Everything You Wanted to Know About Gluten | Presentation Notes from Dr. Tom O’Bryan

Posted on March 20, 2012


I attended an online summit recently centered around all things paleo & anti-inflammatory. It was nothing short of incredible – with many of the top industry leaders giving presentations on the latest evolutionary nutrition news, and doing so for free, it was like college but so much more awesome. 🙂 I took notes on the gluten intolerance lecture that gluten intolerance expert, Dr. Tom O’Bryan gave so that I could share the latest info on gluten intolerance with you.

As many long-time readers know, I was diagnosed with non-Celiac gluten intolerance in May of 2009. That means that I’m not in the end-stages of gluten intolerance – Celiac Disease – which is the very last stage of devastation caused by continued ingestion of gluten when intolerant. (Full-blown Celiac Disease is diagnosed by a flattening of the finger-like surfaces within the gut, this occurs after someone has been eating gluten for long enough to wear down their gut lining, making absorption of nutrients extremely difficult from that point forward.)

Just because I do not have Celiac Disease does not mean my gluten intolerance is any less severe – I just caught my intolerance early enough to stop the breakdown of my gut before it got to that point. I cannot stress this enough: if you are diagnosed with gluten intolerance, there is NO more severe/less severe diagnosis – the only concern is how soon was it caught & what symptoms are associated with that stage of health breakdown due to gluten. And as you’ll discover in Dr. O’Bryans’ talk, just because you had some test done for gluten and it came back as ‘not a problem for you’ doesn’t tell the entire story!

As a reminder to folks diagnosed with any level of gluten intolerance: THERE IS NO SAFE EFFECTIVE DOSE OF GLUTEN for someone intolerant to it. Consuming gluten when you know you have a sensitivity to it equates to speeding up the day you’ll meet your Maker. Gluten intolerant individuals die 20% earlier, mostly from cancer and heart disease, than any other person when they continue consuming gluten post-diagnosis. Why, oh why, would you do that to yourself?! Lest we digress into a full-blown discussion on the “why’s” behind people’s food and life choices, let’s get on with the notes that I took from Dr. Tom O’Bryan, leader in gluten intolerance, Celiac Disease, and the care for individuals with gluten intolerance.

Gluten & Gluten Intolerance:
Going Mainstream (or was it always here & just getting overlooked)

Presentation by Dr. Tom O’Bryan

“Let’s be clear about how gluten intolerance can manifest….it can manifest as Celiac Disease (in the gut), as myocarditis (in the heart), as autism or ADD (in the brain), as PCOS or infertility (in the reproductive organs)…gluten sensitivity can manifest anywhere that the immune reaction occurs. You see, gluten is a gnarly protein that loosens up the gut lining so it can slip through, taking other food particles with it to various places in the body. The immune system catches that & says, “woah, send immune responders over to the brain/ovaries/joints/pancreas/any place the food and gluten end up”, and the immune carries out its response on the cells in that area – including the cells of that organ or tissue. As those cells get broken down, strange things happen to that organ or tissue – it develops problems like ADD or autism, it stops working correctly thereby creating pain, dysfunction & disease in that area of the body. Gluten sensitivity is on a spectrum – you can be majorly reactive to it, or very minor-ly reactive to it. But make no mistake, everyone reacts to gluten. “

“Let’s back up a minute…there is something about calling it “gluten intolerance” or “gluten sensitivity” that makes it sound ‘less bad.’ In fact, people will say, ‘do you have a gluten allergy’ and it’s often easiest to say “yes!” even though that is actually not true. You see, when the skin-prick allergy testing first began, this was the very first method used for testing if someone had an immune-response to foods, environmental things, or chemicals. And so if you got a positive response from that skin-prick test, you were told you had an ‘ALLERGY’ to it. Even though, the skin-prick test is only testing for 1 FORM of immune-response…

Let’s back up again…think of your immune response as the Armed Forces. You’ve got the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and so on. In your body, you also have several divisions of armed force immune responders – they are called IgE, IgA, IgG, and so on – there are actually 5 types of immune response, and only ONE is measured by doing a skin-prick. Similarly, only  ONE type is measured when you do a blood-allergy test (thus why those tests are only 30% effective)……

So we’ve got these skin-prick immune responses as the 1st kind ever tested for & so the flag was struck in the ground naming those as “allergies.” It’s kind of like “Kleenex” ‘will you get me a Kleenex,’ we all know that it may not be an actual Kleenex-brand tissue that we are requesting, in fact, we’re just requesting a tissue, but it’s so tied into our lexicon, that getting everybody to change and call it by its’ correct name, ‘a tissue’ instead of saying ‘Kleenex’ and everyone knowing what you mean – it’s just not going to happen. Well, the same is true for “allergy”. Many scientific papers were written using the term ‘allergy’ & then later on, we discovered we could test for these other immune responders, the other divisions of the armed forces within us, and it was just too late to go back & change the lexicon, so discovering an immune-response that uses other divisions of the armed forces in our body had to be called something else, and so we got “intolerance” and “sensitivity”. They are no less worse than “allergy” but they simply must be called something different.”

“A food sensitivity is when you have an immune response to that food. A food intolerance is when you don’t have enough of that enzyme to break down that food i.e. ‘lactose intolerance.’ Far more people have food sensitivities than realize it. This is not a rare problem, and it is not exclusive to gluten, although that is one of the worst immune-producing responders out there.’

“Autoimmune disease is the #1 cause of morbidity(meaning; you die)/mortality(meaning: you get sick & it leads to death) in the industrial world. We thought it was heart disease for a long time, but we are now seeing a strong auto-immune connection in the progression of heart disease. Heart disease, remember, begins with inflammation in the heart walls.”

“Almost all of us have an autoimmune condition within us already, it’s just not bad enough to make us sick yet. No one gets Alzheimers’ in their 70s. It begins in their 30’s and 40’s & progresses….

There are 3 components to developing an autoimmune condition into something that produces major symptoms:
1) genetic variability – do you have the genes for it AND did you up-regulate those nasty genes by your lifestyle choices
2) environmental trigger – gluten is the most common trigger that leads to #3
3) intestinal permeability – we find in patients with end-stage autoimmune conditions, many have long-standing leaky gut syndrome”

“Every bit of food is either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.”

“If gluten gets through your gut, your immune response goes after it. It becomes trained to fire bullets at the gluten wherever it finds it (blood vessels, thyroid, brain, etc.). Regularly consuming gluten brings a regular onslaught of bullets at the gluten floating around your body. You have then successfully developed your autoimmune condition.”

“In the Annals of Internal Medicine Journal in 2006, there was such a strong correlation found of osteoporosis patients that were ALSO carrying a gluten sensitivity that the researchers of the study confidently wrote in the Journal that ALL osteoporosis/osteopenia patients SHOULD be checked for Celiac/gluten sensitivity….when you ingest gluten, it binds to the minerals in your diet, and since your body needs those minerals to function correctly, in an effort to save itself, it leaches the minerals from your bones, thereby creating weak & brittle bones – osteoporosis. Interestingly, the greater the degree of osteoporosis, the greater the degree of improvement on a gluten-free diet!”

“Another very common symptom of patients with a gluten sensitivity is terrible muscle pain, aches, and weaknesses. The reason? Sometimes, when the body makes antibodies to gluten to fight it off, it also makes antibodies to actin, myosin & endomysium. Every muscle in your body is made of actin, myosin & is covered by a sheath of endomysium. Now you have created a system where the immune response thinks it should be attacking the very things that make-up your muscles! This not only can make a person sore, but it can make them feel overly fatigued because their muscles are being torn down continuously.”

“Fatigue is the #1 symptom of people with allergies/sensitivities.”

“Athletes on a non-inflammatory diet consistently improve their performance.”

“The gut biopsy is no longer the gold-standard for testing for a gluten sensitivity. Other tests are catching Celiac and gluten sensitivity much earlier. If you have damage in your intestines, it’s already gotten bad. You want to catch an immune response to gluten early – before your gut is permanently damaged.”

CYREX LABS {cyrexlabs (dot) com} offers the best early testing.

“There are 2 steps to addressing gluten sensitivity: 1) stop throwing gas on the fire. You must eliminate gluten from your diet. Entirely & forever. 2) Heal the damage caused to your body (rebuild the brain cells that have been damaged, heal the gut wall that has been torn apart, fix the adrenals from all the stress your body has dealt with from constantly fighting the foods you’re eating)…

Many people eliminate gluten and begin to feel better. But many miss the 2nd step – you’re going to need to supplement with natural vitamins, minerals, and possibly herbs & nutrients in order to repair the damage. This is where a well-qualified naturopath or integrative physician/functional medicine doc can help you. Unfortunately, conventional doctors are not well-trained in this arena, and are often of little help in diagnosing or recovering from this. It can take 1-2 years of work on this issue to begin to fully heal the body. But don’t give up, your life will get better & better as you look, feel, and perform better & better!”

And the Doc’s final words of the presentation, which I love:
“Just think rationally & ask the question: Are there things that could be keeping me from truly being optimally healthy?”