Book Reviews by Heidi Boudro

Dangerous Grains

Reviewed by Heidi Boudro

According to Dangerous Grains: Why Gluten Cereal Grains May Be Hazardous To Your Health, by James Braly, M.D., and Ron Hoggan, some of us simply should not eat wheat. One group who should not are persons with celiac disease; another group are those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Celiac disease is an immune reaction that destroys the lining of the small intestine. The intestinal damage prevents the absorption of food, causing malnutrition. This damage can also result in intestinal cancer, which is one hundred times more common in celiac patients than in non-celiacs. The only treatment for celiac disease is to abstain completely from wheat and related grains in a gluten-free diet. With a gluten-free diet, the small intestine will repair itself completely, within days or months.

Although celiac disease is a very dangerous condition, it is inadequately diagnosed. One out of 111 healthy-looking American adults has celiac disease, but 39 out of 40 celiacs remain undiagnosed. Only a minority of celiacs have classic symptoms of malnutrition; the first symptom for many celiacs is cancer. Other undiagnosed celiacs have gastrointestinal symptoms that are not taken seriously by doctors. One study showed that 20% of people diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome actually had celiac disease.

A significant minority of the general public, about 20%, has a measurable immune reaction to wheat gluten, in what is known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Both undiagnosed celiacs and the undiagnosed non-celiac gluten sensitive share a predisposition to perhaps two hundred serious illnesses, notably autoimmune disorders, cancer, depression, other bowel disorders, osteoporosis, and neurological conditions.

Many can improve their conditions on a gluten-free diet. (I've concluded that the primary benefit of the Blood Type Diets is that some are induced to give up wheat gluten.) The main hurdles are learning to evaluate processed foods and food families, the inconvenience of meal planning to eliminate processed foods, and the physically addictive quality of gluten. Surprisingly, gluten contains protein fragments, called peptides, that are "opioids." Opioids act in the body in the same manner as morphine. Not only are opioids addictive, but it is thought that opioids may be the real cause of health problems in gluten sensitivity.

Dangerous Grains is invaluable in collecting information about the consequences of the immune reaction to gluten, including rarely considered consequences such as chronic pain, depression, autoimmune disorders, and osteoporosis.

One testing laboratory, EnteroLab, recommended to me from another source, has an excellent web site that explains many issues surrounding gluten sensitivity.

See Dangerous Grains: Why Gluten Cereal Grains May Be Hazardous To Your Health at Amazon.

Copyright © 2006 by Heidi Boudro