Low Iron, Gluten and a Sticky Situation

A few years ago, a pediatric gastroenterologist gave a lecture to the Health Pursuits Group. He mentioned that low iron was often associated with gluten intolerance. The lightbulb went on for us because we have an iron level test in our kit. Low iron can have other causes but this was news to us.

Now, when people use the test kit and find iron is low or borderline, we tell them what he said. So far, those who have taken action on this bit of information and have gone gluten-free have had great improvement. One reported 90% improvement 90% of the time after about a week. Another who had been having injections for pain for 7 years was almost pain-free in a couple of days. Another, who didn’t even realize she wasn’t feeling well, reports feeling amazingly well except when a bit of gluten sneaks in. Another who had been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease for 25 years, had pain go away in 3 days.

Then there are those who want the diagnosis of celiac disease for some reason. It can be financial. The cost of the gluten-free products is higher and a spouse or parent may not want to spend the money without confirmation. It can be a power thing. A family member may view gluten-intolerance as a blot on the family escutcheon and resist acknowledging it despite the fact that the estimates of gluten-intolerance go up to 40% of the population. The gene may not be expressed until some stressor occurs but it is still there. Going gluten-free can be a time crunch. It takes a bit more time to source gluten-free products and prepare a meal for one family member. The sensible answer for this would be to have a gluten-free household because if there’s one in the family there are bound to be others.

The process of ‘official’ testing is fraught with difficulty. One member of our group was determined to be diagnosed and was referred to a specialist who did the DNA testing which came back positive. Considering the positive test, terribly debilitating symptoms every time a speck of gluten sneaks in and the distinctive rash as well, she expected to be diagnosed. However, the doctor was not agreeable unless she also went for an intestinal biopsy. This meant she would have to eat gluten in large amounts for 6 weeks before the procedure. She wasn’t willing to suffer that much (in bed for the whole time) and so still does not have an official diagnosis. Very frustrating.

For more information, try Dr. Rodney Ford’s website: www.drrodneyford.com
or www.foodchallenges.ca

Recently, a member gave me a resource that might help with testing. A person does not have to eat gluten in order to take the this test.
Thanks, Micky.

If you have chronic problems and your doctor is on about your low iron, you could suggest gluten intolerance and see what happens. As well, iron supplements are one place not to skimp. Better quality translates into better absorption and fewer problems like constipation. Using the iron frypan frequently wouldn’t hurt either.

A caution: Just because one is going gluten-free does not mean one can indulge in an orgy of alternative baked goods. For myself, carbohydrates are more of a problem than gluten. Wheat sensitivity has a wide range from able to eat it on rotation to not able to eat any. I bake on birthdays and high holidays and seldom in between. I exist just fine on mainly vegetables, fruits and meat. Of course, I am an O blood type and the blood-type diet is pretty much what agrees with me with a few individualized exceptions. Today is chicken day on my four-day rotation with the parsley botanical family of vegetables (carrots, celery, fennel, parsnips, celeriac, parsley) and bananas as the fruit. I had two eggs and a slice of rice toast (Little Stream Brown Rice Bread) for breakfast. I have chicken soup made up in the freezer for a speedy lunch. For dinner, chicken legs are thawing and fresh baby carrots and fennel and lots of parsley are in the garden so I’m good to go as long as my husband has left me two bananas.
Tomorrow is apple day so I might make my favourite salad tonight — thinly-sliced fennel and apple.

The problem with suddenly taking the gluten out is that, if it was a large part of the diet, the intestinal bacteria that feed on carbohydrates were probably in large numbers. When one suddenly reduces carbs, those bacteria may first give big cravings and then die off making a person feel literally rotten as they rot and are passed out. After a few days the new order of things is established.

Further study: Since the undigested gluten protein actually cuts off the tops of the intestinal villi (which is where many nutrients are absorbed,) then healing those sites is a priority. Some nutrients for consideration include essential fatty acids for making new cells, a digestive enzyme since fats being poorly digested is a symptom of gluten intolerance, l-glutamine which is reputedly good for healing the digestive tract, and a probiotic to repopulate the good bacteria. All gluten-free products, of course.

Bonus: People with weight issues are sometimes overlooked when it comes to gluten intolerance because they do not look as if they are malnourished but they are. People in our group have lost varying amounts of weight from 25 to 60 pounds just by going gluten-free.

Diane Dawber

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