Lyme Symptoms: Gluten?

Lyme Symptoms: Gluten?

Posted July 10, 2012.  Here’s a good article about gluten.  I don’t do gluten any more.  I think gluten exacerbates lyme symptoms and symptoms of other illnesses.  Something to think about.  

Going Gluten-free by David E Koronet DC 2012


One in 133 people in the US are allergic to gluten according to the latest estimates. Most supermarkets have gluten-free sections. You hear people talking about giving up gluten and maybe you are thinking of doing so yourself. How do you do this – and should you?


What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in three grains: wheat, barley, and rye. There sometimes can be cross contamination of oats if they grow next to a wheat field as well.


What is a gluten allergy? An allergy to gluten is called celiac disease. Any contact with gluten protein leads to an immune reaction in someone with celiac disease. Avoiding gluten is tougher than it seems: many processed foods contain wheat or barley (as flour, for example), and someone with celiac disease shouldn’t eat gluten-free bread toasted in a toaster which is used for regular bread – they will react to it. Generally, stomach upset is the most common symptom, but a host of neurologic symptoms have also been found in reaction to the protein.


What is gluten sensitivity? Some people are not allergic to gluten, but they get some immune response to gluten. It is not as severe as a reaction in someone with celiac disease, but may show up as a bloated feeling, or gassiness. sensitivity is believed to be more common than a gluten allergy. There are a number of researchers who have found a link between fighting a chronic disease and the development of gluten sensitivity (this occurs through a change in the intestinal lining; it is believed to that an immune reaction to the protein develops – and to dairy proteins as well). The extreme measures someone with celiac disease aren’t necessary, but wheat, barley, and rye should still be avoided.


How do I know if I should avoid gluten? If you have celiac disease, there are blood tests which can confirm it (IgA and IgG anti-gliadin antibodies;  tTG [anti-tissue transglutaminase]-IgA; and EMA [anti-endomysial antibodies]). If you are gluten sensitive, those tests won’t be positive. Instead, I recommend an elimination diet: staying off gluten for at least two weeks and seeing if you feel better, then re-introducing gluten and see if anything changes. You’ll want to go heavy on the gluten when you re-introduce it – you’ll know within a few days if you are reacting to it.


So, I’m not supposed to have gluten – what should I look out for, and what can I eat? As I noted before, you need to avoid wheat, barley and rye. At its most basic, this means no bread, no pasta, no crackers or pretzels, no baked goods (muffins, pastries, cookies…) unless they specifically say they are gluten-free. Anything which contains spelt, bulgur, faro, semolina, or farina is out (they are forms of wheat), as is anything containing triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). There are more subtle places that gluten turns up: beer (brewed from barley), many soups (they use flour to thicken them; some may also contain pearled barley), soy sauce (first ingredient is usually wheat), sausage (often uses wheat as a filler), anything that contains “malt” (it’s from malted barley), ketchup and salad dressings, even ice cream (as an add-in – think chocolate chip cookie dough – or as a thickener). What’s more, vegetable protein (hydrolyzed or not), modified food starch, and dextrin and maltodextrin can come from wheat, and “natural and artificial flavors” may come from barley. If you get the idea that you are going to need to read labels carefully, you are absolutely right. Luckily, many gluten-free foods are labeled as such.


What can you eat? Any meats, poultry, or fish (with the note about watching for sausage and hot dog fillers), any eggs or dairy (though some who are sensitive to gluten may be sensitive to dairy proteins too), and fruits or vegetables. There are quite a few grains which don’t contain gluten: rice, corn, millet, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat (which is not related to wheat) are all fair game. Oatmeal is okay if it is specifically labeled as gluten-free. Most gluten-free substitutes contain one or more of these: there are gluten-free breads (Rudi’s and Udi’s are two brands of this), pastas (usually rice, corn, or quinoa based – and oriental rice noodles are a good substitute for regular pasta – but check the ingredient list to make sure there’s no wheat mixed in), pretzels, even gluten-free beer. A couple of companies make gluten-free soy sauce – and if you are eating out (at a Japanese steak house, for example), you can request them. There are baking mixes which are gluten-free – or you can use a gluten-free flour mix or rice flour, possibly combined with corn or potato starch when you bake.


What about dropping all grains? It has become popular in some circles to say all grains are unhealthy and avoid them. The evidence I have seen of this hasn’t convinced me yet. I think the issue with most grains is that they are refined – basically, all of the healthy parts of them removed (white rice, white flour…) – and that is a risk with cutting gluten out of your diet: most people rely especially on wheat for the whole grains they get in their diet. Minimize the processed versions of gluten-free grains – use whole corn instead of corn starch when you can, add some cooked millet or quinoa if you are baking gluten-free bread, use millet as a substitute for couscous (which is wheat).


What else will I need to do? If you have celiac disease, you will need to get some new kitchen equipment which is to be kept gluten-free: cutting boards, silicon or wooden cooking utensils (metal doesn’t have to be replaced), non-stick or iron pans, rolling pins, muffin tins and baking sheets, plastic bowls, colanders, and yes, a toaster. If you are gluten sensitive, you may not need to do this – though it certainly doesn’t hurt to do so.


How hard is it to do this? At first, it isn’t too easy – for most of us, bread, pasta, and baked goods are dietary staples, and we aren’t used to reading labels. On the other hand, my older daughter went gluten- and dairy-free last February at age 16 as part of her fight with Lyme disease, and has managed to stick with it, even when the rest of the family was not restricting themselves. I went off gluten and dairy myself for several months earlier this year (didn’t have a dramatic effect, so now I’m back on gluten). In time, you learn to read labels and cook and bake gluten-free – it gets easier as time goes by. Many restaurants now have gluten-free menus, which lets you know what you can or shouldn’t order. It can be inconvenient to go gluten-free at times – but not impossible.


David E Koronet DC 2012

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