“It was my 30th birthday and I was rushed to the same hospital where I was born.”
My close friend, Mark, recalls the ordeal vividly as we sit on the couch sharing a glass of organic red wine.
“My dietary debacles had reached a pinnacle. I was brought to the hospital as my life was at risk. Following an endoscopy at the request of my gastroenterologist, the diagnosis was Celiac, an autoimmune disorder.”
Celiac Disease and Gluten
The small intestine is lined with villi, tiny, finger-like projections made up of cells that line the entire length of your small intestine. Your villi absorb nutrients from the food you eat and then shuttle those nutrients into your bloodstream so they can travel where they’re needed. When a person with an allergy consumes gluten (which is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye), it can flatten the villi and damage the small intestine’s lining which can result in malabsorption of the digestive tract.
The Severity of Gluten Allergies is Real
Gluten allergies for those diagnosed with Celiac Disease are a serious health issue. Some people roll their eyes and think it is a new-age invention but it’s quite real and its effects can be traumatic and even deadly. This intolerance can lead to other disorders including reduced bone density, some cancers, neurological disorders, iron deficiency, infertility and other autoimmune diseases.
All it takes is one, slight exposure to gluten for someone with this allergy to feel the effects. If someone uses a spoon with a gluten-containing substance and cross contaminates it with another food product, someone like Mark will immediately feel the effects. It’s that serious.
In fact, Mark’s allergy to gluten is so severe that it can make going out to dinner challenging. A lot of trust is put in the server and the establishment itself. We went out for dinner to celebrate my birthday last summer. We explained Mark’s allergy to the server and was promised a gluten-free entrée—it was not. By the next morning, Mark was covered head to toe in hives.
Mark, whom I’ve known for almost 20 years, says he was diagnosed in 2007. It was nearly a decade before the public awareness of the detrimental effects of gluten came to light. “Let’s put it this way, no restaurants offered a gluten-free menu,” he says. But his doctors insisted on a gluten-free diet. Though extremely restrictive, Mark says,
“I was determined to feel better and so I stuck to my new meal plan religiously.”
Amazingly, the diet came with extraordinary benefits…
“Pounds melted away as energy and health came back. My sickly and overweight appearance (I had always eaten healthy and exercised) vanished almost overnight. I aged in reverse and felt fantastic. Not to mention my immune system healed incredibly well. Even seasonal allergies abated.”
Although Mark began to feel great, this was short lived. The positive effects from the diet only lasted for a decade before the psoriasis and eczema returned. Years of steroid creams and topical solutions did nothing to solve the original problem.
Mediated Release Test
After meeting with a nutritionist, she suggested the Mediator Release Test, or MRT. A MRT is a blood test that assesses a person’s response to many different foods. At the time Mark was learning about the test, it was nearly $300 out of pocket and not covered by insurance.
“It was expensive but my options were limited, so I took the test.”
To Mark’s surprise, his own blood cells had begun attacking themselves causing incredible amounts of inflammation over the most common and innocuous foods: chicken, ginger, black pepper, and soy, to name a few. These were items that had taken over his diet in his struggle to avoid gluten years before. These foods were Mark’s triggers and everyone’s will be different.
“A mere week after I avoided a handful of these foods, my psoriasis and inflammation were history.”
I met Mark for sushi at a great restaurant in Providence, RI shortly after he got the results back from the MRT. He took a card out of his wallet and handed it to me. There were three sections listed with food items highlighted in red, yellow, and green. Mark explained that the red section included foods he should never eat because they will cause a major allergic reaction. The yellow section are foods he can consume in moderation and the green are foods he can eat without issue. This test has been a lifesaver for Mark.
“The moral of the story is you truly are what you eat. Don’t be so quick to medicate, conceal, or live with the problem. Find the source and stop it in its tracks.”