Wheat Allergies, Celiac Disease and the Importance of a Gluten Free Diet

If food allergy testing uncovers celiac disease, wheat allergies or gluten intolerance, the only option is a gluten-free diet

Gluten is a protein-carbohydrate mix found in wheat and wheat products. Gluten intolerance, which is a type of food allergy, is becoming more common as more people are developing sensitivities to gluten. Wheat allergy in the form of celiac disease is the body’s inability to handle wheat and sometimes other grains containing gluten. Symptoms of celiac disease can include weight loss and anemia. It is worth remembering that rye, barley and occasionally oats can trigger gluten intolerance reactions. Food allergy testing is the only way to determine if either wheat allergy or gluten intolerance is the root of the problem. If so, the answer is a gluten-free diet.

wheat and food allergies
Gluten intolerance and celiac disease

Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance

At one time celiac disease affected around one in every 200 people. Today, the figure is thought to be close to one in every 33. Some experts such as James Braly, MD believe it is actually more common than that. He also believes many cases of related gluten intolerance go undiagnosed every year. Wheat is one of the seven most common allergens in a standard Western diet. In his book Dangerous Grains he reports many nutritionists, naturopaths and doctors look at wheat allergies and gluten intolerance as a first step for patients with multiple complaints. They then recommend food allergy testing and a gluten free diet. Celiac disease can often go undiagnosed as it is often mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome.

Food and Allergy Testing

A specific way to screen for celiac disease is to have an anti-endomysial, anti-gliadin and tissue transglutaminase antibodies test, according to Liz Lipski, Phd. Anti-endomysial antibodies are the most specific. Other food allergy testing should include: wheat, oats, rye, barley, gluten and gliadin with IgE and IgG antibody testing. Gluten antibodies are positive in anyone with celiac disease and gluten intolerance. IgA levels are also higher in those with celiac disease. Intestinal permeability screening is also suggested to test for leaky gut syndrome or intestinal hyperpermeability. A comprehensive digestive stool analysis and lactose intolerance testing is also advised.

A Gluten Free Diet

the importance of a gluten free dietAny gluten-free diet should obviously eliminate all gluten and gluten containing products. Grain alternatives such as corn, quinoa, rice and buckwheat are all non-glutenous. It is important to read all labels carefully. Foods such as texturized vegetable protein, desserts, processed meats, cheese, dairy and pasta often contain gluten. Some people with gluten intolerance can tolerate oats. Digestive enzymes can also be useful to aid digestive function. Specific amylast enzymes can be especially beneficial.

James Braly, MD. Dangerous Grains: Why Gluten Cereal Grains May Be Hazardous To Your Health. Penguin Putnam.
Elson M Hass, MD. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Celestial Arts.

Elizabeth Lipski, Phd. Digestive Wellness. McGraw Hill.

How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off

CBT for weight loss





Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is probably the most effective tool there is for weight loss.

  • Have you been trying to lose weight but not getting anywhere?
  • Or lost some weight but not enough?
  • Or gained it all back again?

Do you feel it’s because you’re weak or don’t have enough willpower? If so, this is simply not true…

The reason you haven’t lost weight or kept it off is because you don’t know how… CBT for weight loss can show you how…

How to Stay at a Healthy Weight

CBT for weight loss
CBT for weight loss

Have you gradually gained weight over the years? Or have you lost a significant amount of weight then gained it back quickly?

So, should you even bother to try and lose weight at all?

The answer is yes, if you are already having weight-related health problems or if you are putting on extra weight every year and are likely to have health problems in the future.

On the other hand, studies that have examined how much weight people are able to lose and how much they are able to keep off long term are fairly dismal. Most people gain weight back. Here is a pretty predictable formula for gaining weight in the long term:

  • You lose weight quickly…
  • You go back to your old way of eating when you lose weight…
  • You continue to eat and exercise exactly as you have been as you get older…
  • You eat the same way “everyone else” is…
  • You make excuses for why it’s OK to eat when you shouldn’t…

Let me explain each of these scenarios:

  1. Losing weight quickly:
    One of the best ways to gain weight quickly is to drastically cut your calories. Research shows that the faster people lose weight, the faster they tend to regain it.
  2. Going back to your old way of eating when you lose weight:
    It’s plain biology. If you lose weight on 1200 calories a day, for example, and then your weight plateaus, you will start to gain weight back once you go up to 1300 calories a day. That’s the equivalent of one good sized apple or four crackers. And if you return to eating 2,000 or 3,000 calories, as perhaps you did before, of course your weight will increase.
  3. Continue to eat and exercise exactly as you have been as you get older:
    It seems unfair, but it’s true. Metabolism tends to decrease with age. If you don’t start eating less and/or exercising more, you’ll gain weight. Now it’s reasonable to gain a little weight, especially if you’re eating in a healthy way, but those pounds can really add up as the decades go by.
  4. Eat in the same way you assume everyone else is:
    It’s possible that you know the rare person who can consume a great number of calories a day and not gain weight. But it’s more likely that the people you know (especially if they’re over 40), are either restricting their eating in some way or are themselves gaining weight each year. In any case, it’s irrelevant. If you don’t want to gain weight, you’ll need to figure out what’s right for you to eat — which isn’t necessarily right for another person.
  5. Make excuses for why it’s okay to eat when you shouldn’t:
    Your body processes calories in exactly the same way, regardless of circumstances. It doesn’t care if you’re stressed, tired, or celebrating; if it’s a special occasion; if no one is watching you eat; or if the food is free. It may be reasonable to plan in advance to eat a little more in some circumstances but understand that if you don’t compensate by exercising more or cutting an equivalent number of calories another time, you will gain weight.

It seems unfair. It’s so hard to lose weight and so easy to gain it back. But once you learn the thinking and cognitive behavioral skills you need, the process of losing and maintaining a weight loss (it’s the same process!) becomes much easier…

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Weight Loss works… so why not get started today by reading more here and signing up for a 6-week online programme? What have you got to lose… apart from some extra weight…?!


Diet and Nutrition Essential for Mental Health

By Fiona Wilkinson

Evidence is rapidly growing showing vital relationships between both diet quality and potential nutritional deficiencies and mental health, a new international collaboration led by the University of Melbourne and Deakin University has revealed.

Published in The Lancet Psychiatry, leading academics state that as with a range of medical conditions, psychiatry and public health should now recognise and embrace diet and nutrition as key determinants of mental health.

Lead author, Dr Jerome Sarris from the University of Melbourne and a member of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR), said psychiatry is at a critical stage, with the current medically-focused model having achieved only modest benefits in addressing the global burden of poor mental health.

“While the determinants of mental health are complex, the emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a key factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders suggests that nutrition is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology,” Dr Sarris said.

“In the last few years, significant links have been established between nutritional quality and mental health. Scientifically rigorous studies have made important contributions to our understanding of the role of nutrition in mental health,” he said.

Findings of the review revealed that in addition to dietary improvement, evidence now supports the contention that nutrient-based prescription has the potential to assist in the management of mental disorders at the individual and population level.

Studies show that many of these nutrients have a clear link to brain health, including omega-3s, B vitamins (particularly folate and B12), choline, iron, zinc, magnesium, S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), vitamin D, and amino acids.

What is Collagen and Why Do We Need it?

AntioxidantsIf you are interested in anti-ageing products, you will probably know that the promise of many of them is to “increase collagen production”. 

But what is collagen, and why do we need it? Put simply, collagen is a form of connective tissue, the glue, if you like, that holds our bodies together.  As we age, we lose collagen, and you can see the results externally as skin starts to sag and create wrinkles.  Internally, you may feel it as aches and pains as collagen’s “cushioning” of muscles and bones deteriorates.

A multi-billion pound industry has grown up around discovering ways to restore this “elixir of youth”, from creams, to drinks, to collagen pills.

But there are more natural and easy ways to prevent the loss of collagen, including avoiding sun damage to the skin, staying hydrated by drinking lots of  water, and ensuring your diet is packed full of vitamin C rich foods.

The antioxidants in fresh fruit and vegetables help to combat the free radicals in the body that actively attack collagen cells, resulting in diminished collagen production.

Fatty Acids in Fish May Shield Brain from Mercury Damage

Fatty Acids in Fish May Shield Brain from Mercury DamageNew findings from research in the Seychelles provide further evidence that the benefits of fish consumption on prenatal development may offset the risks associated with mercury exposure.

In fact, the new study, which appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that the nutrients found in fish have properties that protect the brain from the potential toxic effects of the chemical.

Three decades of research in the Seychelles have consistently shown that high levels of fish consumption by pregnant mothers — an average of 12 meals per week — do not produce developmental problems in their children. Researchers have previously equated this phenomenon to a kind of biological horse race, with the developmental benefits of nutrients in fish outpacing the possible harmful effects of mercury also found in fish.

However, the new research indicates that this relation is far more complex and that compounds present in fish — specifically polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) — may also actively counteract the damage that mercury causes in the brain.

“These findings show no overall association between prenatal exposure to mercury through fish consumption and neurodevelopmental outcomes,” said Edwin van Wijngaarden, PhD., and associate professor in the University of Rochester Department of Public Health Sciences and a co-author of the study. “It is also becoming increasingly clear that the benefits of fish consumption may outweigh, or even mask, any potentially adverse effects of mercury.”

The new study comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and international agencies are in the process of revisiting fish consumption advisories to better reflect the health benefits of nutrients found in fish. The FDA’s current guidance — which recommends that pregnant women limit their consumption of certain fish to twice a week — was established because of the known risk of high level mercury exposure on childhood development.

Mercury is found in the environment as a result of both natural and human (e.g. coal plant emissions) activity. Much of it ends up being deposited in the world’s oceans and, as a result, fish harbor the chemical in very small amounts.



People with Mental Health Disorders More Likely to Have Heart Attacks

Mental Health, Heart Attack and Stroke
Mental Health, Heart Attack and Stroke

People facing mental health challenges are significantly more likely to have heart disease or stroke, according to a study by the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.

“This population is at high risk, and it’s even greater for people with multiple mental health issues,” says Dr. Katie Goldie, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto

Using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, Dr. Goldie explored the associations between cardiovascular risk and disease, mental health disorders and the use of psychiatric medication.

The study found:

  • People who have had a mental health disorder at any point in their life were twice as likely to have had heart disease or have experienced a stroke.
  • Those who haven’t developed heart disease or had a stroke are more likely to be at a high long-term risk of developing cardiovascular disease, when compared to the general population.
  • People who used psychiatric medications were twice as likely to have heart disease and three times as likely to have had a stroke compared to those not taking these medications.

The study included people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, major depressive and anxiety disorders. Among the psychiatric drugs examined were antipsychotic, antidepressant, benzodiazepine and mood-stabilizing medications.

What accounts for the elevated risk? Dr. Goldie mentions three main factors:

First, people with mental health disorders often exhibit behavioural risk factors, including tobacco and alcohol use, poor diet and physical inactivity. For instance, she says 40 to 90 per cent of people with mental illness use tobacco, compared to 20 per cent of the general Canadian population.

Psychiatric medications can induce weight gain and impair the breakdown of fats and sugars by the body. This can lead to obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes. “The medications themselves account for a lot of risk in this group,” she says.

A third issue is access to health care. Patients with mental health disorders may have difficulty communicating their health needs. “Or they may not even seek care because of the symptoms of their disorder,” says Dr. Goldie. “A separation between primary and mental health services can also challenge these patients’ care. We need improved integration and collaboration.”

She adds that there is still stigma associated with mental illness that can even affect the care health professionals provide. Dr. Goldie says that people with mental health disorders are less likely to receive risk-reducing drug therapies or undergo coronary procedures such as bypass surgery.

With one in five Canadians experiencing a mental health disorder in their lifetime, this is an urgent issue for cardiovascular health. Dr. Goldie, who is also an adjunct assistant professor at the Queen’s University School of Nursing in Kingston, says that healthcare providers need to pay even closer attention to patients with mental health disorders.

Healthcare providers can improve the cardiovascular health of their patients by being vigilant in conducting routine cardiovascular risk assessments, before and after initiating psychopharmacological treatment, in addition to offering health promotion interventions to target known cardiovascular risk factors.

It is very important that people have their mental health issues treated and also be proactive in speaking with their care providers about their overall health, says Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Brian Baker, a psychiatrist who specializes in people with cardiac disease.

“The prevention strategies are the same for people with mental health issues,” says Dr. Baker. “That means eating a healthy diet, being physically active, being smoke-free, managing stress and limiting alcohol consumption. Making positive health behaviour changes is important to our physical health and to mental health too.”

He adds that ongoing follow-up with medical professionals is essential and that even if certain medications can have some risks, the benefits often outweigh the risks, so it is important that people talk to their doctors, continue to take their prescribed medications and follow healthy behaviours.

B Vitamins and Their Role in Alzheimer’s Prevention

B Vitamins and Their Role in Alzheimer's Prevention
B Vitamins and Their Role in Alzheimer’s Prevention

“Wouldn’t it be nice if people could pop a pill to prevent dementia? If ever it comes to pass, that pill won’t contain B vitamins”, declared the Alzheimer’s Forum, a website for pharmaceutical researchers.

“Taking B vitamins does not seem to cut the risk of developing dementia”, said the BBC last month. Meanwhile, the Alzheimer’s Society launch their prevention plan – but, extraordinarily B vitamins and homocysteine are not even mentioned. Has something happened to question the advice to take B vitamin supplements? The answer is yes and no.

Last month to quote the BBC, “scientists headed by Professor Lisette de Groot, Wageningen University, the Netherlands, found that a supplement containing vitamin B12 and folic acid did not improve cognitive performance in nearly 3,000 volunteers predicted to get a boost from the supplements”.

What actually happened in the research process for this study?

Almost 3,000 participants were given B12 (500mcg) and folic acid (400mcg), or placebos. The individuals were aged 65+ without memory problems but with high homocysteine levels above 12/mcmol/l, which is a risk factor for developing dementia later in life.

On testing two years later those on B vitamins versus placebos had a significant one third slower decline in their memory function as measured by the MiniMentalStateExam (MMSE), but no change in other cognitive tests which were run on a much smaller sub-group of participants.

According to Professor David Smith, author of a previous study on the effects of B vitamins on cognitive function “the study was almost certainly underpowered”, in other words the sub-groups were too small to pick up a significant change in two years.

Other than the MMSE, the other test applied to the whole group was for ‘episodic memory’. There was no significant change overall, but when the authors selected the participants with low B12 status (they measured this in a blood test called HoloTC) those that were given B vitamins again had a significantly slower rate of decline.

The placebo group declined 50% faster than you would expect on average over the two years that the study was conducted. But what happened to those on the B vitamins? They declined a significant third less and from this result you would expect them to take three times as long to develop mild cognitive impairment, leading to dementia.

The accurate BBC headline should have been: B vitamins slow risk of developing dementia by a third.

So why the bad press? Nobody in either group developed dementia, so how could the BBC say “taking B vitamins does not cut the risk of developing dementia”? Why indeed. Both the study authors and Professor David Smith complained to the BBC about their blatant misrepresentation of the study results.

If your homocysteine level is high (above 10mcmol/l) all the evidence to date points in the same direction — that B vitamins do either slightly improve, arrest or slow down the rate of memory decline versus placebos. In other words, taking B vitamins works for those at risk by virtue of having high homocysteine, which is about half the 65+ population.

So, why all the negative reporting in the media? Possibly money makes the wheels go round… The last thing pharmaceutical companies want is a non-patentable, non-profitable B vitamin supplement cutting dementia risk.

Cynical? Maybe… But they want a patentable, profitable drug. If there was a drug that could reduce the shrinkage of the Alzheimer’s areas of the brain by almost nine times, and virtually stop any further memory, they would be shouting this from the rooftops.

Instead, it appears that the intention is to kill off the competition — B vitamins…

Nutrition, natural health and the importance of vitamins and minerals

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