What IS Gluten Anyway?? – Digestive Health Lesson #4

gluten-freeGluten is the latest buzz word in nutrition.

But, so many people have no idea what it is.

When friends of mine with PhD’s start asking for more info, it’s time for an article about gluten and why it’s a problem.

So, What is Gluten??

Gluten is a the protein found in the seed of wheat, barley, and rye.

the-gluten-protein-is-mainly-found-in-the-endosperm-of-grain-kernel-seedHere is definition from Celiac.org:

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.
Read more here.

Why is it a problem? 

Gluten per se isn’t the problem for everyone (more on that below). It’s the amount of gluten in the standard american diet, and the tampering of the native seed.

When you look at the diets of most Americans, approximately 80% of meals have a gluten component. There is too much bread, breading, pasta, crackers, croutons, tortillas, etc. in our meals.

Gluten can be inflammatory for many people, too much gluten can be inflammatory for anyone. Inflammation can lead to other chronic diseases, I talk more about that in my article explaining how Inflammation is the root of most disease.

Chronic inflammation occurs because of a process called Intestinal Hyperpermeability, aka, Leaky Gut. I explain this process and how it leads to chronic inflammation in my first digestive health article.

The lifelong health issues I have come from being sensitive to gluten and dairy, but I do not have Celiac Disease and my sensitivity does not show up on allergy testing. That means absolutely nothing though. I learned more about Gluten sensitivity from a GI Specialist last spring during a Pediatric Conference at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Here are the numbers he shared…

  • 10% of our population has Celiac Disease
    • These people CANNOT eat gluten without major symptoms.
    • Many people in our population are undiagnosed, continuing to eat gluten will cause multiple health problems. Think ADHD, Thyroid issues, Irritable Bowel, Autism, Epilepsy, and the list goes on.
  • 40% of our population has Gluten Sensitivity
    • Symptoms are more subtle than Celiac Disease; stomach pain, headache, sinus issues, eczema, constipation, brain fog, lethargy, food cravings, mood swings, depression, anxiety, focus issues, etc.
    • It will get worse.
    • It will cause chronic inflammation and intestinal hyperpermeability.
    • It will most likely cause Celiac Disease if gluten is continually consumed, and will definitely lead to a host of other disease processes. (Please refer to the digestive health articles above for more details.)
    • **If you read some research, please note, some people in modern medicine will tell you there is no way to confirm gluten sensitivity. THIS IS NOT TRUE!! There is a way for doctors to check for gluten sensitivity!! It’s as easy as running a simple blood test for gluten immunoglobulins. I know this, because that’s how we found out my son cannot have gluten. When his Holistic Doctor did labs, the antibodies for gluten and wheat were 5-6 times normal. His Celiac tests and allergy tests are negative. I also know this because one of the top specialist in GI Pediatrics told me all the same stuff himself with research and a groovy powerpoint presentation!

One of the biggest reasons we need more awareness and sensitivity is the vast amount of food that contains gluten, and the vast amount of people, especially children that should not be eating it. If we look at the percentages above, 50% of our population should avoid gluten, yet, 80-90% of our public food choices contain gluten.

THIS IS A HUGE PROBLEM FOR OUR CHILDREN AND FOR OUR FUTURE!!!brain-fog

If you think it’s hard to function as an adult with stomach pain and headaches and brain fog, try being a kid, sitting in school after eating mostly gluten for breakfast AND lunch and having anxiety and mood swings… Is it the kid? NO, it’s his food! AND IT’S CHANGING HIS FUTURE! And, he’s a problem in class sitting next to your kid, and that’s why you should care!

I could go on about how reducing our gluten intake has changed my family’s health, but I’ll invite you to read through my blog a little more to find that out, there’s plenty of evidence.

If you want to read how gluten breaks down in our system and causes damage, read how “Getting ‘Glutened’ is Drugging My Kid!!”

I share because I care. I want a better world for me and you and our children.

Please, practice wellness so you live a happier and healthier life. Your loved ones will be awfully glad you did! Enjoy the Journey! 🙂

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Photo compliments of glutenfreesociety.org 

 

 

Digestive Health Lesson #1: Leaky Gut

“ALL DISEASE BEGINS IN THE GUT.” – Hippocrates

hippocrates

I can pinpoint my gut issues all the way back to middle school in the suburban brick rancher I grew up in, and more specifically right down to the bowl of gravy, loaf of bread, my friend Lori, the stomach pain, and the bloating that came along with it. Those problems go way back. This is just one example of the bad food exposure that I subjected myself to growing up. Many of us did, we didn’t know it was that big a deal. What damage could it possibly cause, we were 14, just kids. Yes, well, so is my boy now, and his issues seem to have a similar root cause. Food. The wrong vs. the right… My issues manifested as irritable bowel, asthma, acne, eczema, and eventually fibromyalgia. My boy, Josh has multiple gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms, and has dealt with them most of his life.

stomach painHow do we know it’s food? Continue reading

Erythema Infectiosum… Kinda sounds like a Harry Potter spell, so what is it??

No magic wand is going to work with this virus… The only thing magical about Erythema Infectiosum, is the rash appearing out of nowhere. Erythema Infectiosum is a virus, aka Fifth Disease, and also “slapped cheek” disease. If you’re a HP fan, you understand my enthusiasm with the verbiage. Here’s an interesting fact about Erythema Infectiosum for you, it’s called Fifth Disease because it was the 5th documented childhood virus many years ago when all those childhood viruses, like measles, rubella, and scarlet fever were being documented.

Her cheeks are awfully pink, but she's happy! :-)

Her cheeks are awfully pink, but she’s happy! 🙂

Today, I thought… it’s time to write a post about Erythema Infectiosum, because I saw a 12 year old with a “lacy” rash; and just days ago, my cousin sent me pictures of her 4 year old with a rash… They both had Fifth Disease. So, that tells me it’s time for a post on Parvovirus B19. Doesn’t that sound disgusting? It’s not really a big deal, as long as you are healthy and not pregnant. This is NOT the parvovirus that animals get.

In healthy kids, Erythema Infectiosum/Fifth Disease is a rather benign ailment. Some kids have it, and you don’t even know it. Many kids get a fever and upper respiratory infection/URI symptoms (cough, congestion, headache, runny nose) before the rash. Some have no symptoms at all and just break out in a rash. And then, some have such a mild case, symptoms go completely unnoticed. Regardless, the virus leaves antibodies behind that are quite important for girls (more on this below). The rash may last for a few days to weeks, but may be more noticeable when the skin is hot from physical activity, hot bath water, etc.

You may be wondering what a “lacy” rash looks like…

Typical "lacy" rash of Fifth Disease

Typical “lacy” rash of Fifth Disease

Here ya go…Miss Molly’s legs and arms matched her cheeks. But, as you can see in her smiley face picture, she is feeling well. The rash can look more spread out, but commonly grows together into large red, lacy patches.

The 12 year old patient I saw today, was a little less happy. His rash was really itchy. I’ve seen very few Fifth’s rashes that are itchy, but his was pretty bad. I read somewhere that the itching is more common in teens and adults. I don’t promote any particular product, but I like to use Calmoseptine ointment. We applied this to his rash, and he immediately felt better. Do not apply Benadryl (diphenhydramine) cream to large areas of skin. Benadryl cream is absorbed through the skin and there is no way to monitor the dosing, it is not safe. Zyrtec or Benadryl can be taken by mouth to help combat the itchiness. Do not take both Zyrtec and Benadryl at the same time, be sure to follow the instructions on the package insert.

So, when can Parvovirus B19 be a problem? The first thing that comes to any providers mind is pregnancy. Parvovirus B19 can be detrimental to an unborn fetus. It has to do with depletion of the red blood cells (RBCs), leading to fetal anemia and the inability to replenish the lost RBCs to maintain adequate oxygenation, but I won’t get into the sciency stuff. The CDC reports that about 50% of women are immune to Parvovirus B19. If you want to read more about the science, check out CDC or KidsHealth.

What YOU need to know about Fifth Disease:

  • Contagious during the fever and URI period.
  • NOT contagious with the rash. Can attend school or daycare.
  • Incubation period is a few weeks after initial exposure.
  • Treatment should focus on comfort measures. Motrin for fever. Creams/oatmeal bath for itching. Zyrtec or Benadryl orally for itching.
  • There is no medication to prevent or cure Fifth Disease.
  • Pregnancy = Red Flag (see below)

One of the most important pieces of knowledge you can take away from this post is about Fifth Disease and Pregnancy. If your child has Fifth Disease, please think of anyone that you know that may be pregnant, and was in contact with your child during the contagious period. (Think about teachers.) There usually is not a problem, but it is important for a pregnant woman’s obstetrician to be aware of and monitor the exposure appropriately. If the pregnancy is into the 2nd trimester, the blood work is probably already done. For more information about Parvovirus B19 and Pregnancy, check out the CDC’s website.

Erythema infectiosum is one of the easier illness we will encounter on this journey called parenthood. If you have any questions or comments, let me know. If you want to know more about Erythema Infectiosum check out the CDC Parvovirus B19 and Fifth Disease website.

Enjoy the journey, friends! 😉

Hand, Foot and Mouth…..and Butt??

I’ve been on call this weekend, and gotten quite a few calls about fevers and rashes that sound like Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. This illness is very common during the Spring and Summer months, is highly contagious, and very common among young children. For those of you that are wondering, is this the same thing as Foot and Mouth Disease? NO, totally different!!!

Hand, Foot and Mouth is a Coxsackievirus that causes bumps, blisters, and/or ulcers 

  on the hands, the feet,

in and around the mouth, 

and Yes, on the buttocks and backs of the legs. 

The bumps that appeared on the backside and back of the legs of a toddler is what prompted one of the calls from a Mom this weekend. Actually, the only symptoms that this child had were fever and red throat when he was seen in the office. Over the past 24 hours, the bumps on the buttocks and back of the legs appeared. So far, there is no hand or foot rash involved. All cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth present differently, not everyone gets the typical rash. Some kids will only have a fever and sores in the mouth, and possibly go undiagnosed.

This virus is spread via direct contact with nose and throat secretions, saliva, fluid from blisters, or the stools. Most people will get Hand, Foot and Mouth as a child, and then more than likely never get it again. The incubation period is about 3-7 days.  Most parents will not get the virus because they were exposed as children. Although, I do know of one mom that got it, and got it pretty bad. Ouch!!

Hand, Food, and Mouth starts with a fever, and usually the fever is pretty high, up to 103’s. The fever starts prior to the arrival of the rash. During the febrile stage the child typically doesn’t want to eat. They aren’t eating because the sores in the mouth are painful. The goal of treatment during this stage is to keep the child hydrated. I highly recommend giving cold drinks, freeze pops, popsicles, pudding, yogurt, milkshakes, smoothies, etc. DO NOT give the child anything that is hot, spicy, or acidic. Orange juice, soda and pizza would be a NO NO!

There is no medicine to treat Hand, Foot and Mouth. The only thing Mom and Dad can do is keep their little one comfortable. Giving Tylenol or Motrin for the fever and for the pain caused by the ulcers is the best way to handle this difficult time. As with any other virus, antibiotics will not help! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Antibiotics are for bacterial infections, they will NOT get rid of viruses. Viruses are not bacteria. Keeping your child comfortable and treating the fever are your top priorities. If you need to know more about fevers in children, please check out my blog on Fevers: To Treat or Not To Treat??

Hand, Foot and Mouth usually last about 5-7 days. Keeping the child home from daycare, school, and away from other children will help prevent the spread of disease. Unfortunately, the fever typically precedes the rash and may not be that high in the beginning, so others may be exposed accidently. I was guilty of this when Joshua was in pre-school. I thought he was cutting molars, and gave him Motrin because his temperature was 100-101F. After a few days, his temp when up to 102.9. I had him evaluated by his pediatrician, and that is when we discovered the ulcers in his mouth. So, the fever and not eating wasn’t teething after all, and I had exposed the whole preschool. Oops, I felt bad, but there wasn’t anything I could do except warn the teachers and other parents, and tell them what to watch for.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth is one of those childhood illnesses that everyone gets. As parents, it’s all part of the journey. Every parent has had to deal with Hand, Foot and Mouth. Some kids will only get a mild case, and their parents won’t ever know what that fever was because the rash was only in the mouth and never observed by a practitioner for diagnosis. Those children (and parents) that experience those mild, undiagnosed cases are the lucky ones! Hand, Foot and Mouth hurts, and if you child doesn’t have to suffer through it, be thankful!!

So, if you have a child that experiences a high fever anytime soon, keep in mind it could be this painful Coxsackievirus that should be called Hand, Foot, Mouth and Butt! 

Just another part of the journey for all of us parents to suffer through. As I always say, regardless of the difficulties, I hope you enjoy the journey! 😉