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The gluten story: well-fed malnutrition

In my early reading, The Myth of Osteoporosis by Gillian Sanson served to calm me down. The author methodically debunks several key tenets of the medical approach to osteoporosis. For instance, less dense bone is not necessarily brittle bone. (Think of peanut brittle: dense but fragile.) And other factors than low density seem much more significant to the question of fracture risk. For example, risk of falling, regardless of bone density, is a better predictor of broken bones.

Dr. Alan Gaby, in Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis, as well as in his mammoth work entitled Nutritional Medicine, outlines a very practical response to osteoporosis. That brings me to the gluten story.

The gluten story

Almost two years before my bone density test, a chance encounter with an alternative health practitioner convinced me to try eliminating gluten from my diet. While demonstrating a novel non-invasive testing method she diagnosed me with low levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and iron. Although I was aghast at her suggestion that I was malnourished (“But you don’t know me: I eat an excellent balanced diet!”), I set about researching symptoms of gluten intolerance, and found my family tree riddled with them, although never diagnosed as gluten issues: anemia, peripheral neuropathy, colon cancer, depression. The information was compelling enough that I made radical changes in my eating, and watched the following symptoms all disappear: daily headaches, eczema, insomnia, joint pain. I felt healthier than I had in decades, and I watched my nutrient levels rebuilding. When my daughter eliminated gluten, her depression and brain fog resolved within a week, as did her persistent bloating after meals. My sister’s “irritable bowel” was healed.

In those who are sensitive to gluten, ingesting a small amount causes severe inflammation of the small intestine in the area where several key nutrients are meant to be absorbed. This prevents their absorption, resulting in malnutrition. The effects of this can impact any system or organ of the body. The only treatment for gluten intolerance (or celiac disease, which is the best-known form) is strict adherence to a gluten free diet for life.

Because there is no pharmaceutical solution to this, the conventional medical profession has paid little attention to the growing problem, believed to affect around 1% of the population, although most are undiagnosed.

But now I learned something new and troubling from Dr. Alan Gaby’s work: Osteoporosis is commonly caused by gluten intolerance, and can even be the primary manifestation of celiac disease! So it’s quite likely that my bones never did reach the peak density they should have in my 20s, and the bone that did form has been leaching away silently for many years.

Enter the medical profession. They happily diagnose osteoporosis. They have a drug for that.

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