The Problem with Gluten

Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in Barley, Rye, Oats and Wheat.

You may be of the opinion that ‘gluten free’ is just another fad? After all, we have been eating gluten for thousands of years, so why the current fuss?

Modern day gluten is in no way similar to the gluten that our ancestors consumed. It has been hybridised to increase yield, reduce growing time and make it easier to harvest. That all sounds great…so what’s the problem with that? Well, the hybridisation has created a huge number of previously unknown proteins in gluten (chromosome content has gone from 14 to 42), which puts a significant extra burden on our digestive systems as we try to break these unknown proteins down. Essentially our digestive systems do not have the digestive toolkit to optimally break down this gluten into its component parts. This may or may not be a problem depending on your genetic profile and gut health.

Gluten related disorders, (the umbrella term for conditions such as wheat allergy, coeliac disease and non coeliac gluten sensitivity) are fundamentally caused by the inability of the body to breakdown the gluten proteins into their component parts. Combined with the dramatic rise in poor digestive capability, driven by factors such as stress, poor dietary choices, modern day lifestyles, toxic load and imbalances in our micro flora (the bacteria in our guts), you have the foundations for systemic inflammation and any number of potential health problems.

Coeliac disease (an autoimmune condition that destroys the gut lining) is the most common lifelong disorder in North America and Europe. Only 1 in 8 coeliacs are ever diagnosed and the typical length of time it takes for those that are diagnosed to be diagnosed is 13 years! The classical symptoms of abdominal pain and diarrhoea are not the only symptoms to look out for. What goes on in the gut does not necessarily have to stay in the gut and can present as virtually any symptom/condition that you can imagine including (but not limited to): migraines, skin problems, depression, fatigue, joint pain, liver and cardio vascular disease, autoimmune conditions and neurological problems. In children you typically see ‘failure to thrive’. Time and time again, I see clients with chronic conditions presenting with undiagnosed coeliac disease or non coeliac gluten sensitivity.

If you have a chronic condition or symptom or are just really struggling with your health, why wouldn’t you want to find out if modern day gluten is making you sick? You can ask your GP to test you for coeliac disease (please note that the NHS test can produce up to 70% false negative results, if you are not presenting with full blown coeliac disease) or you can access privately, via practitioners such as myself, a test from Cyrex Laboratories which provides you with the most sensitive test (Array 3) currently available for gluten related disorders:…/11/Cyrex-Testing-Overview.….

You could also just eliminate gluten from your diet for 4 weeks (has to be zero tolerance by the way to be effective). Contrary to popular belief, removing gluten from your diet is not a dangerous thing to do. You may be surprised what happens….

It’s Your Health…..Time to Take Back Control Seminars

Are you or someone close to you struggling with overall health? Do you want to make ‘healthy’ lifestyle choices but are confused by what you should do?

I am holding a series of local seminars in January, which will openly discuss the science behind the dietary and lifestyle choices that you can make to assist you to take back control of your health.

In the modern world rates of chronic disease (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, arthritis and autoimmunity) are exploding. Whilst family history and genetics do play a part in the development of these diseases, it is the impact of our environment (food choices/toxic load and lifestyle) that is the key driver behind this situation. You have more control than you might imagine over your current and future health.

These seminars will provide an overview of human health and the challenges that we currently face, along with recommendations on what you can do now to make a difference to your current and future health outcomes and an open questions and answers forum to answer your questions on diet, lifestyle and the impact on human health.

I will be presenting at the following venues on the following dates in January:

  • Brimpton Village Hall (RG7 4TD)- Tuesday 12th January
  • Stockcross Village Hall (RG20 8LN) – Wednesday 13th January
  • Bucklebury Village Hall (Victory Room) (RG7 6PR) – Thursday 14th January
  • Boxford Village Hall (RG20 8DD) – Wednesday 20th January

Seminars start at 6 pm (estimated 7.30 pm finish) – £5 per head admission

Tickets can be purchased at each event or in advance by emailing

Overfed Yet Nutritionally Starving…..

The body requires the ready availability of approximately 40 individual micronutrients for optimal health. A deficiency in any one of these micronutrients may contribute to the development of disease. The typical Westerner is overfed yet is nutritionally starving. This is probably one of the main reasons why chronic disease continues to grow so rapidly. I can easily argue that the modern day human requires a great deal more micronutrients in their diet to deal with the chemical assault that we are under, compared to our ancestors; yet the majority of us rely on nutritionally depleted junk food and a mainstream agricultural system that produces foods that are not only riddled with chemicals, but are also nutritionally inferior to those grown 70 years ago. If you add in the fact that the most nutrient dense foods are rarely eaten, it is not surprising that we are seeing the current explosion in chronic health problems and that life expectancy is now starting to fall.

We are paying the price of being too far removed from our food supply and the traditions that our ancestors employed to source and prepare food. There is a chasm between the amount of a vitamin or mineral required to prevent the immediate onset of disease (e.g. rickets) and the levels required for optimal health and vitality. So what is the answer? Pop a supplement or two?

No. Most supplements are not only synthetic versions of those found in nature, but also contain a raft of binders and fillers. Research concludes that ‘natural vitamins are nutritionally superior to synthetic ones.’ Anyway, I would hazard a guess based on clinical experience, that the average Westerner has compromised digestive function anyway, so the first port of call involves repairing the damage that has been done to the digestive system, supporting the physical act of digestion and flooding the body with nutrients from real food. You maybe surprised what happens……

Autoimmunity – Food for Thought…..

Autoimmunity – Food For Thought

Autoimmunity is loss of ‘self tolerance’ caused by the immune system attacking the body’s own tissues. There are over 80 autoimmune diseases. Common conditions that are classified as autoimmune include type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, colitis, Hashimoto’s (accounts for over 90% of low thyroid conditions) and Raynaud’s and their incidence across the World continues to explode. Why is this happening? It is now estimated that over 600 million people globally are presenting with an autoimmune disease and women are 2.7 times more likely to present with such a condition than men.

It is now over ten years since the concept that autoimmunity develops via a complex interaction between our genetic base and our environment was first postulated. The single largest point of interaction between our environment and our genetic base takes place in the gut – the small intestine has the surface area of a tennis court. It is interesting to note that digestive dysfunction is a very common symptom with individuals presenting with autoimmunity.

Our genes are set at conception, however the environment is to a large extent and depending on individual circumstances controllable, as is the health and permeability (leakiness) of the gut. Current thinking is that by modulation of both the environment and intestinal permeability (leakiness of the gut), it might be possible to not only arrest the development of autoimmunity, but also potentially even reverse it.

‘……..once the autoimmune process is activated, it is not self-perpetuating; rather, it can be modulated or even reversed…..’

Professors Fasano and Shea-Donohue – Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2005

So by modulating the health of our digestive tract (using dietary and lifestyle interventions) in conjunction with removing specific triggers from our environment (removing/reducing – toxins/stress/bacterial and viral infections), we might be able to alter the outcome of these devastating diseases…….now that’s quite a thought.

You think you’re Human?

Science continues to discover extraordinary facts about the microbes (bacteria, viruses and protozoa) that live in our gut (the tube that runs from the mouth to the exit). These microbes weigh in total anywhere between 1 and 2.5 kilos in the average adult, outnumber our human cells by a factor of about 3 to 1 and consist of thousands of different species with 100 times more genetic material than the entire human genome.

In broad terms there are three different classifications of microbe, namely ‘beneficial’, ‘opportunistic’ and ‘transitional’. We now know that optimal health requires a delicate balance to be maintained between these different types (eubiosis). The beneficial microbes should be dominant, keeping the opportunistic and transitional microbes under tight control. In fact the science in this particular area of research is moving at a rapid pace with the recognition of distinct ‘gut-organ’ interactions and dependencies such as the ‘gut-brain’ and ‘gut-skin’ axes.

Some of the identified key roles of a balanced micro flora include: balanced mood (the gut is the largest hormone and neurotransmitter producing organ in the body, for example producing over 90% of serotonin (serotonin is also required for properly motility of the gut)), digestion of proteins and carbohydrates (helping us get more nutrients from our food), manufacture of vitamins and essential fatty acids, increase in the number of immune system cells, immune system tolerance, break down of bacterial toxins and detoxification and the conversion of specific plant compounds into anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory factors, as well as assisting with efficient weight management and energy production.

Birth type/time of weaning/length of breastfeeding, chronic antibiotic use, parasitic and/or yeast/fungal infections, food poisoning, poor food choices, recreational drug use, unidentified food sensitivities, lack of nutrient density and diversity, chronic stress, chronic use of medications and NSAIDs (e.g. ibuprofen), oral contraception, regular alcohol intake and a high toxic load are all known contributors to dysbiosis (imbalance of the gut micro flora). Recent research also specifically connects gluten related disorders (the umbrella term for coeliac disease, non-coeliac gluten/wheat sensitivity and wheat allergy) to the initiation of dysbiosis, neuroinflammation and the disruption of the gut/brain axis and the manifestation of anxiety and depression.

So what does this all mean? Look after your microbes and they will look after you. How can I do that? Lifestyle and diet are your key tools.

What About The Calories?

The concept that calories consumed less calories expended equates to either weight gain or loss, is regarded by many as the holy grail to weight management. But is this really the case? Does the body work like this? The reality is that 97% of calorie controlled diets fail, with more weight gain happening after the diet has finished.

A calorie is a measure of the possible energy that can be obtained from burning a particular food. The reality, however, is that we do not eat food purely to create energy and heat, but also to do a plethora of other very important processes including, making enzymes, hormones, antibodies, muscle tissue and new cells. So the body does not simply use food as fuel but also for structure and repair.

Not all calories are equal. It depends not only on whether the calories are being supplied by fats, protein or carbohydrates but also on the type of fat or carbohydrate being consumed. For example there are many different types of fat. Some will be long chain saturated, some will be medium chain saturated, some will be unsaturated and some will be trans fats. The body will process and use each of these fats in a different manner. Each food type uses a different number of calories to digest and unlock their inner nutrients.

When you start eliminating the highly processed and typically glycaemic modern day foods and oils and replace them with whole food choices that we have evolved with for millennia (fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, wild pastured meats, line caught fish) the requirement to count calories is negated and you will start the journey to becoming the weight that you are genetically programmed to be.