This is the first of a 3-part article series that outlines the pathway to the resolution of all degrees of gluten sensitivity, including the well-known celiac reaction.
The series is laid out as follows:
But how can we become free from a health condition so socially entrenched that a cure is not even believed to be possible? The prevailing opinion is that a gluten allergy (and by extension, any allergy) is caused by the immune system, and is therefore incurable. This is a misconception, and before the recommended process of elimination can make sense, the true nature of the problem needs clarification.
We could begin where the current understanding lies: that a gluten allergy seems to strike from nowhere, like a bolt of lightning. And if you have just the right (well, wrong) genetics, the lightning will strike you.
However, launching into a weighty analysis of genetic markers, blood proteins and T-cell responses only leads further down the path of confusion. This problem cannot be solved within the conceptual matrix that created it. Rather, gluten allergies need to be recontextualized, or placed within a larger framework from which the solution is obvious.
The easiest way to reveal the big picture is to tell a story. What follows is my own story.
My Experience with a Gluten Allergy
I had happily eaten gluten my whole life without incident. Then, sometime in my 20’s, I realized that gluten made me feel awful. I had a number of other health issues going on and at that age was already in pain or sick most of the time, so when my gluten issue first insinuated itself I barely noticed. But eventually I recognized a pattern: after eating gluten I felt even worse than usual.
When I went off gluten many of my other health issues remained (e.g. were unrelated to gluten consumption) but there was a noticeable reduction in inflammation, skin and scalp issues and digestive problems. Then I tried reintroducing it and felt really awful. Even a bit of flour used as a thickener in gravy set me off, it got to the point where I couldn’t breathe if I ate gluten.
It was undeniable: I had a gluten allergy.
Here were some of my symptoms:
• extreme, instant neck pain
• the skin on my cheeks would turn into red scabs and peel off in flakes within 1 minute of gluten contact
• my scalp would virtually shed off. There was no hair loss but it itched severely, pieces of the scalp would come off in large flakes and my shoulders were white with dandruff in minutes
• back pain would start up, my hips would seize up, walking became difficult
• later that day unpleasant things would happen in the bathroom
• as the condition worsened (after about a year), I got to the stage where a few minutes after accidental consumption my intercostal (rib) muscles would seize up so badly that I couldn’t pull enough oxygen into my lungs to get a full breath. This meant that for practical purposes, I couldn’t breathe after I ate gluten. I once nearly suffocated on the way home from a restaurant where they used gluten as a thickener in my dessert. I was walking home when it hit me, it was a warm summer night on Queen Street West in Toronto and I had to sit on a park bench for two hours while I struggled to breathe.
I never bothered getting medically diagnosed with celiac because that required eating gluten for three months leading up to the test, which I wouldn’t have been able to do. Even if I had been diagnosed, all I would have been told was to stay off gluten, which I was already doing. And I didn’t care whether I got to be part of the celiac group or not. I’ve never cared for groups or for that matter labels. I couldn’t breathe when I ate gluten: that didn’t need validation, it needed a solution. Being branded with a lifelong food allergy felt wrong to me, unacceptable. I had eaten gluten every day as a kid, why couldn’t I eat it now?
I didn’t know why. I was told gluten allergies were caused by the immune system and I wasn’t in a position to dispute the science of immunology, it seemed too complex and out of my control. So for the time being, my only choice was to get on the gluten-free bandwagon.
The Gluten-Free Bandwagon
When you are able to eat gluten, you take it for granted like breathing, since like air it’s virtually everywhere. When an intolerance builds, whether gradually or rapidly, you cross an invisible line and are in a dietary prison, a prison of the immune system.
The only way out of this prison is on a day-trip and your ride is called the gluten-free bandwagon. The gluten-free bandwagon takes you all around town but brings you back to prison every night because according to the rules of this perspective, there’s no way out of a gluten allergy.
First comes the long roster of products that contain gluten, which you have to start avoiding; then the short list of safe foods you don’t need to worry about; and finally, the options: a narrow slice of gluten-free grocery store products, cardboard breads, high-glycemic rice flour desserts and a bizarre gluten-free world populated by a string of gluten-free restaurants, gluten-free expos, gluten-free meetup groups and gluten-free reading material. You have no choice but to drink the metaphorical Koolaide. But don’t worry, it’s gluten-free Koolaide.
And finally, the price tag: in Toronto I once got charged $60 for a gluten-free pizza when regular pizzas at the time cost $20. Make no mistake: gluten free is a big business.
Staying Mentally Free
The gluten-free bandwagon never felt right to me and from the moment I got on it, I was looking for a way off. But nobody believed there was a cure to a gluten allergy.
My challenge in being the one to find the cure was that there is nothing to go on except other people’s mistakes. Because nobody else seemed to believe there was a cure, it became necessary to adopt the rather controversial belief that everyone else must be wrong. This belief was complicated by the sheer volume (in the tens of millions worldwide) of other people who had gluten issues or celiac. That in turn lead to identifying two self-limiting beliefs on my part:
1. If there was a cure someone would have found it by now.
2. Surely everyone couldn’t be wrong in believing that gluten issues are incurable?
I decided to adopt two more empowering beliefs: 1. I could be the first person to find the cure, why not? and 2. If the history of science has shown us one thing, it is that everyone can definitely be wrong about something.
It helped that I wasn’t beholden to anyone else’s paradigm. I wasn’t a doctor, researcher or member of a university science department, so I couldn’t lose a medical license or a job by pursuing an unpopular train of thought. I wasn’t a Ph.D candidate who had professors to defer to. I didn’t have any colleagues in the field of biomedicine whose opinion of me mattered. I wasn’t required, like a Chinese medicine practitioner, to funnel my thoughts through the translation matrix of chi, inner heat or cold, or the so-called elements (earth, air, fire, water, etc). I wasn’t a chiropractor, naturopath or homeopath. I didn’t need to follow anyone’s path. Rather than a weakness, that became my biggest strength. I was free.
I acknowledge that I did have the benefit of an extensive education in philosophy, logic, history (particularly the history of science), classical languages and world literature as well as the basics of biochemistry, physics, organ physiology and molecular nutrition. Some of this was self-taught, some of it was from university, some from years of hiring private tutors and some from the working world. However, in retrospect, the main benefit was not so much that I could think for myself or that I had information to work with: it was that I was allowed to think for myself. I was mentally free.
I used my mental freedom to remain independent from the commonly held beliefs that a gluten allergy was caused by leaky gut, genetics, the immune system or an autoimmune disorder, because if I had believed any of those things, I wouldn’t have believed there was a cure. Being free from these misconceptions, I began experimenting.
Experiments in Muscle Testing…Gluten
There is a solution to a gluten allergy and on the surface at least, it’s relatively simple. It turns out that what is needed is to clarify what the problem actually is. I did this by a systematic process of elimination. I eliminated all possible causes of a gluten allergy one at a time until there was only one remaining possibility. My research over a 15 year period is presented below in rough chronological sequence.
Each experiment was explored for varying ranges of time (months to years, some of them running simultaneously) and was only discarded when it became apparent that there was no measurable progress toward my being able to eat gluten. It should be understood that I defined a cure to my gluten issues as both of two conditions being met:
Condition 1. That gluten muscle tested positive on me
(e.g. a strong muscle testing response to gluten, no indication of gluten being a physiological stressor). And, once condition 1 was met,
Condition 2. That consuming gluten would produce no negative symptoms in the hours and days following consumption.
Here is the list of the things I tried that did not work.
Experiments in muscle testing that didn’t work:
1. The first thing I tried was eliminating parasites with herbal medicine. I saw an applied kinesiologist who muscle tested me and told me that I had parasites. The problem was that at the time neither he nor I knew what that meant. He recommended black walnut tincture and I took 25 drops 3x/day for 6 weeks. When nothing improved, I tried numerous other medicinal herbs: Pau D’Arco, Wormwood, Red Clover, Oil of Oregano, Raspberry Leaf Extract, Dandelion and a variety of potions from Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine and Western Botanical Medicine. I made herbs a special project: if there was a medicinal herb with antiparasitic properties, I tried it in every form it came in (powder, capsule, decoction and tincture) for up to 3x/day and as long as 2 months at a time. I was at this for a few years because I was sure parasites were involved. But nothing worked, and since I assumed each product was effective on any parasite I might have, I mistakenly concluded that I didn’t have any parasites. This single incorrect assumption wasted the next 15 years of effort by sending me down almost 30 blind alleys. However, the benefit of all this wasted time was being able to conclusively rule everything else out so that I could be sure what worked, what didn’t and why.
2. Allergy desensitization techniques through a naturopath. The hypothesis was that my nervous system had somehow associated gluten with some emotional negativity which tapping and affirmations would somehow release. That seemed pretty implausible to me, there were one too many somehows, but my attitude was leave no stone unturned. But despite my open-mindedness it did nothing to help.
3. Acupuncture. That supporting my organ meridians by sticking a needle into certain points would somehow enable my body to digest the gluten. It never fully helped and stopped helping at all as soon as the treatments stopped.
4. Chi Kung. The hypothesis was that boosting my immune functioning in general would enable me to digest gluten. This actually worked the best of everything I tried and confirmed that a reaction to gluten was at some level an immune system issue. But it stopped helping as soon as daily Chi Kung practice stopped and anyway, what was the immune system? Not something I could easily quantify. And I felt I shouldn’t have to meditate and do breathing exercises every day just to be able to eat a meal.
5. Eating only organic food. On the hypothesis that GMO foods were somehow depressing my immune system or wiping out my intestinal flora, I avoided them completely. For a couple years I ate only organic grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats. This accomplished little beyond doubling my grocery bill and improving my appreciation of fine foods.
6. Colonics. Perhaps the villi and microvilli of my intestines were clogged with undigested faecal matter that was producing an extended inflammatory response, and gluten somehow made it worse. Colonics temporarily reduced bloating but didn’t produce any lasting change and certainly didn’t change my response to gluten.
7. Vitamin D supplementation on the grounds that my immune system was somehow depleted of D, which it needed from the sun and which I wasn’t getting living above the 49th parallel. I consumed as much D as I could short of giving myself fat soluble vitamin toxicity. D helped me to get sick a little less often but didn’t help with gluten at all.
8. Beta Carotene. Perhaps the lining of my stomach and small intestine had been depleted. I supplemented with massive amounts of beta carotene and vitamin A to re-line the intestinal tract, enough to nearly turn my skin orange but it didn’t change my weak muscle testing response to gluten or my reaction to it.
9. Vitamin C supplementation on the grounds that my organ tissue lacked the C to up-regulate collagen production so that it could no longer regenerate the stomach lining, which needs to replace itself regularly. I took up to 10,000mg of C 2x/day for nearly a year in every form available: ascorbic acid, calcium citrate, ascorbyl palmitate in tablets, capsules and powder. I became a connoisseur of C, but while it temporarily improved digestive functioning, it accomplished little else.
10. Vitamin B supplementation on the grounds that I might not have had enough B to metabolize the gluten protein. I tried extensive combinations of B 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 12. I even looked up what B4 was (lecithin) and tried that daily for months. For an encore I researched and consumed other B vitamins such as B20 (L-Carnitine). No B vitamins made a difference.
11. Probiotic supplementation, on the grounds that I was deficient in the good bacteria which should live in the intestines: acidophilus and bifidus. This didn’t work so I explored whether I simply wasn’t taking the right good bacteria. I made a special study of all the bacteria that are commercially available and supplemented with large doses of all of them over an extended time period: about 12 kinds of acidophilus, 6 kinds of bifidus, also a strain called streptococcus faecalis used mostly in Japan, a strain called saccharomyces boullardii which is often mis-prescribed for so-called traveller’s diarrhea (traveller’s diarrhea is always only a parasite) and a couple other types I got shipped to Canada from the USA, where they have all the good stuff. Some of them helped a little but none of them cured anything and as soon as I stopped taking them, they stopped helping.
12. I tried all the nutritional minerals on the grounds that I might lack the mineral cofactors necessary to metabolize gluten: boron, calcium, chromium, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, silicon, strontium and zinc. I muscle tested for needing all of these at different times and supplemented with each of them in numerous combinations at the maximum safe doses for extended durations. This had little-to-no impact, gluten still muscle tested weak. I even briefly experimented with colloidal silver and gold which turned out to be a bad idea because they feed bad bacteria like the kind excreted by protozoans such as giardia and amoeba, which seems to contradict their reputation as anti-microbial agents (but then what is a microbe? which microbes do colloidal silver and gold kill? You can begin to see how a lot of our cherished health beliefs are based on words we don’t adequately understand to begin with).
13. For a couple years, I supplemented with a range of herbal liver supports like milk thistle, on the grounds that the liver was somehow not producing the enzymes needed to break down gluten, and needed to be cleansed. I drew this process out incase the liver had been cleansed and now needed to regenerate. This didn’t help. I even tried so-called pharmaceutical grade products when the regular brands didn’t help and finally tried making my own milk thistle decoction from the bulk dried plant. Nothing… I then waded into a couple brand-name month-long full-spectrum liver cleanses including the fiber capsules, mineral drinks and protein shakes but all that got cleansed was my wallet, and then they tried to sign me up in a pyramid marketing scheme.
14. Supplementing with pancreatic enzymes such as pancreatin, on the grounds that somehow the pancreas was failing to contribute to digesting gluten. Useless.
15. Supplementing with gall bladder enzyme (lipase) in case the distant action of the gall bladder was failing to act in conjunction with the liver and pancreas to break down the gluten protein. Ineffective…
16. Digestive enzymes in general: protease, amylase, bromelain, papain, and so-called gluten relief enzymes with extra high levels of cellulase that I had to special order from the USA because once again, the Americans always have the good stuff. But nothing made a difference.
17. Supplementing with stomach acid enhancers like beet root and hydrochloric acid on the grounds that perhaps the gluten wasn’t being adequately broken down in the stomach by virtue of inadequate acid production. This turned out to be false, there was no acid deficiency that acid supplementation seemed to help with.
18. Re-lining the mucosal layer of my stomach with things I hadn’t already tried: if beta carotene didn’t work, maybe some combination of the carotenoids lutein, lycopene and astaxanthin would. I even tried getting them from vegetable juicing: carrot juice, beet juice. They actually helped quite a bit, but didn’t solve the root issue, I still couldn’t eat gluten.
19. Amino acid therapy: there are 9 essential amino acids (lysine, tryptophan, leucine, isoleucine, valine, threonine, methionine, phenylalanine and histidine) and about 25 non-essentials: arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glutathione, phosphatidyl serene, etc. Any one of them could have been at the root of why I wasn’t metabolizing gluten so I muscle tested quantities of each and took everything I tested for needing. Some made no difference whatsoever, others made me feel worse.
20. Magnet therapy. This was a long-shot but why not, right? I didn’t understand electromagnetism at the time, but I still tried living in a continuous magnetic field produced by a spinning natural magnet for 1 entire week. This did nothing except raise some eyebrows and then salesperson who sold me the magnet also tried to sell me a pillow, mattress, shower head, water filter and set of insoles, on the grounds that I didn’t have nearly enough magnetism in my life to get real results.
21. Far infra red saunas on the grounds that perhaps my body lacked essential radiation outside the visible spectrum of light, like the sort suppressed by cement, running water, electricity and other electromagnetic pollution from living in a big city. Several treatments had no effect.
22. Light therapy. I constructed my own light emitting diode array (pictured below) and tried exposing all the different colours to different organ points for different periods of time. I also experimented with infra red and ultra violet. All I got from this was a homemade sunburn. Some companies on the market were selling professionally made devices for up to $6000, and making great claims in the sales seminars. I tried those too on the grounds that the high intensity LED’s in their units were better quality than mine, and possibly more effective. I’d never heard of one of them working on a gluten allergy and they certainly didn’t work on mine.
23. Sound therapy. I tried some different audio CD’s from binaural beats to crystal bowl music that claimed to promote healing, none of which healed anything except perhaps a hole in the bank accounts of the people selling the CD’s. In retrospect I missed the boat on sound but at that time I didn’t yet understand physics or electrodynamics well enough to see what I was missing, and either way, sound therapy isn’t an effective solution for several reasons.
24. Candida cleanses: I was assured by people in the know that candida was at the root of any gluten issue, so I tried candida diets, candida cleanses, candida enzymes and avoiding foods that were fungi: mushrooms, leavened breads, fermented beverages (e.g. now I couldn’t even drink gluten-free beer because yeast was the new gluten). At the time I didn’t realize candida and other fungi were my friends, but I finally encountered data that suggested that a fungal problem couldn’t be resolved without addressing the underlying metal toxicity so I shifted focus to heavy metals.
25. Anti fungal therapy: Before ruling out fungi though, I wanted to be absolutely sure the fungi themselves weren’t pathogenic (e.g. needed to be targeted for elimination). After bypassing the medications ketoconazole and itraconazole because they didn’t muscle test for being likely to work, I tried a few variations of fluconazole, which had a clearing effect on the skin but that only lasted a week, then the rashes and scabbing came back, and it did nothing for the gluten problem. Fungi were definitely not at the root of a gluten problem.
26. Metal toxicity: In the process of exploring this, I developed a whole science of metal toxicity. I plumbed the depths of the periodic table from Hydrogen to Bismuth and learned how find and cleanse every element known to man. There’s a science to it that I’m not sure anyone else has figured out but this isn’t the place to outline it. The point is that chelating metal toxicities mildly helped with my gluten issues but did nothing to eliminate them, although chelation has interesting applications in on other medical conditions, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
27. Antibiotic therapy: I tested for penicillin and amoxycillin. Taking them reduced intestinal inflammation but do much else except make me feel like people feel on antibiotics.
28. Electromagnetic Pollution Blockers: On the vehement assurances from various experts that electromagnetic pollution was at the root of all modern health issues (and possibly food allergies) I tried surrounding myself with copper, an EM field blocker: I got a copper sticker for my cell phone, placed copper judiciously around the house and stopped using WiFi, although I stopped short of wearing a tin foil hat and have never thought much of conspiracy theories.
Reflecting on the data from my years of experimentation, I was becoming progressively more certain that a parasite was involved in my gluten problems.
• Anti-fungal agents cleared the skin, so a fungus had to be involved in my reaction to gluten.
• Managing metal toxicity partially worked, so metals had to be involved.
• Acupuncture & Chi Kung partially worked, so it had to have something to do with the immune system
• Overall it seemed to get better with vitamins and minerals and worse with amino acid therapy
• Digestive enzymes did nothing, so it wasn’t my body’s inability to digest
• Probiotics partially helped but didn’t last, so it had something to do with the intestinal bacteria
• Antibiotics partially helped but made me feel pretty wiped out
“What,” I speculated, “could have been going on that produced bacteria, resulted in metal toxicity, was conducive to fungal overgrowth, wiped out the good bacteria in the colon, had something to do with the immune system but nothing to do with digestive enzymes, got better when I added high doses of vitamins and minerals but worse with amino acids?”
By a process of elimination, that could only be a parasite.
Parasites: excrete waste, which is full of bacteria. That’s why antibiotics and probiotics helped.
Parasites: continually replenish the bad bacterial colony via ongoing waste, explaining the environment where fungus could grow
Parasites: excrete metal-toxicity loving bacteria, which explained the ongoing metal toxicity
Parasites: excrete waste that wipes out the good bacteria in the colon, resulting in an ongoing need for probiotic supplementation
Parasites: constantly tax the immune system. A stronger immune system can fight back better, which is why acupuncture and chi kung worked, but only temporarily
Parasites: don’t interfere with digestive enzymes, which is why further enzyme supplementation didn’t help
Parasites: consume proteins and amino acids as a food source, which is why supplementing with them made me feel worse: I was feeding my parasites
Parasites: create vitamins and minerals deficiencies, which is why supplementing with those made me feel better: I was paying the parasite mafia their cut
I couldn’t see the parasite itself but the silhouette of a parasite was so clearly defined by my research that it was impossible for a parasite to be absent.
It stood to reason, then, that gluten must be feeding a parasite, and that my reaction was to the parasite (or specifically, it’s bacteria after it ate gluten), not to gluten itself. This further explained why I spent most of my life able to eat gluten, and then suddenly became allergic. I must have suddenly picked up a parasite that loved gluten. It was the only possibility that remotely made sense, particularly since I had spent 15 years eliminating all other possibilities.
However, I had ruled out parasites years ago by taking black walnut and all those other natural herbs.
Or had I???
On closer examination, all I had really ruled out was the effectiveness of herbal agents on parasites. What if parasites didn’t respond to herbal remedies and in fact needed to be killed off by prescription pharmaceutical agents? An anti-pharmaceutical bias is the biggest blind spot in the alternative health field and I realized that despite trying to remain mentally free, I had unconsciously adopted it. I had never actually explored pharmaceutical anti-parasitic agents as an option…
29. So… Prescription antiparasitic medication. But which ones to try? There was no known gluten-allergy-causing parasite that I could target. And was I even right about this?
I had opened up a whole new can of worms. Once I had correctly clarified which question was the right question to ask, very quickly it became apparent that I had no idea which answer was the right answer to act upon. I knew nothing of the process of quantifying which medications one would take for which parasite one might have. Or for that matter, which parasites one might even get. All this time I had thought of parasites as being adequately described by the word “parasites”, and in retrospect, that was a bit like describing all the world’s languages by the word “languages”.
So I needed to switch gears and learn two major, complimentary sciences, both of which were new to me: parasite microbiology and pharmacology. This was going to entail a lot of work but there was no alternative, staying on the gluten-free bandwagon and coming home every night to the gluten-free prison wasn’t an option, and now I was convinced there was a way out.
What follows is how I found the way out…
To be Continued…
This article is continued in: Be Free from Gluten Allergies for Life: Part 2–Quantification (when the link is active, the article has been posted)