Search This Blog

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Hepatitis C, Gluten and the Folly of Agriculture

Gluten and Casein as Factors responsible for the Characteristic Diseases of Chronic Hepatitis C

Not everyone exposed to HCV develops a chronic infection. The rate of natural clearance is unknown, because most people are not aware they are infected until the condition becomes chronic. One known factor in chronic infection with viral hepatitis (A or B) is selenium deficiency in malnourished populations. Celiac disease, the most easily diagnosed form of gluten toxicity, is known to cause selenium deficiency in well-fed populations. Celiac also causes a general deficiency of many antioxidants, protein, and minerals and vitamins. There is a strong association between HCV and celiac disease in many populations tested. There is an even stronger association between interferon-alpha treatment and celiac disease. Interferon-alpha is the cytokine that triggers celiac disease naturally. Celiac disease is only the easiest to diagnose of the gluten sensitivity syndromes. It results in destruction of the intestinal cell vilii, damage which can be detected on biopsy. Even so celiac is seriously underdiagnosed. It is likely that anyone in New Zealand with the symptoms of celiac disease, who is HCV positive, will be told that their symptoms are due to hepatitis C. Testing for Celiac will happen slowly and most likely not at all, unless the patient insists, and testing for other forms of gluten sensitivity is unlikely.

Milder forms of gluten sensitivity might only disrupt those gut receptors responsible for functions such as immune regulation (especially endorphin receptors), mineral transport, or absorption of specific vitamins. Antibodies may form to the proline-rich gluten, gliadin and casein sequences released by peptide digestion which enter the bloodstream, which then attack the proline-rich collagenous tissues, promoting diseases such as liver fibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis. It so happens that the auto-immune symptoms associated with celiac and gluten sensitivity diseases, including liver and gall-bladder disease, and which usually resolve slowly on a strict gluten and dairy-free diet, are essentially identical to the various syndromes seen in chronic Hep C, especially during or after interferon-alpha treatment. Syndromes caused by gluten in celiac disease include: - fibrosis and cirrhosis of the liver - gall bladder obstruction - insulin resistance - thyroiditis - sicca syndrome (dry eyes and mouth) - vasculitis - brain fog (poor memory, confusion) - depression - fibromyalgia - fatigue - optic neuritis - deficiencies of selenium, magnesium, zinc, chromium - deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) - deficiency of those vitamins converted in the intestines (including folate, B6) - anaemia - thrombocytopenic purpurea (low platelets due to autoimmunity) - GI disturbance; diarrhea, steatorrhea These symptoms are aggravated by the nutrient deficiencies, especially antioxidant, magnesium, and chromium deficiencies, associated with gluten sensitivity. In fact, the symptoms of both Hep C and celiac disease are often partially, but significantly, relived by supplementation of these nutrients, especially when anti-inflammatory botanicals (curcumin, grape seed, ginkgo, milk thistle etc) are added.

 Other treatments effective against Hep C have obvious links to gluten sensitivity; for example, low dose naltrexone may exert its beneficial effects on cancer, autoimmune disease, and viral immunity by repairing damage done to endorphin receptors by gluten and casein digests. Similarly, enzyme therapy for cancers may work by promoting the complete digestion of gluten and casein exorphins, and the ketogenic diet for cancer may work by eliminating grains and lowering insulin levels (and hence inflammation), rather than merely by depriving cancer cells of glucose. Exorphins are chemicals found in protein digests (the peptides produced by pepsin digestion of food proteins) which have an affinity for endorphin receptors. Endorphins are the messengers of emotion, and gluten sensitivity is very often found in schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, Aspergers, and the various mood disorders. However, the endorphin system also regulates the immune system, and defects of endorphins and endorphin receptors are associated with cancers and autoimmune disease, as well as AIDS. Endorphins also regulate gut motility; the well-known constipating effect of cheese is an opioid effect. Even people who have no gluten antibodies and no leaky gut (which allows gluten digests to enter the bloodstream in especially large doses) are influenced by the opioid effect of exorphins at the local, gut level.

Diagnosing non-celiac gluten and casein sensitivity without exclusion diets is difficult, if not impossible. Commonly in New Zealand a scratch test for gluten is the doctor’s first choice. This is worse than useless, because we are not talking about an allergy to gluten at all (though these do exist). When gluten, milk and maize are digested in the stomach (by pepsin and hydrochloric acid) a variety of peptides are released. The exact combination of peptides that might appear in the gut varies with the individual, the state of his digestion, and the strain of wheat, milk or maize consumed. Gliadomorphin is a characteristic wheat exorphin; beta-casomorphin-7 is thought to be the most toxic milk exorphin; and the maize exorphins have not yet been identified. Autoimmune reaction to antigenic peptides is not the only way in which exorphins can harm us, so the current insistence on immunological testing seems limited. Also, current tests do not include antibodies to every possible peptide digest of gluten; this would probably be impossible. Further, in many cases symptoms may be due not to gluten but to agglutinating lectins found in the germ, or to phytates withholding nutrients (minerals and vitamin D), or to some synergy of all 3 components.

 Luckily, no-one needs to eat grains. Our ancestors got along in better health without them for millions of years. Grain consumption is a comparatively recent phenomenon in human history; very recent indeed in some cases; in Northern Europe and in colonized Oceania it is a habit of mere centuries, if that. In parts of the world where grain-eating goes back longest, for example the eastern Mediterranean, there is a higher rate of adaptation. This does not mean that individuals adapted to grains; individuals died young or became sterile if they lacked the more grain-adapted genes, in order that the race might adapt. But this still does not rule out the diseases of later life. Study of remains of grain-dependent societies, such as Rome and ancient Egypt, show that so-called “modern” diseases such as arthritis and cancer were prolific there. It is trendy to think that such disease results from technology; radiation, pesticides, food processing; and that it can be prevented with an organic vegetarian diet. The sad truth is that in most cases wheat and milk - even organic wheat and milk – products of the older agricultural revolution – are doing more harm than those traces of the modern industrial revolution that we cannot avoid. If our immune systems and our detox enzymes cannot cope with some new agricultural chemical, the most likely reason is the disruption they have received from the old agricultural chemicals – gluten and casein.

It was also agriculture, not food processing, that first placed man in a guilty relationship with his food. Pre-agricultural man killed to eat and took from the forest, and had rituals that made peace with the animals and the plants. He took from these bounteous gods, not from captive creatures. Agricultural man kills for money, pays others to kill for him, and burns down the forest to plant his cash crops. If this was original sin, then the wages of sin have indeed been death.

 It is customary to blame lead piping for the decline of Rome. The Roman people were highly wheat-addicted; they would riot for bread; “Bread and Circuses” was the formula for keeping them happy; they were so addicted that the state found it more convenient to supply bread for free (like a methadone clinic for the opiate of the people). Today the state oversees the addition of gluten, milk and maize to an ever-widening range of foods, so that a mere bread shortage is not likely to cause withdrawals. This is probably not intentional; addicts tend to assume that everyone wants to share their habit. In the case of Rome, wheat and lead may have had a synergistic toxicity. Both lead poisoning and wheat consumption tend to reduce iron and zinc absorption. This is why celiac children are often of short stature. The Romans would have become increasingly incapable of sensible planning and come to lack the stern old Roman self-control. We know that a decreasing birthrate of “true born” Romans eventually led to the conscription of barbarian armies and the opening up of Roman citizenship. Today gluten, and the antioxidant deficiency it causes, is a major cause of infertility.

 Research has been done into the links between gluten sensitivity and Hep C, showing a strong association (especially after interferon therapy). There is also a strong association between Hep C and lymphoma (a cancer of the lymph glands). Lymphoma is the characteristic cancer caused by gluten; celiacs have a 30x elevated risk of lymphoma. To date no-one seems to have tested a strict gluten- and dairy-free diet for chronic Hep C or post-interferon toxicity, but a great many people with Hep C who take their health seriously have gone gluten free, often without knowing of the links between the two conditions, but motivated by their own well-being when avoiding gluten.

There is no nutritional need that can only be met by grains; nuts and seeds, for example, supply the same amino acids, fats and vitamins in greater concentration (for example, sunflower and sesame seeds are superior sources of methionine and vitamin E), while legumes are rich in complex carbohydrates. Gluten is also a cause of insulin resistance, and everyone who develops liver fibrosis has some degree of insulin resistance. Gluten itself causes a four-fold rise in insulin levels (unusual for a protein). The cure for insulin resistance is two-fold; a high-protein, low-carb diet (the Paleolithic diet is the most natural version of this diet) and replacement of the nutrients depleted by gluten which are essential for the function of insulin receptors; chromium, magnesium and the antioxidant minerals and vitamins. Gluten also seems to cause amino acid deficiencies, including some of the very amino acids which wheat is supposed to supply, methionine and cysteine. Gluten is very much an anti-nutrient once one is sensitive to it.

 Recommended reading:
 On gluten: Dangerous Grains by James Braly M.D. and Ron Hoggan M.A.
 On milk, exorphins, and beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM7): The Devil in the Milk by Keith Woodford
On endorphin receptors and AIDS: Molecules of Emotion by Candace B. Pert
Ron Hoggan’s gluten research
A readable introduction to gluten diseases (especially chapter 3) which discusses many syndromes also seen in Hep C
Man the Hunter: An Essay on the Paleolithic Diet by Drs Mike and Mary Eades, (Highly recommended, as are all the Eade’s writings, and their Protein Power Blog).

from: Gluten is a Dangerous Luxury of Non-Celiacs We hear all the time about pollution in the industrial world being the source for modern man's high incidence of cancer. It is the chemical additives, we are told, in the food we eat, that causes much of the problem. Perhaps. I would like to suggest that the evidence from antiquity, the pattern of the spread of agriculture in Europe coinciding with the patterns of civilizatory illnesses, the levels of SBHG associated with wheat consumption, the high incidence of gliadin antibodies among those with neurological illnesses of unknown origin, the sensitivity to gluten among siblings of celiacs in spite of the absence of genetic indicators associated with celiac disease, and my own investigation of the literature regarding lymphoma, all point to the strong possibility that gluten is a dangerous substance to many more people than just celiacs. - Ron Hoggan, 1997

 To which I might add: the parallel associations between gluten sensitivity and the various syndromes traditionally attributed to HCV infection all point to the even stronger possibility that gluten is a very dangerous luxury for people with hepatitis C.


Serdna said...

Impressive information! I lost my mother to a lymphoma when she was 62 years old and it is the first time I read about a possible link to wheat. I hope that vitamin D exerts some protection on my daughters (10 and 7), because it is impossible for me to convince my ex-wife about anything.

I was looking for an appropriate post to include a link to Dr. Dach's post about hepatitis C, autoimmunity and gluten, just in case it happens to contain something new for you.

Best regards!


George Henderson said...

Thanks for the link Andres; looks like there's lots of useful stuff there. I'm pretty sure there is an actual HCV virus, but also that it can be benign, is often made worse by treatment, and is very often the scapegoat for other issues. The immune response to HCV infection (or to interferon) creates the autoimmunity.