When you hear that someone has celiac disease, what immediately comes to mind? Lifelong disease? Gluten-free diet? Both? You’re not alone – these are the likely responses we would expect.
But what exactly is celiac disease and why is it associated with gluten – and, more importantly, is a gluten free diet really the answer? Not necessarily.
Let me explain.
Celiac disease is a disorder that results in damage to the lining of the small intestine when foods with gluten – mainly wheat, barley and rye – are eaten. As a result, your body cannot properly absorb nutrients from food, leading to issues such as loss of weight, slow or stunted growth, anemia, and osteoporosis. It can also cause discomfort and bowel related issues. Typically, patients are instructed to follow a gluten free diet to alleviate their symptoms. But is that really the solution? It might just go one step further.
When I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I was desperate for something – anything! – that would help alleviate my symptoms. Luckily, I found the book “Breaking The Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gottschall. In her book she cites the pioneer work of Dr. Sidney V. Haas and his most important accomplishments in the treatment of celiac disease. Dr. Haas saw a bigger connection between the starch in food and a celiac diagnosis. He published “The Management of Celiac Disease” – the “most comprehensive medical text that had ever been written in celiac disease” which highlighted the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) as an effective and lasting dietary treatment – which was accepted by the medical community throughout the world as a cure for celiac disease.
This proposal was challenged by a team of doctors that decided it was not the starch (carbs) in the grains that was the problem, but rather the protein gluten. Even though this conclusion was only based on 10 children with celiac, it became widely accepted. Clearly, it was easier. They claimed it wasn’t necessary to follow a specific carbohydrate diet, but rather, to only remove gluten in your diet from wheat and rye. Enter the “gluten free” craze.
However, this premise was not “curing” people of celiac, only decreasing symptoms.
And we circle back to SCD. The SCD Diet has been shown to completely cure most cases of celiac disease if followed for at least a year. But WHY?
It eliminates all grains which contain gluten or gluten-like proteins while healing the injured intestinal surface that is often damaged in those with celiac disease. Healing is the differentiator – something a gluten-free diet alone cannot do (especially considering the overly processed, unhealthy gluten-free products in the market). Many of the gluten free foods on the market today are loaded with sugars, gums and starches, all of which can lead to other health issues and ailments.
As we have discussed in previous blog entries, the medical community is really starting to gather around the effectiveness of the SCD diet and the powerful contribution it has in disease healing and prevention. Doctors today such as David L. Suskind, MD, the Director of Clinical Gastroenterology at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, has focused much of his energy into clinical care and research for inflammatory bowel disease. Dr. Suskind is a pioneer in supporting dietary therapy for SCD and is he not alone. Many other doctors are rallying alongside his effort.
So, as we continue to support the grain/gluten free lifestyle with products that support SCD, it’s important to note that we are focused on promoting the incredible healing power of a grain-free (YES! Everything) lifestyle over the conventional ideas behind strictly gluten free living.
In honor of May as Celiac Awareness Month, we invite you to please ask any questions you might have about a grain free diet and what foods can help heal. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org