral changes. This is a very insidious problem that affects more people than conventional medicine would like to admit. I hope things will work out well for you. I completely recovered and lost 20 pounds.

    • Christine March 21, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

      Gabi I also am working through the hormonal issues (and brain fog) – everything was out of whack (probably what was causing the weight gain). This problem is indeed insidious, and I agree with you, I don’t think the mainstream is acknowledging what the genetic testing is showing.

  5. kay March 21, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your research, I will pass this information on to a few gluten free friends for them to review.

    • Christine March 21, 2017 at 5:56 pm #

      Please do – it might get someone off the high glycemic gluten-free menu! I’m also pre-diabetic, so gluten-free baked goods just tear up my blood sugar.

  6. Elaine Doudna March 21, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

    I have had those same bumps on the back of my arms since childhood. So does my sister-in-law and we are both gluten (?) intolerant (or so we thought) !

    • Christine March 21, 2017 at 5:54 pm #

      I wish I had a better answer on this – mine went away when I stopped eating all wheat products, and did not return when I ate organic, folic acid free bread. The bumps are associated with gluten intolerance, but I’m not sure at what degree. Has my overall health improved so much that I can now eat wheat again, with no “trigger” from the meal? I suspect so, but I have absolutely no proof (just how much better I feel). Sorry – not much help. 🙁

  7. Sandra Knauf March 21, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

    We’re subjected to so many toxins on a daily basis, it’s terrible. Here’s another take on the problem that I found interesting.

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/02/bread-gluten-rising-yeast-health-problem

    • Christine March 21, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

      Fabulous article! Yet another layer to the mystery.

  8. Anna Teemer March 21, 2017 at 11:00 pm #

    GREAT ARTICLE! So glad you have seen such great changes in your health! The other article was full of amazing info as well Thank you for the link. 🙂

    • Christine April 17, 2017 at 6:26 pm #

      Glad you liked it – has helped me a ton.

  9. ken godwin March 22, 2017 at 3:58 am #

    Hi Christine,
    Very interesting and enlightening article. I do have many of the same concerns (health) you mentioned, and agree that many of the general public does also. Unfortunately, most of them are either not aware of it, or simply unconcerned, yet!.. I have felt for years our food supply has, and is having a detrimental effect on the general public’s health. Your article caught my attention, and caused a reaction “sit up and listen”. Thanks for the info…

    Ken

    • Christine April 17, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

      I’m glad you found some good information there – my own “down the rabbit hole” experience has been worth the roller coaster ride.

  10. Alicia Hulme March 29, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    Where do you buy organic, folic acid-free wheat?

    • Christine April 17, 2017 at 6:28 pm #

      I buy mine at Mountain Mama’s here in town, but you can buy whole, organic wheat berries on Amazon if there’s no place around you that carries what you’re looking for.

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