We’re more sensitive to gluten than we used to be.

The New York Times’ Well Blog makes note of an interesting study today.

The study found that undiagnosed gluten sensitivity (celiac disease), as measured by a blood test, is four times more common than it was fifty years ago.


The blog’s author (Tara Parker-Pope) speculates that the change “may be due to changes in the way wheat is grown and processed, or the ubiquity of gluten in medications and processed foods.”

I would add that our human ecosystems have seen some pretty serious changes as our food, medicine, and environment have changed. The relationship between gluten sensitivity and intestinal ecology isn’t understood, but I’d be willing to bet it’s significant.

I want to see the results of the Human Microbiome Project!


  1. Herbwifemama said,

    July 2, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

    I was just reading something on this last night. Blog post here: http://thelittletravelers.typepad.com/the_little_travelers/2009/06/food-.html#comments

    It’s definitely interesting, and combined with the reading I’m doing in Food Inc… starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

  2. sara said,

    July 3, 2009 @ 9:50 am

    I read about the gluten thing on Organic Consumers yesterday, care of an online newspaper article.

    No one seems to be touching on the genetic modification genie, or the pesticide and herbicide residue genie, or the industrially manufactured fertilizers genie.

    All of these things are going to leave their imprint on the food, and there was research over a month ago which touched on the fact that foods produced in our modern industrial systems of growing foods are far less nutritious than they used to be.

    I’m glad to see that the Well Blog went so far as to touch on the growing and processing of wheat itself as possibly being a factor.

  3. Tori said,

    July 8, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

    I just found your blog a couple weeks ago. First comment (I think)….

    I’m in a yahooGroup for people on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which is a diet that helps (in case you don’t know) people with messed up guts. I found it after my Mom suggested that we might be celiac or gluten intolerant (probably are, not RXed because we don’t have insurance and won’t go back on gluten for 3 months to get the testing done when we do!). Anyway… this article has been pretty popular with the peeps on my group because it DOES touch on the way food is treated.

    One of the biggest difficulties (for newbies like me) with the SCD is having to prepare EVERYTHING from scratch in the early days. And, really, should continue. Anyway. I’m glad more peole are more aware (or hopefully will be with such articles).

    I agree with Sara… I wish the articles would go into the whole GM issue including pesticides and herbicides and how they can leave bits in out own genetic code! Monsanto and its cronies need to be taken DOWN!

    Congratulations on the engagement! Marriage is difficult and long, but I would never rather go back to dating!!!!

  4. Jessica said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 2:03 am

    Food allergies mystify me, more from the perspective that they belie a more serious imbalance in agriculture and the mass-marketing of “food.”
    At any rate, I love your blog and ever-changing header photo with the seasons – kind of like how are eating should be.
    All the Best!

  5. Tori said,

    July 30, 2009 @ 10:33 am

    I know I already commented on this post, but I just learned about something that I believe you will be interested in, if you don’t already know about it… Do you know about Codex Alimentarius? Since you have a natural health related blog, I would think you do. But I’m SUPER interested in and trying to learn about herbs, the healing properties of foods, and I do currently strive to grow some of my own heirloom foods; and I didn’t know about Codex Alimentarius, not completely, until a few days ago.

    There are actually bills currently in the House that relate to and strive to move us toward CODEX conformity (not a pursuit that is worthwhile, in my opinion!). I hope you will want to more about this because CODEX and laws related to it, if passed, will truly effect our ability/right to choose natural healing modalities… even growing our own food! Because I’m so disturbed by the mandates and regulations of the CODEX and know that there are laws related to CODEX that some in our government want to pass, I felt the need to contact any and everyone about it. I hope you don’t mind.

    I’ve gathered a few YouTubes as well as more info (more recently than the YouTubes) that will provide lots of info (including background information), if you’re interested. I hope you are! http://gollihughfamily.blogspot.com/2009/07/codex-alimentarius.html

    I’ve applied to be an official organizer relating to Codex and laws in the House and Senate relating to it, but feel it’s really important to begin work on getting the word out and trying to make a difference. So, what better way than contact those whose blogs I read, admire, and learn from (yours is all of those) to ask them to help get the word out and make a difference! I hope you will.

  6. Caitlin said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 7:40 am

    Hi Rebecca.
    So many people I know are beginning to eliminate gluten. I am really struck by what feels like a wave of sensitivity to agri-biz foods. Peter and I have just stopped eating all grains except oats.

    A friend in rural Illinois self-diagnosed with celiac last autumn has had a multitude of symptoms disappear in the past ten months, including all kinds of indigestion, flaky fingernails, Lump in abdomen, skin rash and loss of sense of smell. Doctors had no clue; she found it on the web. Interestingly, she lives literally surrounded by GMO crops, corn and soy alternating. Perhaps her sensitivity has to do with breathing pesticides and pollen??? Interesting possibility.

    And yes, Tori, it can be challenging to have to prepare everything from scratch. But you will find ways to make food that will last for several meals so you’re not always in the kitchen. Besides, it tastes so much better!

  7. Delphyne said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 11:52 am

    Thanks for this post. I just read something about the rash that celiac’s could give and decided to go gluten free for a few months to see what would happen to the rash I simply cannot get rid of. I had an intuitive feeling that the way wheat and other grains are being grown and processed had a lot to do with the increase in the number of celiac diagnoses, be they self diagnoses or MD diagnosed. Already, the inflammation of my skin has decreased.

    I already do much of the prescribed way of eating and thought that pasta would be problematic – it isn’t. However, I completely do not want to pay $8.99 for a bag of gluten free ravioli, so I’m going to buy a pasta machine and learn to make my own dough for ravioli!

    I’m looking forward to reading your blog and searching the archives.

  8. Brittany said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 1:13 pm

    Hi everyone,

    So this is still a “theory” among the holistic health network that I heard from my Integrative Nutrition teacher: until recently, our diets contained very little trans fats. Molecules can have either a “cis” or a “trans” shape, which we can think of as right and left handed gloves. It’s the same molecule, but the cis and trans configurations are mirror images. Trans fats occur very rarely in nature so our bodies are used to working with cis fats. Our cell membranes are made of fats, so all these so-called left-handed cis fats fit together very nicely. When a large portion of our diet consists of trans fats (all that margarine, crisco, and snacks we once thought were healthy) then it’s like trying to form a cell membrane with left AND right-hand pieces. They don’t fit together as well so small gaps are created. The idea is that these gaps in cell membranes of our intestinal walls are allowing molecules that are larger than normal to slip through. Once these larger molecules enter the blood stream they may be recognized by our immune systems as foreign – hence the increase in general food allergies, specifically gluten and peanuts.

    I’m sure (if this is indeed happening) it’s just one piece of this situation but I thought you might be interested to hear about it. Crazy, huh?

  9. Liz said,

    February 13, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

    Just been reading Andrew Whitley’s Bread Matters – Why and How to Make Your Own – (www.breadmatters.com) did you know that modern factory breadmaking often uses transglutaminase as one of the enyzmes in raising bread – and this can trigger coeliac disease – they don’t have to declare that in the ingredients either.

  10. jeniphler said,

    February 7, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

    I wonder about the pesticides used when the processed wheat is store for a long time. Food also seems to taste better when people produce food with passion rather than just making a buck


    February 17, 2011 @ 11:17 am

    Very much agree with Jeniphler, pesticides are indeed a big problem nowadays and people forget about the content of pesticides on our food.

  12. June said,

    February 24, 2013 @ 11:16 am

    I know it is hard to do but I have found that the best rule is – If man touched it don’t eat it – if nature touched it eat lots. All the food in stores that are supposed to be healthy have tons of chemicals in them. I just realized that Baby Carrots are truly not carrots picked when they are small!!!! I was a little upset “OK A LOT” when my daughter sent me the low down on how baby carrots were made. “BIG CARROTS SHAPED INTO BABY CARROTS AND THEN TREATED WITH BLEACH OR AMMONIA TO KEEP THEM FROM SPOILING” ever wonder why when they are not used right up they turn white! UCK!

    All the while I was thinking because it came from the fresh vegetable section it was fresh! The FDA really should not let our food be filled with this crap or at least make them put it on the packaging – but then again who is going to continue to purchase this stuff when you read coated with bleach or ammonia, not me.

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