A hidden threat to health?  

Monday, 1 June 2015

Grab a coffee - it's another long one...
I've just been reading a very interesting article about so-called gluten intolerance. Normally I have no truck with food fads, the latest food panics or indeed people who claim they are intolerant of/allergic to this, that and the other, when most of the time they do not actually have anything more wrong with them than internet hypochondria. So, that being the case, why is a dismissive, cynical middle-aged twat reading an article about gluten intolerance?
Well, in spite of my cynicism, personal experience has convinced me that there is definitely something going on with our food. The basis of my belief comes not from reading scare stories in the news or internet posts by right-on hippies with a lentil fetish, but from cold, hard personal experience. Not being a scientist or a doctor, I can't offer any clinical or scientific evidence to back my theories. But I can share my personal experience, and in so doing, maybe help others who might be experiencing similar mystery symptoms.
So. My problems started a few years ago when we lived in the UK. I have always been mainly quite a healthy individual, who doesn't generally suffer from ailments. Some years ago, I started developing some odd little symptoms that were mildly unpleasant, but at first no more than a mild irritation. Number one was a permanently upset stomach. This wasn't really a problem at first, but over the course of many months it started to become more of an issue. In the end, the morning toilet routine became a critically important part of my day; so much so that I literally could not leave the house until I'd been at least 3 times. If this had happened all at once, I would have gone to the doctors. But as it built up over many, many months I had just put it down to age and learned to live with it.
We moved to Japan in 2008, and I thought that maybe the change of diet would do me good. But nothing changed. I was still suffering from dodgy guts - not badly enough to force medical attention, but enough for it to become an issue in daily life. Then, things started to get more serious.
I started to get tired. Not just tired, but exhausted; run-down; deflated. I found it hard to concentrate on work. I became moody and irritable. My weight started to increase and I felt generally very heavy, sluggish and not at all well. I lost interest in things that previously I had really enjoyed. In other words, my mojo had left the building. Then, the depression kicked in and I really started to spiral down and it was obvious I needed to sort my shit out.
My first thought was to try and find a cause linking the symptoms I was suffering. At first, the idea of a food allergy didn't even cross my mind as I had never suffered any allergies. My thoughts turned first of all to my personal situation. I had lived in Japan through the Fukushima crisis, where fears of radioactive poisoning of the water supply were very real (and still are, actually) So much so, in fact, that we were issued iodine tablets by the British Embassy. Radioactive iodine 23 (if I recall correctly) causes problems when ingested because it becomes concentrated in the thyroid gland, which in turn can cause thyroid cancer. The thyroid gland helps regulate the body's metabolism and if it isn't producing enough of its vital hormones, a condition known as hypothyroidism, you start to suffer from a wide range of symptoms, quite a few of which I managed to tick off. So - a visit to the doctors was in order. He did an ultrasound scan and there indeed were nodules on my thyroid gland, indicating a clinical problem.
My first thought - I must admit - was "Shit! cancer." I cursed TEPCO. I made an appointment to go to a specialist hospital in Tokyo for a more detailed analysis. Much to my relief, the tests showed that cancer was not present but there was something going on with the thyroid and it wasn't producing enough of the vital "go juice" my body required. I was prescribed medicines, and told I would be on these for the rest of my life.
In some ways, I was relieved. I didn't have cancer and there had been a clinical reason behind my malaise, not just me being a whiney twat. The pills certainly made me feel better and I started to get back on top of everything again. But there was still a nagging feeling in the back of my mind. I have never liked the idea of being reliant on medicine or pills. While I couldn't argue with the fact that medical support was making me feel better, I still wanted to find out more about what had caused this whole sorry state of affairs to arise in the first place. Back to the internet.
I started reading posts from people talking about the symptoms of gluten intolerance, and in particular, how thyroid problems had been linked in some studies to the presence of partially digested protein molecules in the blood stream which were "clogging up" the vital parts of the thyroid gland and causing hypothyroidism-like symptoms. The weight of personal anecdotes led a lot of credence to the theories -  so much so that I decided to shelve my usual cynicism and give gluten-free a go to see whether it could offer an alternative to pill-popping. What followed was rather interesting.
The first thing that happened was that my dodgy guts cleared up. Like, overnight. The change was so rapid and so dramatic that I couldn't actually believe it. I immediately started to have more energy and became, as the Japanese say, genki narimasu.
The one big change I had made in my gluten-free experiment was to give up that staple of the British diet, white bread. I had been a 2-toast-a-day man for years, and I had carried this habit with me to Japan. Now, I had swapped toast for oatmeal and I was feeling a whole lot better for it. But then I noticed something a bit odd: most breakfast cereals contain wheat, the main source of gluten. So does beer. Even most oatmeal has some gluten in. Yet I found that I could drink beer and enjoy wheat-based cereals, without experiencing any side effects. So clearly, whatever was affecting me, it wasn't gluten.
But that was largely irrelevant at this point; I had discovered that if I just cut out processed white flour from my diet, all those nagging medical issues - including the under-powered thyroid - have literally just evaporated. I have thought no more about it. Until today.
The article I referred to at the top of this epic draws a correlation between the incidence of gastrointestinal complaints linked to gluten intolerance - and the increased use of a particular kind of herbicide called glyphosate. I'm no scientist, but the chart looks quite compelling.

It appears that farmers producing wheat for the major food processors are now routinely using glyphosate to artificially ripen crops before harvest. Inevitably, these chemicals remain in the finished products, such as white flour, bread etc. Could it be that the incidence of gluten-intolerance, and indeed my own personal experiences, could be related, not to gluten but to the chemical shit that the food industry giants are using on our food? I am not prone to conspiracy theories, but this really does have the ring of truth about it, and I am more convinced than ever of the need to steer away from processed crap and get back to proper home-produced food. And real beer ;-)

AddThis Social Bookmark Button