Psoriasis and Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition similar to eczema where there are reddened, inflamed patches of skin, capped with white dead skin which is in the process of sloughing off.

The skin cells are in the process of dividing far more quickly than normal skin does which is why you can often tell where someone with psoriasis has been. They leave a tell-tale scattering of dead skin (like really bad dandruff) on the floor which is particularly noticeable in bedrooms.

Psoriasis is often found close to the bones.  In this case on the scalp.

Psoriasis is often found close to the bones. In this case on the scalp.

The photo above shows a patch of psoriasis with a cap of skin cells on the right hand side. It is lumpy in appearance. The very red area over on the left hand side shows the inflammation visible once the cap has fallen off.

A number of people with psoriasis also suffer from psoriatic arthritis where the inflammation is internal around the joints.

What causes psoriasis?

Until recently no one really knew why some people developed psoriasis and others didn’t although there are plenty of theories. There does seem to be a genetic component to it though, which there isn’t with eczema. Eczema seems to be a response to environmental triggers, psoriasis is not. Psoriasis is exacerbated by stress and it does seem to respond to diet. It is also definitely linked to NCGS and may be caused by leaky gut in the same way as other inflammatory responses in the body. One other thing is clear and that is that once you have developed psoriasis, you will always have it to one degree or another however there is now growing evidence that it responds to removal of gluten from the diet.

An antipsoriatic diet

There are four main food groups implicated in aggravating this skin condition: gluten containing, dairy, legumes and FODMAPs.

Gluten and wheat contribute to the formation of leaky gut (explained here) which triggers an inflammatory response in the body. The inflammation can manifest in many ways with skin conditions being just one.

Because wheat contains over 23,000 proteins, once you become sensitive to it you also run the risk of developing sensitivities to other food stuffs which contain identical or very similar proteins. It is very common for someone who is sensitive to wheat to also be sensitive to dairy; slightly less common for legumes to pose a problem but not unusual.

FODMAPs are carbohydrates rather than proteins so they seem to be an strange addition to the ‘please avoid’ list. FODMAP is shorthand for ‘Fermentable, Oglio-, Di-, Monosaccharides And Polyol’ all of which are short chain carbohydrates, poorly absorbed in the gut.

Again, the diet recommended for psoriasis is very similar to that recommended for NCGS where the above triggers are identified and eliminated.

So if your brain fog has lifted, your mood and energy lifted but psoriasis is still a problem, it may just be that there is something more you are reacting to.

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Low Fat Diets

Low Fat Diets has been a really difficult post to write. I actually started it at the beginning of December but because there is so much contradictory information out there,it is only now being released into the ether. There seems to be as many different views as there are experts out there so this is only the first of what many be several posts.

I started thinking about fats when I realised that cutting grains out of the diet means that you have to up your fat intake in order to get enough calories.

Eek, but fat’s disgusting, I thought. I’ll drop dead of a heart attack! What’s worse – a heart attack or being ill?

Butter - eek!

Butter – eek!

So I started researching and found plenty of people saying that we have been mislead about this whole fat thing. That fat is an essential part of our diet; even saturated fat is good for us.

2014 arrived and the usual wave of weight loss adverts and informative programmes on the TV.  Gym membership booms in January before starting to tail off in February as we all try to lose the festive pounds.

Predictably, a lot of the diets are based on fat reduction. More skinless chicken breast and zero fat yoghurt anyone?

From all research I have done recently, it seems as though cutting fat out of your diet is really not a good idea. We need fat to fuel our body, repair and replace cells.

We used to eat a high fat diet.  Dripping, scrape, lard and suet were all prized ingredients until the low fat craze kicked off in the 1980’s – how did that happen?

Well the low fat hypothesis seems to have its roots a good 150 years ago with a Russian scientist who discovered plaques on coronary arteries but our current preoccupation is more recent. In the 1950’s a scientist named Ancel Keys published a study which showed a correlation between the dietary fat intake and deaths from heart disease in seven countries.  The correlation was positive and strong, leading Keys to argue that a high fat intake caused heart disease.

Keys had cherry picked his data from figures supplied by 22 countries which viewed as a whole suggested a much weaker positive correlation.

Even though he had used the best data he had to argue that fat intake caused heart disease, his work was not immediately accepted by the scientific community.

His work did not gain much recognition until 1961 when he was featured on the front of Time magazine.

This coverage raised his profile and from that point on, the American Heart Association began to recommend a low fat, high carbohydrate diet.

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Despite this, it was not until 1984 when Time magazine published an article laying out the evidence for a relationship between cholesterol intake and heart disease that the low fat hypothesis was fully accepted. The cover of that magazine can be seen here.

What was not so widely reported but was known about at the time, was that is is oxidised cholesterol which is positively correlated with heart disease. Provided the blood cholesterol does not become oxidised, the association between blood cholesterol levels and heart just does not exist.

What causes cholesterol to oxidise? Well it seems as though corn oil and trans fats are probably culprits. There are also suggestions out there in the internet that sugars could play a part. Sugars have also been fingered in obesity because excess glucose in the bloodstream is swiftly removed by insulin and shuttled off to fat cells for safe storage.

As I said at the start though the picture is very confusing. Plenty of sources claim that eating cholesterol and other fats has little impact on blood cholesterol levels. Other sources suggest that the body makes the cholesterol that it needs for body maintenance and repair from the food you eat. If you need more then your body makes more. If you don’t need it then the body excretes it. Confused? Yup!

There are suggestions that the body may make more cholesterol in response to damage in the body and that blaming cholesterol for heart disease is like blaming crime on high police numbers in a rough neighbourhood (or hair dye for grey hair).

The more I read, the less convinced I become that a low fat diet is a good thing. We seem to need fat to make cholesterol to repair and maintain every cell in our bodies. Poor quality fat is not used to make cholesterol unless there is no other fat available. Possibly this accounts for the link between seed oils and oxidised cholesterol? I have yet to track the evidence down for this so don’t quote me!

What is clear is that conventional wisdom believes strongly that a low fat diet is highly desirable and that this belief can be traced back to Ancel Keys and his work that, had he not featured on the front cover of a widely read magazine, might by now be forgotten.

And then – Dear Folks – just to prove that it never rains but it pours, Twitter threw up a Daily Mail article today this all about how we have got it wrong about fat. It must be a sign!

Yummy fats.

Yummy fats.

 

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My Review of 2013

Another year has slipped away and as usual, it seems to have raced by but a lot has happened to me this year and I want to mark the end of 2013 by releasing it into the internet.

The story of 2013 really started in August 2012 with the London Olympics. We were back in Somerset after spending a week in London with some great memories, the Paralympics had started and the BBC scheduled a programme about Intermittent Fasting (IF) against coverage of the sport.

While the rest of the family were glued to Paralympics coverage, I snuck off to watch the IF. It suggested that you could heal youself, improve your energy levels, feel younger and lose weight so without telling anyone, I jumped in and embraced IF. I don’t know if I felt better as a result but I did start following a thread about IF on the Money Saving Expert forum which eventually lead me to Marks Daily Apple and the Wheat Belly Blog.

By the start of 2013 I had stopped IF after reading articles suggesting that IF was not particularly beneficial to women. I was beginning to realise that wheat was linked to a number of the problems I had had over the years and was beginning to cut back on bread and pasta, previous staples in the household diet.

Come Easter 2013, just before going back to work after the holidays, I treated myself to a savoury tea in a local tea shoppe. It was delicious, a huge hunk of cheese, pickle, tomato and a huge cheese scone all washed down with a pot of tea.

About an hour later I had a nosebleed, the first in a few days. Now I’ve seen this likened to a teenager’s bedroom. There is mess all over the place; clothes on the floor, dirty crockery, books, papers, makeup. Drop a couple of empty crisp packets in the room and you’ll never notice them. If you drop the same empty crisp packets in a tidy room though, they will stand out, calling to be picked up. It was like that with the nosebleed. I had tidied up by not eating wheat for a few days and now the crisp packets were pointing directly at the savoury tea and in particular at the cheese scone.

Wheat was therefore the first foodstuff to be eliminated. This wasn’t easy because wheat is in so much we eat. While I felt a lot better, not all my symptoms disappeared.

There is a lot more research published into coeliac disease and gluten and I started reading this although it did not seem that coeliac disease was my problem. Then one day in early summer I made a jelly for the evening meal. This was an instant jelly, set with cornflour that had been left over from a packet trifle mix and it set off a humongous nosebleed. This made no sense at all because there was no gluten in the jelly.

Further research later and I came across Peter Osbourne’s work and the idea that Prolamins in other grains could cause problems with gliadin in wheat being the worst offender. From the same source came the idea that coeliac disease is just one manifestation of the illnesses caused by Prolamins.

Armed with this information I visited the doctor expecting a fight because over the years doctors had not been overly sympathetic to my grumbles. However this time the doctor was in complete agreement; yes wheat could well be the problem, no it didn’t sound like coeliacs and actually there was no medical way of confirming my self diagnosis. He did suggest that I keep a food diary to help find out what was triggering the nosebleeds.

The food diary was really useful, helping to pin down more proteins. Going Against the Grain was also started at this time.

In the run up to Christmas I have not had time to post but there are a lot of posts lining up in my head for the New Year. I am feeling great.

Happy New Year and here’s to a health 2014 for us all!image

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Brain Fog and Dementia

Tomorrow (11th December 2013) sees the start of the G8 Dementia Summit in London.

This has triggered a number of items on the BBC news and newspaper articles, raising awareness of the growing problem of dementia in the Western world as life expectancy increases.

Currently there are about 44 million people suffering from dementia worldwide and this is set to treble by 2050 as medical knowledge of the illness lags behind medicine’s ability to keep us alive (link).

One of the early signs of the onset of dementia is brain fog and this set me wondering if there is a link between brain fog and dementia because brain fog is one of the most common symptoms associated with Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity.

There is a lot of information about brain fog on the internet and this is one of the most comprehensive.

There does not seem to be any connection identified at present between brain fog and dementia. Indeed, where the question is addressed, it seems to be pretty clear that brain fog and dementia are two completely separate issues.

Currently there is no recognised test for brain fog. Diagnosis is based on symptoms along and it seems that there are a lot of possible causes for brain fog including gluten and dairy.

Dementia, on the other hand, can be linked to one of a range of identifiable neurological disorders. Alzheimer’s being the best known.

The good news is that coconut oil is starting to be seen as an answer to both brain fog and dementia. This article recommends two dessert spoonsful a day along with lecithin and hemp oil. There are plenty of examples available via Google of miracle cures effected by coconut oil. Here is just one example.

So if you want to clear your brain fog or are concerned that you may be heading downhill mentally; coconut oil will do you no harm and may well do a lot of good.

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Gluten in Cleaning Products and Cosmetics

Should we be worried about gluten in products we use everyday as well as the gluten in food? After all gluten is widely used in lipsticks and lip balms as a binder to hold the other ingredients together. It is also used in other products – holding flavouring ingredients together in toothpaste is a case in point.Make up

Some people say yes while others say no and both sides of the argument seem pretty reasonable and persuasive so who should we believe?

Let’s start with the no arguments.

Gluten cannot be absorbed into the intestine through the skin so coeliacs should be ok. Gluten cannot be absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin either. To finish the argument, many products do not contain gluten. Most major toothpaste brands for example are gluten free although they may not claim themselves as such in case the manufacturers of the ingredients change their recipes.

So, as long as you select gluten free lipstick and lip balm, make sure that your toothpaste really is gluten free then you should be ok, yes?

Well not so fast. Coeliac disease and gluten intolerance or Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity are frequently linked to skin conditions where the skin becomes broken or inflamed. If you suffer from psoriasis or an eczema related problem you should avoid applying products containing gluten to these areas.

There are also concerns suggested by some that we could be making ourselves ill by ingesting airborne gluten from the products we are rubbing on our skin. If you are reacting to gluten in such minute quantities then you must be very sensitive but while it seems unlikely we are in uncharted waters and just don’t know if it is a problem or not.

There is also the possibility that you may be reacting to something other than gluten in the products that you are using. While a lot of products are gluten free, hydrolysed wheat protein is widely used in cosmetics, soaps, lotions, conditioners and much more. See the Poor & Gluten Free Blog Spot here for lots more information.

Hydrolysed wheat protein is manufactured from gluten by a kind of chemical digestion process. The gluten is boiled in sulfuric acid for several hours before lye (sodium hydroxide) is added to neutralise the mixture.

In this process the gluten is converted into glutamin and glutamate which are not gluten but can still trigger zonulin production which leads to leaky gut problems – see post here.

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