Jul
20
2013

Our Endangered Food

Our grandparents were eating foods that were healthier and more pure than today’s mass produced food. Beef came from grass-fed cattle; milk came from cows that grazed on pastures; bread was baked from the old Emmer wheat or Einkorn wheat. Geneticists were not around yet, so their food was safe from adulteration.

The adulterated modern wheat

Fast forward to the late 1990’s. Now farmers around the world are growing 19 different Clearfield wheat varieties that were produced by hybridization from exposure to toxic chemicals in the 1960’s and 1970’s when GMO (genetically modified organisms) regulations were not around yet.  Modern wheat was produced by hybridization with grasses using exposure to a toxic substance, sodium azide. Technically this forced chemical hybridization is different from genetic engineering although in both cases there are significant genetic changes of the chromosomes in the plant. The end result with regard to wheat hybridizations were wheat varieties that grow under adverse conditions and that have much faster growing rates, higher yields and are easier to harvest because they grow only to a about 2 feet height instead of 4 feet.  When compared to the older Emmer and Einkorn types of wheat there have been significant chromosomal changes. Einkorn (Triticum monoccocum) has 14 chromosomes; Emmer (Triticum diccocum) has 28 chromosomes. Modern wheat, the Clearfield variety has 42 chromosomes, like spelt. The hybridization process for Clearfield wheat by BASF is summarized in this link. Here is a discussion with Dr. Davis, the author of the book “Wheat Belly” (Ref.1), which reviews the history of modern wheat

The point of mentioning all this here is that modern wheat with many more chromosomes than the original Einkorn wheat has also much more gliadin content, which is the protein that makes celiac disease sufferers sick when they eat wheat. However, despite the significant chromosomal changes of modern wheat, which his grown in 99% of the world today no safety experiments were done to show that it is harmless to your health. There were no animal experiments and no human exposure trials with proper controls to show that it is safe to be exposed to the modern wheat varieties on the long-term.

It turns out now in hindsight that it is not only the person with celiac disease that has to fear modern wheat. The increased concentration of gliadin in modern wheat is the protein that splits the sealant between gut cells and sensitizes your body to produce autoantibodies. The food processing plants mix wheat into soups, baby food, lip stick, sauces and a host of other processed foods,which increases the concentration of gliadin that you are exposed to, if you do not eliminate it. You have to be a detective in the supermarket and constantly read labels to look for wheat and avoid it, at least I do. The reason is that even low doses of wheat over a long period of time cause leaky gut syndrome and cause antibodies against gliadin. Soon after autoimmune antibodies against your own tissues are formed that will attack your gut cells (causing irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease and ulcerative colitis); joint cells (causing rheumatoid arthritis), thyroid cells (causing Hashimoto disease) and it can even cause colon cancer.

Remember, there have never been any clinical trials to show that modern wheat is safe.

Our Endangered Food

Our Endangered Food

Alternatives to wheat

Oats used to be thought safe to eat for celiac disease patients, provided they are not contaminated with rye, wheat or barley.

As this publication shows there can still be prolamins in oats, which are different from gliadin, but may be toxic for celiac patients. Another paper showed that there are different levels of gliadin- and glutenin-like avenins in different varieties of oats. These are subunits of prolamin. Depending on what type of avenins or prolamins are contained in an oat variety, the oat brand could be entirely gluten free, but the question is whether the manufacturer tested this before it reached the shelves of the grocery store. For a celiac patient it would not be safe to eat these types of oats as labeling requirements for avenins or prolamins do not yet exist. So the label “gluten free oats” may be misleading as oats containing prolamins or avenins still could make celiac patients sick.

So, what are safe gluten substitutes? Rice, corn, soy, chickpeas, sweet potatoes and nuts. A helpful reference can be found through this link.

As we will discover below, unfortunately in the US most rice, corn and soy is now GMO food and celiac patients will likely react much more to these as they are more sensitive and will likely produce autoantibodies easier. So stick to organic rice, organic corn and organic soy (often the package will mention ”free of GMO”).

GMO foods to avoid

It is interesting that no law was passed so far in the US and in Canada that GMO foods should be labeled. This is changing rapidly as people realize that in Europe many countries have required all GMO foods to be labeled as such. Here is a publication that shows that the GMO labeling campaign is gaining momentum.

Genetically modified corn and soy contains the Bt toxin; it has been found in babies as mentioned in this article. Bt toxin damages the small bowel (the ileum) through Cry1Ab (the protein produced in genetically modified corn and soy), which disables the absorption of vitamin B12. This in turn will cause anemia (historically the cause of pernicious anemia was found to be due to a lack of vitamin B12 absorption).

Drs. Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff  stated about the effects of Roundup in a publication dated April 2013  that glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, which is a crucial detoxification enzyme complex in the liver has been overlooked when studies were done regarding toxicity in mammals. The CYP enzymes in the liver is important to metabolize and eliminate estrogens and also helps to detoxify xenobiotics, which are estrogen-like substances as residues from insecticides and other chemicals. Thus, glyphosate (=”Roundup” produced by Monsanto) amplifies the damaging effect of environmental toxins and chemical residues from non-organic food that we eat. The build-up of estrogens and xenoestrogens has been shown to be responsible for many cancers (atypical Hodgkins lymphoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer etc.).

Here is a summary of the 10 most common GM foods in the US : Sugar beets, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, squash, golden rice, soybeans, soybean oils, animal feed, salmon. You see that almost all of our foods are being invaded by genetic engineering.

Why is that of any concern?

The problem is that it is extremely difficult to conduct safety studies for human consumption. It likely takes three generations of feeding GMO food before diseases develop and in the case of humans where the reproductive cycle is 30 years this would mean that it could take up to 90 years to obtain meaningful human safety study results. From a commercial point of view this is perceived as too long, so the standard rat or mouse model of testing for 90 days was introduced, which is used instead as a “test for toxicity for mammals”, but typically this does not show any change between GMO food compared to regular food (as it is too short an observation time). I have described this earlier in this blog. In this recent publication pigs fed GM crops were found to have severe stomach inflammation and the female GM fed pigs developed a 25% larger uterus than the non-GM-fed controls. The 20-year approval process for GMO foods is flawed according to this review. It states that Belgium researchers found virus particles in GMO foods that were not assumed to be present, but never tested for. This is fed in feedlots to milk producing animals and beef cows and gets transmitted into milk and beef. The FDA, USDA and other official food safety agencies continue to state that GMO foods are safe. As outlined in the beginning of this blog a significant proportion of the US public disagrees about the safety of GMO foods and wants all GMO to be clearly labeled. We should have a choice whether we get organic food with no chemicals, no antibiotics and no GMO in it or whether we buy the cheaper regular food.

You are what you eat.

Conclusion

Originally wheat was modified by hybridization to safe the world from hunger. The production worldwide has improved tremendously so that this objective has been reached. However, since then genetic engineers have worked on adulterating the rest of our foods mostly with the aim to make farming on a large scale easier. In both instances safety testing on animals and humans was never properly done, and it is only now that it is becoming apparent that there are flaws with regard to food safety both in wheat and with GMO foods. With wheat it is the higher concentration of gluten and gluten-like substances that cause a leaky gut, a breakdown of the gut/blood barrier and cause autoimmunity and colon cancer. GMO foods may transmit viral particles and Bt toxin, which can cause autoimmune diseases and fertility problems as well as interference with the liver’s detoxification system, which causes cancers. The full health impact is not clear at this point and it may take another 70 years for wheat and another 80 years for GMO foods to find out all the consequences. Some people have decided not to be part of this mass experiment and rather buy organic foods. I belong to this group.

More information on genetically modified food: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/genetically-engineered-foods/

Reference:

1. William Davis, MD: “Wheat belly. Lose the wheat, lose the weight, and find your path back to health.” HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2011.

Last edited Nov. 24, 2014

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Apr
14
2013

Allergies Not Only In Spring

Springtime is the time of spring allergies: those affected develop a runny nose, itchy eyes and in more severe cases they may experience a flare-up of asthma. Allergies can be triggered by the increase of pollen counts in the air that occurs every spring. In those who are sensitive, this leads to antibody formation in the blood. But often people have not only sensitivities to the pollens of spring bloomers; they may also be allergic to spores from molds, to dust mites and may have underlying allergies to foods. The immune system has memory cells that memorize that a person has had an allergic encounter to one of these items in the past, and allergic reactions can become more significant with a future encounter. Allergies can also be made worse when a person has food sensitivities and there are cross reactions between pollens of trees or grasses that can share surface protein regions with similar protein regions in foods.

It is known that cross allergies are possible between birch pollen and apple, carrots or hazelnut. In its extreme form allergies due to antibodies, called IgE antibodies, can cause anaphylaxis. A person presensitized by inhaling birch pollen, after eating an apple, hazelnuts or a carrot can develop itching of the throat, swelling of the lips and very quickly deteriorate getting into an anaphylactic shock.

Other cross allergies exist between ragweed pollen, which is a powerful inhalant allergen and melons or bananas. Again there are specific IgE antibodies that are responsible for this immune reaction. In this case the ragweed allergy primes the immune system to produce IgE antibodies, which are potentiated by certain foods that share similar protein components as the ragweed pollen.

In the following I will deal with inhalant allergies separately from food allergies.

Allergies Not Only In Spring

Allergies Not Only In Spring

Inhalant allergies

Inhalant allergies are easier to diagnose and to treat than food allergies. Your doctor will likely refer you to an allergist when you have allergies that do not respond to treatment with intermittent over the counter antihistamines. Your symptoms may come on in the spring with itchy eyes and a runny nose. From year to year you find that you become more and more dependent on antihistamines and nose drops to unplug your nose. The allergist likely will do sensitivity tests, which consist of skin prick or scratch tests on the back or the forearms.

In more serious allergies, where the patient has coughing and wheezing attacks following allergic reactions, the allergist may suggest to start intermittent allergy injections alongside the standard inhalation therapy for asthma. An allergy serum is prescribed where the lab mixes ingredients based on all of the positive tests that led to a strongly positive skin reactions when allergy testing was done. Typically the family doctor or his nurse will start the allergy injections initially in weekly intervals, later when the maintenance dose is reached, it may be modified to injections every 10 to 14 days.

The allergy injections stimulate the immune system to produce harmless competing antibodies, which counteract the disease producing allergic antibodies. In the process of desensitization shots the immune system will normalize, which means that the inflammatory response of the immune system settles down to normal.

This is not the end of the story with inhalant allergies. The patient needs to be retested on a yearly basis by the allergist. The immune system changes all the time as new allergies can develop and old ones may go away.

Retesting is necessary to keep track of what is going on and to change the composition of the allergy serum. Those patients who are working together with the allergist can do very well, and often they gradually outgrow their allergies. Others may not be so lucky. They may have reactions to the allergy injections. In these cases avoidance of what causes the allergy may be the only solution to treat the allergies.

There is an alternative to allergy injections, which has been used in Europe, namely a sublingual immunotherapy. Recently there has been a review of the literature for FDA approval that is needed for oral desensitization for ragweed, dust mites, grass pollen and cat dander. It will take some time before the FDA approval process will become a reality for sublingual desensitization in the US.

A special form of inhalant allergies are allergies to pets (mainly dogs and cats, but also allergies to petting zoo animals). The dander that the human comes in contact with is a protein contained in the animal hair. It causes hives when it touches the skin. This occurs as the dander is absorbed through the skin and meets the local mast cells that release histamine. This in turn is responsible for the hive formation. Sneezing and even asthma can develop from inhaled protein particles that reach the lungs. Allergy injections for the treatment of animal dander allergies are very limited as they often do not help or make the allergies worse. Avoidance of animal contact is usually what the allergist recommends as the solution, a recommendation, which often is not appreciated by the affected animal lover.

Food allergies

Often we eat  some foods more frequently, because they are our favorites. This means that our gut lymphocytes that get in contact with these foods can start to react to one or more of the foods we ingest. At this time we may experience abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and a host of other possible symptoms.

The physician will tell the patient that testing for food allergies is a problem as most of the usual skin tests employed for inhalant allergies do not reliably work in determining food allergies. The doctor will ask the patient or the mother of the child with food allergies to keep a food diary and keep track of the allergic symptoms in the diary as well. An elimination diet will have to be devised based on the information gathered in the diary as it becomes clear from that record which foods cause which symptoms. The foods causing allergic symptoms are subsequently eliminated. This is a cumbersome process, but it is the most reliable method of testing and treating food allergies.

In the past there was a blood tests, called RAST test, which tested for common food allergies that can cause severe allergic reactions like egg, milk, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, crustacean shellfish and soy. Since about 2010 this has been replaced by the more sensitive ImmunoCAP Specific IgE test.

Children often develop food allergies to egg, milk, wheat, nuts, peanuts and soy, which are food allergies with positive IgE tests. When they age, their immune system develops tolerance to many of these foods and they often outgrow these allergies.

There are other popular lab tests where a blood drop is analyzed with IgG, IgM and IgE antibodies against a panel of foods. A number of suppliers offer these tests.  However, the specificity, sensitivity and reliability can pose problems with regard to the interpretation of the results: allergists often point out that a test may be a false positive when a person likes certain foods and IgG antibodies against this food show up despite the patient having no symptoms. Another specialist may interpret this to indicate that the body shows early sensitization to a certain food, but clinically it is not yet obvious. In other words the sensitivity of the test is so high that it undermines the validity of the test. Recently a panel of international scientists reviewed the validity of these IgG based food intolerance tests and they found the tests not reliable.

The immune responses to food allergies are complicated as there are immediate type immune reactions and delayed type immune reactions. The immediate immune responses are investigated with the above mentioned ImmunoCAP Specific IgE test. The delayed immune responses can be measured using the ELISA test.

Other considerations about allergies

You see from this discussion that a patient with allergies needs a properly trained allergist who will do a comprehensive analysis involving a thorough history, examination, blood tests and immune tests.  The test results have to be interpreted with the experience and the clinical judgment of the specialist.

Since the 1970’s when Clearfield wheat was introduced around the world on a large scale, which has a much higher gliadin (gluten) content than the old wheat varieties. As a result of exposure to this new type of wheat gluten intolerance and leaky gut syndrome have increased substantially in the world population. Genetically modified foods like soy, corn, sugar beets, canola and more have challenged the immune system of sensitive humans even more to an extent, which is not fully understood yet. We do know that some people can develop autoimmune diseases and this may be the reason that a host of diseases that belong into this disease category (MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, ankylosing spondylitis etc.) are much more common now than in the past.

After food elimination for 2 to 12 months depending on the severity of the food allergy, your body may have eliminated the allergy to the food you have avoided, in other words your body built up tolerance. Before you expose yourself to any food that you used to be allergic to and that you want to re-test, it is best to have an EpiPen ready in case your allergy has not resolved. Caution is necessary with regard to foods that cause more severe allergies, e.g. shellfish or peanuts, which may last life long. It is safer to avoid these foods that cause more severe allergies altogether.

Allergic reactions of the immune system belong into the category of chronic inflammatory diseases. These are known to be the root of chronic diseases like asthma, arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. When you are vigilant about allergies and get proper assessment and treatment by an allergist, you will prevent serious health problems including the above mentioned chronic diseases.

More on asthma, which is a chronic inflammatory lung condition, often associated with multiple environmental allergies:

http://nethealthbook.com/lung-disease/asthma-introduction/

Last edited Nov. 6, 2014