A Silent Epidmic?


Gluten intoleranceThe hereditary aspects of gluten intolerance deserve more recognition by the public and health professionals alike. If you are Caucasian and have ancestors from Northern Europe or Scandinavia, you may have inherited some degree of gluten intolerance. Populations representing other races and cultures have a lower probability of being intolerant, but we have seen African, Asian, and other ethnic groups also suffer. In the opinion of Dr. Timmins, based on his extensive clinical experience and the limited research available, tens of millions of people suffer from subclinical gluten intolerance, and most are unaware of their condition.

Grains have a rich history. Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs and Steel does a great job of telling the story of how cereal grains—primarily wheat and barley—were exported from their origins in North Africa and made their way through Europe to the United States. Genetically, humans are designed to thrive on whatever food grows on their native soil. A lot can be said for eating according to our unique regional and hereditary backgrounds.

Dr. Timmins Discusses Betty
Symptoms: chronic fatigue, muscle aches, depression, insomnia, advanced osteoporosis
Causes: gluten intolerance

Betty, a 52-year-old Caucasian woman from New York, became my patient. She had a surprisingly pleasant disposition considering how frustrated she was with her health challenges and the inability of doctors to help. She suffered from chronic fatigue, muscle aches, depression, insomnia, and advanced osteoporosis. She said her health problems began in her early twenties and had worsened over the years, despite many attempts to address them. She had several hospital workups, and no expense was spared to diagnose her health problems.

When doctors were unable to diagnose the cause of her conditions, Betty was labeled a hypochondriac with a psychosomatic disorder, meaning that her physical ailments were of a psychological rather than physical origin. She underwent extensive psychiatric evaluation—to no avail. Prescription drugs failed to help her depression. Gradually, her chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression, insomnia, and osteoporosis worsened. She was yet another victim of Medical Intervention’s failure to effectively deal with chronic illness.

Betty became desperate and hopeless. I listened carefully to her tale of woe and reviewed her entire health history. I saw no meaningful clues. At that time, I didn’t have the array of functional diagnostic tests that are now in use, but I used what was available to assess Betty’s hormone, immune, digestive, and detoxification systems.

The tests revealed a number of issues, which clearly validated that Betty was truly ill. Her health problems weren’t all in her mind; she had metabolic imbalances. She suffered from extreme HPA exhaustion and hypothyroidism, but, unfortunately, because of the unavailability of specific testing, I was unable to diagnose the underlying cause of her hormone imbalances. Like other doctors before me, I started working with her by treating her symptoms—with little success.

I reviewed her chart and noticed that her heritage was mostly Irish. I knew that a high statistical risk existed that she could be celiac, yet she had not shown any of the associated symptoms and there was no family history of celiac sprue. One thing led me to suspect that Betty might have a problem with gluten intolerance: her osteoporosis.

I suggested to Betty that she begin a gluten-free diet. She was happy to try it. The results were totally unexpected. Within 60 days of removing all gluten from her diet, her symptoms disappeared! She no longer had chronic fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia, or problems with sleep, and we later determined that her osteoporosis had stopped advancing. I was amazed and relieved when she told me she was 100 percent asymptomatic. Eliminating gluten definitely improved the quality of her life, and may have saved it.

Betty transitioned easily into menopause by balancing her hormones and using laboratory tests to guide safe hormone supplementation. She’s now in her early seventies and enjoys a fully functional life.

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