Doctor Rodney Ford, Specialist Paediatrician, gastroenterologist.
Lots of sick children have come into my clinic over the last 30 years. My big question has been “why are so many of these children unwell?” They are sick, tired and grumpy.
Celiac disease becoming common.
At the start of my pediatric training, celiac disease was considered as a rare small-print condition, that I would expect to see only occasionally my lifetime. How things have changed!
The recent studies show that coeliac disease occurs in up to 1-in-50 people. Staggeringly, my research, and that of others, has found that gluten is causing symptoms in at least 1-in-10 people. There is an epidemic of gluten related illness. This is a reality rather than a fashion. This is what I have discovered:
Gut, skin and brain
Gluten can affect your gut, your skin and your brain. The Gluten Syndrome refers to the cluster of symptoms that you experience if you react to gluten. It applies to any reaction that is caused by gluten. It includes coeliac disease, and also the myriad symptoms that can be experienced throughout your gastro-intestinal tract. It also includes many other symptoms that do not stem from your gut. These include brain and behaviour disorders, irritability and tiredness, skin problems, muscular aches and pains and joint problems.
The adverse affects of gluten are wide-ranging and are now brought together under the term The Gluten Syndrome. In most instances, a simple blood test (the IgG-gliadin antibody test – which is not a teat for coeliac disease) can identify the people who are affected.
10% suffering form gluten-harm
Although The Gluten Syndromeaffects about one in ten people, most affected-people are unaware that their health is being harmed. This is because they regard themselves as being normal, despite their chronic illness. It is of concern that their gluten symptoms are most likely being caused by damage to the nerves and brain. This means that the earlier their problems are identified, the better will be their response to a gluten-free diet.
Tummy pains and not growing
Meet Jonti who is 3 years old. His gluten story is typical. His mother brought him to see me because she was concerned about his poor growth, and his distressing abdominal pains. His blood tests showed a high gluten test (his IgG-gliadin antibody was 94 units, usually less than 15 at this age). His other tests, including the gene test for coeliacs, showed that he did not have coeliac disease.
We suggested that he go on a trial of a gluten-free diet. Happily. within days he began to eat better, and his tummy pains went. He is now growing again on a gluten-free diet. His mum wrote:
“I really haven’t found the gluten-free diet to be that difficult. I found people to be incredibly helpful actually, both in the supermarket and in restaurants. In the supermarket there is a lot of normal type food that is gluten-free and it is all clearly labelled that it is gluten-free. Even if you go to the delicatessen department they will tell you which luncheon sausage if it is gluten-free. There are gluten-free sausages all labelled and its normal food that tastes great.”
“For the baking mixes and bread mixes, you don’t even have to go to the specialist health food shops. I go to no other shops other than the supermarket to get food for him and I haven’t really found it that difficult.”
Amazed how Jonti has adapted
“I have been amazed, actually, by how easily Jonti has adapted to the gluten-free diet. I tell him it is special food for him and that it won’t hurt his tummy. We have got nice biscuits from a bakery and he is allowed to choose which one he wants for morning tea. He still has normal foods like chips as sweets like that. He is not missing out and the other biscuits he hasn’t even really asked for. The only thing is the bread! I have yet to perfect the making of the bread. Toast is about the only thing he asked for. You can get specialist cornflakes and cereals, porridge he loves. Again, at the supermarket. It has been surprisingly easy actually.”
“I’m so pleased that he is now well again. Gluten-free has made such a huge difference.”
The main points about The Gluten Syndrome
- The Gluten Syndromerefers to the cluster of symptoms that you experience if you react to gluten. It can affect your gut, skin and nerves. About one in ten people – that is millions of people – are affected
- Rapidly accumulating evidence shows that gluten is now creating a massive health problem throughout the Western world. However, woefully few people are aware of the catalogue of gluten-harm.
- Medical practitioners accept that gluten causes coeliac disease (gut damage) but many still resist the notion that gluten can cause a wider spectrum of illness.
- Coeliac disease, gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity are all part of The Gluten Syndrome.
- Gluten could be responsible for one-third of all cases of unexplained chronic illness and fatigue. People suffering from these conditions usually just put up with their symptoms, unaware that gluten could be the culprit.
- Gluten can cause malfunctions of the brain and neural networks of susceptible people. The incidence of mental, neurological and brain disorders is on the rise, however the diagnosis of gluten-sensitivity is seldom made.
- The community is already embracing the notion of gluten-sensitivity and more and more people are opting for a gluten-free lifestyle. These people are looking for a term to identify their illness. Their search is over. They have been affected by The Gluten Syndrome.
This is an excerpt from Dr Rodney Ford’s book: “The Gluten Syndrome: is wheat causing you harm?” Available:
Print copy: http://www.drrodneyford.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=124&vmcchk=1
eBook version: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/58338
Come to the clinic: http://www.theChildrensClinic.co.nz
Dr Rodney Ford
Children's doctor and paediatric gastroenterologist & allergist MBBS MD FRACP