Pauli Halstead
Submitted to The Union

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April 23, 2013
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Wheat gluten: Healthful or hurtful to American diet

Just imagine if the Surgeon General’s warning on a loaf of bread stated: “Wheat consumption, in all forms, poses potentially serious threats to health.” If you haven’t read the New York Times, bestselling book, “Wheat Belly,” by cardiologist Dr. William Davis, now is the time. Wheat is such an ingrained part of our American diet that it seems essential to our lifestyle. But is it healthy? I propose you forget everything you’ve been told about “healthy whole wheat.” According to Davis, whole wheat bread “causes blood sugar to spike more rapidly than eating pure table sugar and has addictive properties that cause us to ride a roller coaster of hunger, overeating and fatigue.”

Due to recent genetic changes to our American wheat, there is a “higher” gluten content than European strains. Gluten, a sticky protein that holds bread together and makes it rise, is also found in many other grains such as duram, semolina, graham, spelt, kamut, rye, triticale, barley and even oats. Due to the higher gluten content in baked goods and food products, there is a marked increase in the incidence of full-blown celiac disease in the United States. Celiac disease is the extreme malabsorption of nutrients, which leads to many other diseases.

Even if you do not have full-blown celiac, you may be “gluten intolerant.” Gluten causes inflammation and affects all organs in the body, including the brain, heart, skin and kidneys. It can also affect your central nervous system, your moods, your immune system, your digestive system and even your musculoskeletal system. More than 55 diseases, including some cancers, have now been linked to gluten intolerance. At least 15 percent, if not more, of the American public are “gluten intolerant,” and it is estimated that 99 percent who have gluten intolerance or celiac disease are not diagnosed. I truly believe we are all in a range of gluten intolerance in the United States, and it is affecting our national health.

Perhaps you do not know you are gluten sensitive. Symptoms of gluten intolerance may be delayed for weeks or months so will not be associated with gluten consumption. Some of the symptoms may be, but not limited to: obesity, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, allergies, fibromyalgia, arthritis, panic attacks, auto-immune disorders, celiac disease, depression and other brain problems, migraine headaches, skin rashes and problems with digestion, such as acid reflux. Gluten intolerance is rarely recognized by the afflicted or their doctor, and symptoms can be varied. It is important to work with a health care professional who can guide you to a test lab such as Enterolab or Cyrex Labs, which test for various food sensitivities, such as gluten, soy, egg, dairy casein and many others.

Remember, gluten is in many of our food products, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, so it’s important to read labels. Even a trace amount of gluten (0.03 percent) in a food product or cosmetic can cause a reaction in a gluten-sensitive person. For these people, avoidance of gluten must be 100 percent. Also, gluten sensitivity runs in families, so if one person in the family is having symptoms, it’s best that everyone is tested. Having a gluten-free household is very important.

So what does a person do? Find an integrative health practitioner to help you. Also, eat non-gluten foods, such as meat, fish, nuts and seeds, organic fruits and vegetables. These are the foods humans have historically thrived on and the foods that will still optimize your health.

Pauli Halstead is the author of “Primal Cuisine, Cooking for The Paleo Diet.” She teaches classes in paleo nutrition at In The Kitchen, Nevada City. A new series of classes will begin in May. For more, contact Pauli at or onlilne at

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The Union Updated Apr 23, 2013 01:02PM Published Apr 24, 2013 08:50PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.