Gluten Allergy

Many of my family members suffer severe digestive stress. My father used to stash bottles of Pepto Bismol around the house and in the car the way an alcoholic hides whiskey.

So around the age of twenty, when I began having stomach aches I assumed it was just a condition of adulthood to be endured. By the time I was in my mid-twenties I began having other health problems. Regular sinus infections leveled me. Every two months, like clockwork, I had to visit the doctor and get antibiotics. In-between infections I could never breath through both nostrils at once. I was miserable, and besides medication I tried various diets. Some seemed to bring relief, but nothing was ever permanent. I was drinking alcohol heavily, and sometimes a tall whiskey with lemon and molasses was the only real relief, though true to alcohol's nature it always let me down as soon as it was out of my system.

One day I went on a date with a nurse. I told him about my health issues and he suggested that I was allergic to wheat, or specifically the gluten within wheat. Desperate for any relief I immediately quit gluten, which in retrospect had always been in my diet in one form or another (even elevated during my vegetarian phase).

Within a week my sinuses cleared. I remember the day that both opened. It was like seeing God for the first time. After two weeks my energy picked up. I wouldn't have another sinus infection again until I got cancer 8 years later. 

I was so relieved at knowing the root of my health issues that I easily gave up gluten for the last nine years. Rarely did I mess up. Occasionally I would indulge in a pizza or doughnuts and endure the discomfort, because life without Pizza is hard.

Knowing about my allergy, I sought to enlighten my family who suffered. Some listened. Others like my dad soldier through their allergy. After telling my grandmother of my discovery she replied, "oh yes, I haven't eaten bread since 1970. It gave me stomach aches." Information that could have saved a lot of needless suffering, but my family doesn't talk about their bowels.

After getting cancer and learning how human physiology actually works (instead of listening to pop culture, religion, and advertisements), my knowledge and experience of my conditions has resulted in much clarity, and my conditions have improved to almost total health, and best of all I have finally been able to enjoy Pizza and other wheat foods without suffering a reaction (to be clear, however, grain is not good for the metabolism and it hastens aging, so I don't have wheat as a regular staple).

One thing about my gluten allergy that had always interested me is that it doesn't act like a true allergy at all. The symptoms take 4 to 12 hours to onset, only after the food reaches the intestines, dependent on amount, and even then it is unpredictable in severity. Real allergies have a consistent and immediate reaction on contact with the body, because the immune system senses it and reacts according to its nature. Gluten allergy seems to take its time and is temperamental. The immune system is not like that. My gut has also always been shiftless and erratic, which seems to suggest some overall problem greater than just an allergy. 

A few weeks ago I began supplementing extra vitamin B2, or Riboflavin. Riboflavin serves many biological functions but I began taking it for the purported boost in oxidative metabolism. I was immediately struck how the extra B2 (besides making pee very yellow) seemed to improve my gut. Suddenly everything was regular and easy. Afraid this would be a passing (pun intended) improvement, I stuck rigidly to my diet. The change held however, so much that I braved eating Pizza while on a date. I lost control and ate the whole thing (it'd been a while). The next day I braced myself for the expected pain. It never came. In fact, I noticed no change whatsoever in my gut function, or my sinuses. A few days later someone brought doughnuts and cupcakes to work. Pushing my luck, I ate a whole doughnut and two mini cupcakes—foods that in the past triggered an almost guaranteed sinus infection. Not so much as a sniffle. 

It's long been known that coeliac and gluten sensitive people are deficient in Riboflavin, but it's only considered an effect of the condition, rather than the cause. I read more about Riboflavin. Turns out our beneficial gut bacteria use B2 in their immune systems. Alcoholism, which causes deficiency in many vitamins and minerals, also causes severe Riboflavin deficiency. I am a recovered alcoholic, and my gluten allergy was always more severe than anyone else in my family, who don't drink. So it seems the gluten allergy originates when beneficial bacteria are suppressed by B2 deficiency, and probably comes from some pathogenic strain of bacteria not affected by B2 deficiency which in turn thrives on glutenous grains. Exotoxin, which is bacterial metabolic waste, from this bacteria is the true culprit, which would explain the dose and time dependent nature of the reaction to gluten, the reaction not to gluten but to the exotoxin made by the bacteria eating it. So Riboflavin supplementation can serve as a functional reprieve from the condition, so long as it is present. The correct technique would be to use Riboflavin for a few days, to restore healthy gut flora, before consuming any gluten, and I'd still advise keeping grain consumption to a minimum, as grain is not good for your metabolism and can contribute to aging and degenerative diseases. Severe coeliac disease sufferers should be more cautious, however, since I have no experience with immediate life-threatening gluten reactions I have no confirmation that this would help those conditions. Also, I hate silica in supplements. It causes itching and skin problems. Avoid purchasing supplements with it. 

So, being human I have gleefully partaken in gluten consumption over the last few weeks. Of course, the gluten protein can still cause issues with inflammation and manifests as insomnia, irritability, fatigue, and sinus issues, and it's best to limit or avoid common wheat. Heirloom grains like spelt and einkorn flour are more easily digested and don't seem to be as problematic. I will not be adopting pasta as a regular meal item. Also, the day I skipped supplementing B2 I easily got a stomach ache, so it is not so much as an actual cure but more of a functional reprieve from the reaction, so long as B2 is a continual supplement. I find that 200mg in the morning and at night are the doses which allow me to occasionally partake in some glutenous indulgences. More on how to deal with digestive issues, thyroid disease, insomnia, etc., as well as making breads which are compatible with gluten allergies is available in my book Fuck Portion Control.

Nathan Hatch8 Comments