Eating Right to Decrease Pain: Dr. Acanash Ramchandani
Can Being Gluten Free Help?
Dr. Acanash Ramchandani is a Medical Director Pain Care Physician. He is Board Certified in Pain Medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.Avinash Ramchandani, MD Painless Nutrition, LLC
Gluten is a natural protein in several different grains, including wheat, barley, rye, triticale, spelt, kamut, farro and durum. Several foods do not inherently contain gluten, but are often contaminated by gluten during the growing process, including oats.
A recent book written by Dr. William Davis, called Wheat Belly, and Dr. David Perlmutter, called Grain Brain, have discussed the ill effects of grain, wheat and gluten protein on the brain and our overall health. Wheat can have a profound effect on the body, not only in increasing glucose levels due to high carbohydrate content, but also causing an immune reaction that can cause inflammation and pain in our bodies (known as celiac disease). Although celiac disease is a condition that people have, and can be proven by lab testing,
many people also have a type of gluten intolerance that cannot be determined by lab testing.
Why is gluten so inherently terrible? Well, it is not the gluten that is terrible, rather it is the wheat. Wheat was, once upon a time, very healthy prior to it being hybridized in the 1950s. Some of the old wheat, in particular einkorn wheat, is “hulled” and tooksome effort to grow and process. Einkorn wheat has increased protein content (although fewer types of gluten), vitamins (including vitamin A, alpha and beta carotenes) and lutein (a natural carotenoid also contained in green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach). The current type of wheat that we eat was hybridized into a non-hulled dwarf variety to make it easy to cultivate and grow. This caused the total amount of chromosomes to increase from 14 to 42. The chromosomes are actually genes. These genes (also known as the DNA of the organism), in turn, are translated into proteins, like gluten and wheat gliadin protein. Therefore, because of the increase in chromosomes, there are many types of gluten that are introduced into the body when we eat this “modernized” form of wheat. Although wheat is not genetically modified, this is a similar concept to genetically modified foods, in which unnatural protein is introduced into our bodies.
These unnatural proteins are not recognized by our bodies and can create an immune response in the gastrointestinal tract or within our bodies. Some theories suggest that these unnatural proteins can actually cause an immune response that makes our bodies attack themselves like an auto-immune disease, such as celiac disease. Other theories suggest that gluten breaks down into proteins that can cause psychiatric disease, including schizophrenia.
Studies have shown some improvement in pain with elimination of dietary triggers (in some cases wheat) for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Although controls and number of subjects limit the studies on this diet, they have been promising. One study on rheumatoid arthritis showed that 33 of 44 patients felt better (some “better” and some “much better”) with elimination of an offending dietary trigger.
In conclusion, although being completely gluten free may not be for everybody, there seems to be a role for wheat in some inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis.