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Medicine 101 – Dr. Tara Macart


Gluten is a protein found in wheat.  For those who have to go gluten-free in their diet, it can be a hefty challenge.  Not only is wheat a very prevalent food, but some food items that are assumed to be gluten free, may actually be contaminated.

Some of the most convenient and versatile foods, breads and cereals are hard to find without wheat.  Attempts to use naturally gluten free grains, such as millet or buckwheat, should provide safe alternatives, but beware, some products are contaminated.

A study done by Tricia Thompson, a nutrition expert in celiac disease, discovered that some presumed gluten free products actually contained gluten when tested.  The researchers found 7 out of 22 foods analysed had enough gluten in them that they would fail the FDA guidelines for being labelled gluten free.  For example, one item, a soy flour, was found to contain 3,000 parts per million of gluten.  Furthermore, gluten was found in their samples of millet flour, buckwheat flour and sorghum flour.

Whether these foods were contaminated at the source or the packaging facility needs further investigation.  Regardless this discovery interferes with proper application of a therapeutic elimination diet.

When an orthomolecular doctor prescribes a therapeutic elimination diet, a distinction is made between “elimination” and “dramatic reduction”.  Reducing exposure to a trigger protein may help some, but often a true elimination diet is required.  Results are hampered every time inadvertent exposure to the offending molecules occurs.  The physiology of the body is consequently disrupted and the evaluation of the therapy is confounded.

As a physician who emphasises the value of true elimination over simple reduction, I hope to see better labelling of products so that people who are making a concerted effort to be gluten-free or dairy/casein- free can do so accurately.

Celiac disease sufferers are not the only group who needs to follow a gluten-free diet.  Gluten-free and/or casein-free diets have been used successfully for people diagnosed with autism, ADD/ADHD, asthma, schizophrenia, fibromyalgia, mood disorders, PMS, irritable bowel syndrome, and more.  Some people just do not handle certain food substances as well as others.  What may be fine for one person could be biochemically disturbing to another.

Therapeutic elimination diets require awareness and a lot of discipline to be implemented properly.    However, attention to diet is a less toxic method of health promotion than consumption of chemicals from the pharmaceutical industry.  Clinical nutrition really is a reasonable intervention, even if it is complimented by pharmaceutical therapy.  Besides, we all have to eat.  Food does make a difference!

“Let food be thy Medicine”—- Hippocrates.