While I was writing my book, The Gluten Effect, I interviewed many patients because I wanted to include a variety of case studies in the book. There are probably close to 40 of them with a nice cross-section of interesting stories, backgrounds and symptoms associated with their gluten sensitivity adventure.
It was fascinating to do the interviews and very difficult to decide who to leave out of the book. But an interesting phenomenon occurred with a small handful of patients who each came to a similar conclusion about gluten independently of one another. They each stated that they put gluten in the same category as “rat poison”. While that may sound dramatic, let’s look at it in context.
Having diagnosed and treated patients with gluten sensitivity for over 15 years, I can tell you that one of the biggest hurdles is maintaining a gluten-free diet. Often patients remove it from their diet, feel a lot better and then slowly re-introduce it. One of the many insidious things about gluten is that it doesn’t always create digestive or immediate symptoms. In fact, only one-third of the time are the symptoms digestive in nature. A full two-thirds of the time the symptoms manifested are non-digestive and can occur several days after ingesting gluten. And if that wasn’t bad enough, when gluten is creating an autoimmune disease (think lupus, MS, thyroid disease, liver disease or arthritis) the damage it’s creating can be “silent” for years. It isn’t until the disease manifests itself that we then make the causal connection between the two.
So why can it be hard to maintain a gluten-free diet? Because for some people, they can cheat occasionally with no “apparent” ill effects. The damage is occurring but because it is “silent” they aren’t aware of it for some period of time.
I always think of our patient with lupus who when we first diagnosed her with gluten sensitivity was in the very early stages of lupus. We removed gluten from her diet, worked with her nutritionally, eradicated some intestinal infections and she was doing great. She had reverted the lupus successfully, After about a year she started eating gluten again and because she didn’t notice anything negative from doing so, didn’t ask our opinion about her decision. Fast forward 2 years and she has full-blown lupus, is on several dangerous drugs and feels horrible. She then came to see us and it was very sad. There is a silver lining which is that with a renewed program of a gluten-free diet and the rest of what the HealthNOW Method contains we were able to get her off all the drugs. The sad part is that she will not be able to regain the full robust health level we had previously attained.
The take-home point is this: if you’re gluten sensitive you need to maintain zero gluten in your diet. We have seen stories similar to the above patient time after time. Often we can learn from the lesson and go forward, but sometimes, as in the above case, permanent damage occurs that we cannot fully recover from.
What about the rat poison comment? If you put gluten in the category of rat poison you won’t ever be tempted to cheat. If you can get in the mindset that gluten is truly poison to you then you’ll never be tempted to “have just a little” when your friend or family wiggles some beneath your nose. And the equating of gluten with rat poison is also a great response to that less than understanding friend or family member who “insists” you try “just a little”. Simply look them in the eye and ask: “Would you ask me to taste just a little rat poison?”
To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen