This is a two-part piece. Frankly, it’s a bit too long and heavy for the usual Sunday opinion pieces. However, the lessons learned deserve to be told — especially if you notice anyone in your circle with similar signs.
In early January of this year, I answered yes to nearly every question about symptoms (on a list of at least 200) that the endocrinologist asked me. I was then diagnosed with an incurable disease (more about that next week) and told to ‘just live with’ the more than 200 very annoying symptoms. There was no drug, no treatment, and nothing that could be done.
As you would expect, I refused to accept that as my final answer.
I went off on a journey of discovery, and boy, did I learn.
I have an autoimmune disease. That means that something cellular went hair-wire, and instead of playing nicely, some cells became violent and began attacking and destroying the other cells. (I am not a doctor and like to keep things simple. This imagery explains everything quite succinctly.)
In my discovery process, I found that our food is often our best saboteurs.
I have been gluten-free for what is now nearly five months. And of the more than 200 symptoms I had in January, about five minor ones remain today. And five is definitely a number I can learn to live with.
So here’s the lesson part
We in North America are pretty proud of the wheat we grow. We’ve figured out how to make it more plentiful, drought resistant, and so much less expensive. Wheat flour is in just about everything delicious and tasty; we can eat it morning, noon, night, and every hour in between. In other words, we happily gorge ourselves on wheat.
The wheat sheaf’s most sensitive part is the gluten protein. Besides the usual terrors from weather, that tiny protein is also hugely susceptible to fertilizers, pesticides and genetic modification. It is terrified of the chemical glyphosate because glyphosate permanently changes its DNA. You likely know glyphosate by its most commercial name. RoundUp.
The Europeans never allowed RoundUp near its shores. Canada banned RoundUp in January 2022 — and still, one can find bottles if one knows where to look. The US has not yet seen fit to ban RoundUp and uses it liberally.
A relatively newly discovered way
To relieve the symptoms of auto-immune diseases is to have the patient go on a gluten-free diet. Not because the patient is allergic to wheat. Not because the patient has a low tolerance for gluten. But because RoundUp is so not good for humans. (Warning: Sarcasm coming. Really? Humans were never built to ingest chemicals? Wowza.)
And before you jump on me and say that the company executives told us RoundUp was not harmful to people, may I remind you that was the exact same message we were given about smoking, sugar, seatbelts and still today in the US, guns.
There are about 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, and right now, some of the most common are Celiac disease, Sjögren’s Syndrome, Scleroderma, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Every autoimmune disease starts with a few weird symptoms. Which far too many of us ignore as just minor irritants, bits of aging, something we ate. Until something happens (often just an overload of symptoms reaching a breaking point or even a viral infection.) At that stage, it becomes exceedingly difficult to diagnose correctly. And even when it is finally diagnosed, the damage done is often far too late to be corrected.
I was floored when I learned that removing gluten from the North American diet is really about removing Roundup.
Life is pretty damn good these days.
I NEVER want to return to North American wheat, wheat products and wheat additives. Nowadays, I scour labels more closely, cook a bit differently, and buy my pasta and bread direct from Italy (obviously, we don’t eat as much imported goods as we used to domestically.)
You might ask, so what’s the big deal about Europe? It’s NOT that the Europeans haven’t used pesticides. It’s that the Europeans have always put human health and safety before profit. Canada was too quick to embrace the American way of profit first, so while our wheat might be marginally better than that of the US, we have a long way to go to meet the ‘purity standards’ of the Europeans.
My only wish now is that I had known this when my own Mother was alive. It would have been a much easier fix for her and might have given her a few extra years.
If you or the people you know are plagued with an autoimmune disease, please believe me. Being three months gluten-free is a very small price to pay for the real possibility of relief.