When I was in my thirties, I developed Graves’ Disease. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune thyroid disorder which causes a whole set of distressing and eventually life threatening symptoms if left untreated. For me, it presented itself as extreme shakiness, persistent heart palpitations – especially after eating, frequent hunger, inability to sleep, a feeling of being hot all the time and weight loss. I felt like the idle on my internal motor was stuck on high twenty-four hours a day.
At that time I was a vegetarian. I obtained my protein through tofu and homemade gluten. Homemade gluten is made by washing out the starch in whole wheat dough. When the process is finished, a person is left with a firm sticky lump of wheat protein that then can be cooked and added to various meal dishes.
At that time, no one had ever talked about or even knew about the wheat gluten and autoimmune connection. Vegetarianism was and still is considered to be a form of healthy eating. This disease came out of the blue for me. There was no family history of thyroid disease and I was a healthy and active new mother. The danger that I and no one else knew was that the gluten in the wheat was responsible for my illness.
So what does wheat consumption have to do with autoimmune disorders? Gliadin which is a component of wheat gluten is the culprit. Gliadin protein increases the intestinal permeability and this in turn allows foreign substances into the bloodstream. This starts a whole chain of events that lead to various autoimmune disorders including the one that I developed which was Graves’ disease.
Dr. Alessio Fasano is an Italian medical doctor, pediatric gastroenterologist and researcher. He holds the W. Allan Walker Chair of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Fasano has written a book called “Gluten Freedom: The Nation’s Leading Expert Offers the Essential Guide to a Healthy, Gluten-Free Lifestyle”. This one hour YouTube video highlights what Dr. Fasano talks about in his book. If you are interested in diving into the science behind the theory, grab a coffee and one of my wheat free blueberry muffins (I am sure that you baked a batch after reading my previous blueberry muffin recipe blog post) and settle in to reviewing this interesting lecture.
Now, I had only talked about Graves’ disease so far. What other autoimmune diseases does wheat consumption trigger? The list is quite long. On page 71 in Dr. William Davis’s book “Wheat Belly Total Health” Dr. Davis gives a complete list of the autoimmune diseases that wheat consumption can trigger. I will only give you a sample here of the diseases mentioned. Celiac disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Type 1 Diabetes, Juvenile Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Myasthenia Gravis, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and the list goes on and on.
The bottom line is that no one should be eating food in which wheat has been added. By consuming wheat, a person exposes themselves to the very real possibility of developing any number of autoimmune disorders. It’s not worth the risk.