Celiac? Irritable Bowel? Esophagitis? GERD? No Matter, Probiotics, Gluten Free Diet and Enzymes Solve This Caper.

Irritable Bowel Disease or Celiac Disease with a Gluten Free Diet Resolution Case Study:  A female college athlete had a history of loose bowels and intense stomach aches immediately following food ingestion and prior to athletic events.  She discontinued use of dairy products without resolution.  She was diagnosed by a physician with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and prescribed hyoscamine and ranitidine to calm her stomach and reduce inflammation.  A three month trial of these prescriptions appeared to help.

After one year, more severe stomach aches returned. She was sick after each meal on a regular basis.  She visited a gastroenterologist who ordered stool and blood samples, and an ultrasound.  She was found to be gluten intolerant.   The physician prescribed ranitidine and hysocamine and referred the athlete to another gastroenterologist for a endoscopy and colonoscopy to rule out celiac disease or a more serious condition.  The results were negative with the exception of a developing stomach ulcer.  The physician explained that the athlete’s stomach experienced difficulties digesting food, particularly gluten.  A gluten free diet was prescribed to reduce stomach irritation and unexpected bowel movements. Enzymes and probiotics were prescribed to aid with digestion.  In two weeks, her condition was much improved.

Five months post wheat gluten free diet initiation, she had few stomach aches and her condition was much improved.  Upon ingestion of gluten or excessive quantities of heavy foods, the stomach aches return and immediate bowel movements result.  She continues on a wheat gluten free diet.


Wheat Gluten and the Wheat Germ Agglutinun Lectin

An eloquent analysis written by nutritionist Sayer Ji on the glutenfreesociety.org website helps to clarify that  wheat has two harmful elements: the gluten protein and the wheat germ agglutinun lectin. The  gluten protein provides fuel for grass family plants and when used in baking, makes bread chewy, elastic-like, and gives it a longer shelf life.  In manufacturing, wheat gluten is used to make plastics (Cho, 2011). The process of wheat gluten plastic manufacturing can be seen at http://videos.howstuffworks.com/discovery/35506-howstuffworks-show-episode-7-bioplastic-wheat-video.htm.  When consumed by humans, gluten binds collagen fibers in the body forming strong gliadin-antigen-collagen complexes in joints, tissues and organs. Collagen is a basic type of tissue that is found in blood, bone, tendons, cartilage, lung and organs.   Under a microscope, collagen looks much like a cotton ball that has been pulled apart with the fibers stretched like clouds in the sky.  This meshwork is designed to move fluidly.  Clumping the collagen fibers with gliadin-antibody complexes causes functional impairment.  

These plastic like collagen complexes contribute to the long list of gluten related disease: celiac disease, dermatitis, autoimmune disease, diabetes type 1, thyroid problems, biliary cirrhosis, colitis, cerebellar ataxia, autism, peripheral neuropathy, and schizophrenia. Scientists and clinicians have identified individuals who carry the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 alleles on the short arm of chromosome 6 as most susceptible. Curiously, it is estimated that in terms of genetics less than 1% of the population should be affected by gluten.  Why do so many individuals report benefits from wheat avoidance?

This returns us to The E.R.B’s original source for wheat avoidance, “Eat Right 4 Your Type”, written by Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo (Putnams & Sons, 1996).  In his book, Dr. D’Adamo speaks of wheat plant lectins as being the primary agent causing harm to humans.  Lectins are the plant’s defense proteins that protect grass plants against insects, fungus and bacteria.  Upon human ingestion of wheat plant material, these defense genes bind human red blood cells, tissues and immune cells by recognizing carbohydrate signaling structures on human cell surfaces (Sharon N et al, 2004).  D’Adamo and Sharon discuss the toxic lectin, ricin which is a powerful agglutinator of red blood cells and a lethal weapon.   Wheat germ has a lectin called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) which is an insecticidal that inhibits the sporulation and growth of fungi in plants (Sharon N et al, 2004).  Consumers introduce WGA to tissues when they ingest wheat.

Consumers hear conflicting statements about wheat and wheat germ. Whole grains are thought to be healthy.  They are known for their antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties (Fardet A, 2010).  These beneficial properties may be due to the ability of WGA lectins to bind harmful pathogens, thereby “protecting” the human body.  Perhaps,  the WGA lectin was originally created to function in a delicate balance with nature,  lethal enough to fend off harmful plant insects and pathogens but immune compatible enough to be digested by humans and provide disease protection qualities.

Man has become involved with crop genetics.  Today’s wheat looks nothing like the ancient wheat grain. In our quest to grow high yield crops and provide food for the world, plant defense lectins have been strengthened making plants more disease resistant (Wheat Belly, Davis). When these plant lectins enter the human body they perform their defensive role by gluing themselves to human cells and tissues.  Research scientists know of the strong binding abilities of WGA because the antigen is utilized in laboratories as a tissue identifying marker (Sharon N et al 2004).

Dr. Karl Landsteiner of the University of Vienna first described agglutination complexes in 1900 when he brilliantly identified the ABO blood types.  All health care providers and scientists now recognize that blood types must be carefully matched before transfusion to avoid lethal red blood cell agglutination reactionsUnfortunately, food lectin agglutination reactions are generally unknown.  This may be because in Immunology food is generally not recognized as an antigen, even though most emergency room anaphylactic attack presentations are food related.

In his book, Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo gave detailed guidance as to which foods are beneficial, neutral or avoids for each blood type based upon these harmful plant lectins.  In 2012, almost 20 years later, his book remains a best seller at health food stores. Consumers and clinicians are only now becoming familiar with the inflammatory health conditions caused by gluten and wheat germ agglutinun.  However, in placing all of the blame on gluten, they have identified only one culprit.  Per Dr. Adamo, the WGA lectin is a second and more problematic culprit, particularly for O blood types which represent 40-45% of the population.  This level of affliction better reflects the widespread benefits that consumers are recognizing from a wheat free diet.

Tissue Damage

Much work has been done to understand the effect of wheat as it passes the tonsils and descends the esophagus, stomach and intestines.  Many celiac patients present with esophageal motility problems including gastroesophageal reflux disease, stomach and small bowel, regurgitation and  heartburn, chest or epigastric pain delayed gastric emptying time, and abnormally long colonic transit time (cite). Gluten is not digested well and the stomach may be producing additional acid in an attempt to digest gluten.  This causes the erosive damage to the stomach and esophagus.

Gluten causes inflammation by immune system antigen presenting cells offering the digested gliadin peptide to T helper immune cells.  This leads to inflammatory cytokines and harmful immune chemicals being produced in an effort to rid the body of gluten and the wheat germ agglutinun lectin.  The chemicals produced increase the permeability of the intestinal epithelium (Festen EA, 2009) at the tight junctions.  Helping to move food along and aid in digestion are finger-like projections called villi. These villi resemble the finger-like rock projections in the Sedona picture above.  The additional acid production and inflammation generated by wheat presumably causes intestinal villi atrophy (death). Damaged villi causes malabsorption of nutrients (Nova E, 2010).  IgA and IgG antibodies have been identified in serum against the tissue transaminase enzyme and the endomysium. The intestinal tissue is remodeled and flattened. There’s no doubt that these symptoms are eliminated with a wheat gluten free diet (Lucendo AJ, 2011).

Individuals can potentially eliminate the cause of wheat related inflammation and the progression of related illnesses by eating ancient grains, and in doing so, put a stop to the increase in tissue damage.  The next challenge is to correct bacterial imbalances and provide nutrients that will aid the body in repairing the damaged gastrointestinal tissue.

Good Bacteria, Probiotics and Tissue/Organ Repair

Probiotics being “good bacteria” may promote healthy intestinal tissue and a healthy liver.  There are more than 500 species of microorganisms in the human intestine.  Most importantly, this gut flora exists in a delicate equilibrium (Li YT, et al, 2010).  Antibiotics, drugs, poor diets, stress, and disease destroy the balance between good and bad bacteria. The appendix stores this beneficial bacteria.  “The delicate balance can be seriously altered in acute pancreatitis, hemorrhagic shock, burns, surgical trauma, or multiple organ failure because these events can alter the makeup of bacteria populations” (MacFie J, et al, 1999, Shimizu K, et al., 2006). Under these serious conditions the gut can play an important role in the clinical outcome (Clark, JA, et al., 2007).  It has been shown that orally administered probiotics can improve gut ecology and prevent liver damage (Xing HC, et al., 2006). Oral administration of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium were found to inhibit the growth of Enterobacter bacterium, decrease concentrations of Enterococcus and significantly improve liver health (Li YT, et al., 2010). Health food stores can help with beneficial tips on probiotics and healing the GI tract.

Yogurt contains the Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus bacteria (Meydani SN, et al, 2000).  Many studies have shown the beneficial effects of yogurt against enteric and respiratory infections (Villena J, et al, 2006), anticarcinogenic properties, and against damaging anti-inflammatory cytokine release (Perdigon G, et al, 2002, de Moreno de LeBlanc A, et al, 2004, Meyer AL, et al, 2007 4-16).  Researchers have demonstrated that oral probiotics help prevent the breakdown of intestinal barrier function, reduced bacterial translocation, and attenuate liver injury in mice induced by d-galactosamine (Cachi A, et al, 2005, Lazarte S, et al, 2001).  Hepatotoxicity is a common side effect from many therapeutic drugs. These researchers showed that “cow or goat yogurts were effective at protecting against experimental acute liver injury.  In addition, researchers showed that Spirulina maxima prevented lead acetate-induced changes on plasma and liver lipid levels and on the antioxidant status of the liver and kidney.  Spirulina maxima succeeded to improve the biochemical parameters of the liver and kidney towards the normal values of the control group, showing protective effects (Ponce-Canchihuaman JC, 2010).

Improving Wellness

An added benefit of not consuming wheat products is that bad bacteria flourish in wheat.  They depend upon the presence of wheat.  In eliminating this bacterial food source, common bacteria can still exist, but tend not to thrive. While more research needs to be conducted on this hypothesis, those wishing to avoid colds and flus, and hospitals wishing to reduce infection rates may find it beneficial to evaluate a wheat free diet.

Individually, we can take action to make ourselves healthier by avoiding the gluten and lectins in wheat and by taking probiotics.  This helps our families improve wellness, reduce our health care costs, and reduces our downtime.  As health care providers and society increasingly recognize wheat avoidance benefits and institute more appropriate diets, true disease prevention will take hold.

As a country, our health care costs are skyrocketing due to many of these wheat caused preventable diseases.   Our country may benefit financially with improved wellness by consuming ancient grains and rices or by modifying the wheat grain to be void of the immune stimulants (Hall EH, 2011). Researchers have found that the production of better strains of wheat that will preserve wheat’s  technological baking properties (chewiness, elasticity) but eliminate  the T-cell immune stimulating epitopes can be produced (van den Broeck HC, 2009).

In addition, let’s evaluate the super lectins.  Seed manufacturers currently have many plants that are considered to be “Roundup Ready” and they are working to have wheat ‘Roundup Ready’. Can we re-engineer  these harmful lectins to reduce their attack on the human body?

In doing so, we may find an unimaginable reduction in disease: celiac disease, dermatitis, autoimmune disease, diabetes type 1, thyroid problems, biliary cirrhosis, colitis, cerebellar ataxia, autism, peripheral neuropathy, and schizophrenia.  A wheat diet may also help prevent cancer.  A research study with  Resus Maquaes found that a gluten free diet upregulated cancer protecting cells.  Surprise!  Apparently, if the human immune system is not preoccupied protecting the body from wheat plant defense lectins, cancer protection mechanisms are restored!  Blessings!


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Photograph: Avid riders at Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona

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