The Gluten Effect

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The Gluten Effect

            To Your Health
            September, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 09)

      The Gluten Effect
      How Gluten Sensitivity Can Disrupt Your Hormones and Your Life
      By Dr. Vikki Petersen
      When we talk about the gluten effect, we're basically talking about how
      gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, can have far-reaching
      negative effects upon your health. If you're suffering from obesity to
      fatigue, depression to headaches, arthritis to digestive problems, gluten
      sensitivity may very well be at the root of your symptoms. Gluten can also
      affect your hormonal health by stressing the adrenal glands, causing
      adrenal fatigue and a number of hormone-related health problems.
      The Adrenal Glands: Hormone Central
      The adrenal glands sit above your kidneys and release hormones into your
      bloodstream, and likewise respond to feedback from other hormones and
      chemicals in your body. Their main role is repair and anti-aging. When the
      adrenal glands become exhausted from chronic stress, they cannot keep up
      with all the demands made upon them and catabolism (think "cannibalism")
      or a breakdown of systems occurs. This catabolism results in your body's
      systems becoming incapable of repairing themselves; as a result, their
      function slowly begins to deteriorate. This leads to fatigue, depression,
      loss of libido and hormonal imbalance symptoms such as PMS and hot
      flashes, to name a few.
      Gluten Sensitivity
       Gluten sensitivity puts direct stress on your adrenal glands. This stress
      comes from the inflammatory response created in a gluten-sensitive
      person's digestive tract. When gluten creates an inflammatory reaction, it
      is the balancing efforts of the hormonal pathways that "cool off" the
      stress and create an anti-inflammatory response. If this happened only
      occasionally, it wouldn't upset the adrenals' ability to function
      optimally. But in patients with gluten sensitivity (40 percent of the
      population, by current estimates) this inflammation occurs every time they
      eat any gluten, which can be several times per day.
      So, the adrenals are getting stressed by all the inflammation gluten is
      creating in the intestines. When this stress becomes chronic due to an
      individual continuing to consume gluten in their diet, many symptoms are
      created due to a phenomenon called "adrenal exhaustion."
      Adrenal Exhaustion Caused by Gluten
            Common Symptoms of Adrenal Exhaustion
            Caused by Gluten Sensitivity
            Interruptions in sleep
            Difficulty waking in morning
            Joint and muscle aches
            Weight gain resistant to diet or exercise
            Frequent infections
            Depression/mood swings
            Low blood sugar
            Poor concentration/memory
            PMS/ menstrual abnormalities
            Allergies (environmental)
      Under normal conditions, the adrenals make a hormone called pregnenolone
      (think of it as the "mother hormone"). Pregnenolone is the basic building
      block of many of the hormones the adrenal glands make, including the sex
      hormones. These hormones - DHEA, estrogen, testosterone and progesterone -
      need to be maintained in proper balance to prevent such conditions as PMS,
      anxiety and infertility.
      When chronically stressed, something has to give; the adrenal glands
      cannot keep up with all their duties. In a very interesting process known
      as "pregnenolone steal," the adrenal glands literally "steal" pregnenolone
      to make the basic hormone the adrenal gland utilizes for energy
      production, leaving sex hormone production lacking. This "borrowing from
      Peter to pay Paul" phenomenon results in a host of symptoms associated
      with hormonal imbalance.
      PMS and menopausal symptoms are associated with gluten sensitivity and
      adrenal exhaustion in this manner. Recall that the adrenal gland produces
      reproductive hormones, and that pregnenolone serves as the building block
      for other hormones. Under normal conditions, ample pregnenolone exists for
      conversion to those hormones, but when stressed, pregnenolone is diverted
      Health Consequences
      What does this mean? When your body has been under chronic stress, it is
      forced to make a decision: It can get you through the day, putting one
      foot in front of the other, or it can make adequate amounts of sex
      hormones. It can't do both because it's too stressed.  When put in this
      situation, your body decides the most pro-survival thing to do is to get
      you through the day, to the detriment of making sex hormones. This
      insufficient production of hormones does not occur evenly across the
      board, however; progesterone tends to fall more dramatically than does
      estrogen, resulting in a net estrogen dominance.
      Symptoms of estrogen dominance include cramping, heavy bleeding, menstrual
      irregularity, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, fibrocystic breasts,
      migraines and PMS. Major symptoms of progesterone deficiency beyond the
      above is infertility and miscarriage, along with depression and anxiety.
      Joint aches and pains can also be created from adrenal exhaustion. In a
      normal, healthy body, wear and tear on the joints is offset by natural
      cortisol (a hormone) production from the adrenal glands as they respond to
      minor joint inflammation in day-to-day living. But when the adrenals are
      overwhelmed, even minor inflammation persists and eventually can cause
      significant swelling and/or pain in the joint areas. The ligaments that
      keep your joints in good alignment and ready to react to movement become
      lax. Over time, joint pains, muscle spasms and limitations of movement can
      occur that can elude the best intentions of chiropractors, physical
      therapists and massage therapists.
      What You Can Do
      A patient suffering from structural pain seeks out the help of a
      practitioner who specializes in addressing such areas of the body. In the
      presence of adrenal exhaustion, such treatment will usually have only
      temporary results, to the frustration of the patient and practitioner
      alike. If the underlying root cause is truly adrenal exhaustion, this must
      be addressed to completely resolve the symptoms of pain and spasm.
      Treatment for adrenal stress revolves around lifestyle management (timing
      of meals, amount of sleep and exercise), identifying any food
      sensitivities, and using nutritional support to strengthen adrenal
      function. Supplements such as vitamins B5, B6 and C, whole-root licorice
      extract and certain forms of ginseng can all be supportive.
      Gluten sensitivity is treated by following a strictly gluten-free diet.
      Complete avoidance of all products containing wheat, rye and barley is the
      only treatment. (Oats should also be avoided due to cross-contamination,
      but gluten-free oats are available.) Identifying and treating other issues
      such as adrenal fatigue and secondary infections are also important in
      order to regain full health.
      The presence of gluten sensitivity and its resultant stress upon the
      adrenal glands is common, but rarely diagnosed. As a result, millions of
      women suffer with symptoms that are often correctable with simple diet,
      nutrition and lifestyle changes. And these are completely natural ways to
      improve your health; treating gluten sensitivity and adrenal exhaustion
      does not require drugs or surgery.
      Ask your doctor about gluten sensitivity, particularly if you are
      experiencing symptoms that could be related to adrenal fatigue. There are
      lab tests available that test for both. It will give you and your doctor a
      good sense of how your adrenals are functioning and whether your symptoms
      are attributable to adrenal stress potentially caused by gluten.


      Gluten, Gluten Everywhere...
       If you're sensitive or intolerant to gluten, avoiding it can be a real
      challenge. Just consider how many products contain wheat, rye or barley;
      most cereals, breads and pastas, just for starters. (The next time you're
      in the grocery store, check out the labels of a few of your favorite foods
      and see which ones are likely to contain gluten.) Gluten is also found in
      a number of processed foods, including salad dressings, egg substitutes,
      flavored potato chips, imitation crab and even beer.
      If you think you can get away with eating foods that contain gluten, bear
      in mind that while sensitivity can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms,
      gluten intolerance or celiac disease is even more problematic, because
      gluten actually triggers the body's immune system, which affects nutrient
      absorption and can lead to malnutrition, anemia, osteoporosis and other
      major health problems.
      Source: WebMD


      Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, is the founder of the HealthNOW Medical Center in
      Sunnyvale, Calif., and the author of The Gluten Effect: How "Innocent"
      Wheat Is Ruining Your Health.



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