Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)

Non coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is estimated to affect six percent of the population. That’s six people in every hundred while coeliac disease is estimated to affect just one person in a hundred. Like coeliac, NCGS is vastly under diagnosed. Most people don’t know that they have a problem.

So how can you tell if you have a problem?

NCGS refers to those people who feel better when they stop eating gluten but tests show that they do not have the intestinal damage typified by coeliac and they are not allergic to wheat either.

If you have NCGS then you have probably been in low health for some time. The presence of the syndrome wasn’t identified until the late eighties and it is only in the last five years that it has started to be taken seriously. Dr Umberto Volta from the University of Bologna in Italy who developed the test for antibodies to the gliadin protein has been pioneering research and has discovered a number of facts about NCGS.

People with NCGS complain about brain fog. Gluten seems to affect our brain rather than our intestines. Remove the gluten and say hello to your brain. Finally you can concentrate and think clearly. To me it seems as though I have spent years shouting at my brain which was at the other end of a long cluttered corridor, wrapped up in cotton wool, wearing headphones and listening to loud music. In fact, it is only getting back in connection with my brain that I realise how bad it has been for decades.

No brain fog here!

No brain fog here!

If you have IBS then you are more likely to have NCGS. While six percent of the general population is estimated to have NCGS, thirty percent of IBS suffers do.

Dr Volta is finding that people tend to be presenting with NCGS in their mid forties which he has tentatively suggested might be to do with the body giving up the fight against gluten at that stage in life. I would like to respectfully suggest though that what is actually happening is a combination of two things.

First, Dr Volta is only just pioneering a move to take this seriously. People in their mid forties with NCGS will have been complaining for years with no one to take them seriously.

Second, people regard the symptoms as being separate entities. Brain fog becomes a way of life. Skin conditions can be treated. Diarrhea is down to your healthy high fibre diet. Polycystic ovary syndrome, well you can take drugs and undergo embarrassing tests and fingers crossed you can have children. It is only when something becomes unbearable that you start to seek answers and that may not be until you are in your forties.

One problem with NCGS is that many people with the syndrome react to more than just gluten. Wheat contains many thousands of proteins. Other foods contain very similar or identical proteins and your immune system starts to react to these as well. For this reason you are advised to go on an elimination diet for four weeks before reintroducing foods and challenging your immune system.

Dr Volta was interviewed by Dr Tom O’Bryan as part of The Gluten Summit which ran from the 11th to 18th November. For more details see this post.

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The Gluten Summit – a busy week

Monday the 11th November saw the start of The Gluten Summit, an eight day extravaganza of 29 interviews with the World’s leading experts on gluten and Grain Brain by Doctor David Perlmutter dropped on my door mat.

What to do first?

I’m sure you will understand when I say that it was a busy week! Working full time and listening to four interviews a day called for dedication. Tuesday and Wednesday, eight of the interviews were rereleased for an encore so Grain Brain had to be put on hold until Thursday! Yes, it has been a memorable, information filled, exciting week. Many thanks to Dr Tom O’Bryan for such a detailed event. It has changed my life and I suspect that it has changed many others. There is a link to the introductory page here where, if you scroll down, you can see the list of speakers and outline information about their talks. Transcripts of the talks along with copies of the interviews were made available as a complete package to buy and my Dear Husband (DH) has bought it for me as a Christmas present.

Normally I am pretty good about waiting for Christmas presents but I have already pestered DH to release one of the transcripts.

On Monday the 18th one of the interviews was with Dr Umberto Volta. Dr Volta has been researching Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) for the past 5 years and I intend to devote my next blog post to the material covered in Dr O’Bryan’s interview with Dr Volta. Listening to him talking, everything fell into place. NCGS is what has been plaguing me, it now has a name and I have a strategy for dealing with it. Reading the comments being posted, several other people were having light bulb moments at the same time. One commentator even suggested that NCGS was too tame a name for something which causes so much angst and that it should be renamed Volta’s Disease in recognition of Dr Volta’s work.

So last week I put some of the advice gleaned from The Gluten Summit into practice; cutting out sugar and eggs for four weeks which will effectively leave me with an elimination diet, and I feel great. Previously I have always felt that I hadn’t quite got to the bottom of my problems. I felt better but the nosebleeds and other symptoms continued although not as bad as they were when I was eating gluten and dairy. The brain fog has completely gone and it feels as though my brain has come back. It is no longer at the other end of a long corridor, wrapped in cotton wool with headphones on listening to loud music. My brain is back in my head and it seems to be working properly.

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Vitamin K Deficiency and Bleeding Gums/Nose

Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin which was first named in Germany- Koagulation vitamin – because of its role in the clotting of blood.

It was first identified in 1929 by a Danish Scientist, Henrik Dam, who was experimenting with feeding hens a diet deficient in cholesterol. The hens began to haemorrhage so he added cholesterol back into their diet. This did not stop the bleeding and he realised that something else was missing from their food. This something was vitamin K1, phylloquinone and is found in leafy green vegetables, peas, beans and most other greens. Vitamin K1 is stored in the liver.



Four other types of vitamin K have since been identified; vitamins K2, K3, K4 and K5. Ks 3,4 and 5 are all synthetic and vitamin K3, menadione,is used as a supplement in human diets but is toxic in excess.

Vitamin K2, menaquinone, is synthesised from K1 in the gut by bacteria. It is then stored in blood vessel walls, bones and other tissues but not in the liver. K2 is responsible for building good bone density and green vegetables are more important in preventing osteoporosis than dairy products because the calcium in these foods are not particularly well absorbed by the body.

Vitamin K in both forms is better absorbed if you eat it with fat because it is fat soluble. A spot of olive oil on your greens is good for you.

It is unusual for someone to be deficient in the K vitamins but it is more common if you have a digestive disorder which prevents you absorbing nutrients from your food properly. People with coeliac disease are more likely to be deficient which leads to problems in blood clotting. The signs of vitamin K deficiency include bleeding gums, unexplained nosebleeds, easy bruising and heavy periods.

Newborn babies are also liable to vitamin K deficiency. This is because the vitamin does not cross the placenta and the baby does not have the necessary bacteria in its gut to start synthesising its own.

An interesting vitamin K fact is that for thirty years after it’s discovery, the only way we had to work out how much vitamin K a food stuff contained was to feed it to deficient hens and see how much was needed to stop the bleeding.

The Wikipedia entry for vitamin K is comprehensive and can be found here.

Dr Mercola has a useful 10 important facts summary here.

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Adrenal Fatigue and Stress

Adrenal fatigue is the term given to a condition which is largely unrecognised by the medical profession; where part of the adrenal glands stop working properly. While it is unrecognised by doctors, alternative practitioners see adrenal fatigue as something which will affect everyone at some point in their lifetime and may affect up to two thirds of the population at any one time. If this is the case then adrenal fatigue is something which deserves attention as solving this could make a lot of people feel a lot better than they do currently.

The name adrenal fatigue gives a lot away. Adrenalin is involved and if you have a stressful life and are feeling low and tired, wondering where your get up and go got up and went to; you may be one of the two thirds of the population with adrenal fatigue.

The adrenal glands are two triangular shaped glands found at the top of the kidneys. They can be divided into two parts – inner and outer. The outer part is called the adrenal cortex and is responsible for producing hormones that help regulate metabolism and body composition. If this part were to stop working it would have life threatening implications and fortunately this not the part implicated in adrenal fatigue.image

The part of the glands which becomes worn out is the inner part, called the adrenal medulla  which secretes the hormones adrenalin and noradrenalin. Both of these hormones help us survive in stressful events being released as part of the “flight or fight” response.

The “flight or fight” response is a primitive survival mechanism which is instinctive within animals. If we sense danger adrenalin is released which primes us to either fight or run away. Immediately the response is activated, a number of changes occur in the body. While the changes happen instantaneously, it takes a long time for the body to return to its normal, relaxed state. This is fine if you only have to respond to one sabre tooth tiger in the wild (because you are a caveman); not so fine if you are battling paper tigers all around you: in the office, at home, commuting to work… (because you are civilised). In modern life we are responding to stressful situations all the time and rarely have the opportunity to recover properly from each event. Our bodies become habituated to the stress hormones flooding the system and we start to become ill.

Too much!

Too much!

The table below gives some of the physiological changes induced by the release of adrenalin and what happens when we do not get a chance to recover from the effects of stress.

Adrenalin and physiological changes
Reaction Survival Long term response
heart rate increases blood is pumped faster around the body leads to high blood pressure
breathing is faster more oxygen in body diaphragm muscles tire chest pains
digestion stops energy goes to large muscles stomach ulcers
blood leaves head hands and feet blood directed away from vulnerable extremities migraines and cold hands and feet
blood coagulates more quickly minimise blood loss if injured blood clots and strokes
extra sugars along with insulin released into bloodstream provides more energy low blood sugar induced tiredness
stress messages sent to muscles prepares muscles for action fatigue sets in

After a prolonged period of reacting to stress the adrenal glands become tired and stop producing enough hormones. This results in a worn out fatigued state which is very similar, if not identical to that produced by stress burnout.

The solutions include a balanced low carb high fat diet, establishing a regular sleep cycle and stress reduction techniques, giving the adrenal glands an opportunity to recover from fatigue.

The solution

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A Grain Free Lunch

Colin contacted me recently as he was having trouble packing a grain free lunch for work.

I used to find lunches difficult too

Colin had been diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome (see my post on leaky gut here) and knew that grain based foods were not agreeing with him however sandwiches are convenient in the middle of the day and the alternatives he had explored did not work for him.

Colin was toying with the idea of salads but was unsure of the best way to organise this to avoid being stuck in a boring rut.

Salads don’t have to be boring

When I first started preparing grain free lunches, it was salads all the way.  A colleague once commented on how much I liked my salads.  It was hard to agree because I was eating the same thing every day.

You don’t have to be stuck with boring salads though and this is how I keep lunches interesting.


Salads are still my go to lunch of choice but with a little planning you can prepare interesting and different salads everyday.

Starting a Salad

Starting a Salad

I start with lettuce and tear a few leaves into the bottom of the container before adding chopped other vegetables. In this case; pepper, cucumber and tomato. You have a very wide choice though: consider, spring onions, olives, grated carrot and beet root, radishes, fennel, herbs and anything else you find in the salad drawer. Sauerkraut is recommended as being very good for you as are other fermented, pickled vegetables. Once your basic salad is constructed, drizzle with a little dressing – olive oil and balsamic vinegar is a good choice – and top with protein of your choice.

The finished salad

The finished salad

The protein can be different everyday. Ham, tuna, chicken, mackerel, herrings, beef, egg are just some examples.

Alternatives to salad

One easy alternative is to cook a bit extra for your evening meal and to set it aside to take to work later in the week. I store lunches like this in takeaway containers in the freezer and call them “ready meals”.

Having a meal which requires a knife and fork is not always the best thing. My 15 year old son patiently explained that when he is playing football at lunch time, cutlery and a napkin single him out as different. Please could he have finger-food.


Chicken drumsticks, ham sandwiches with cucumber slices instead of bread, flapjacks, grain free cakes, muffins and biscuits, fruit or vegetable pieces, nuts are just some of the ideas you could try. Here is a picture of the food my children get in their lunch boxes.image The muffin type thing which has been cut in half is chopped, sautéed vegetables and bacon placed in a muffin case and beaten egg poured over. I make a batch of these at the weekends. Also shown are grapes, granola bar and courgette surprise brownie.

If you can find a Bento type box with different compartments this helps to keep things separate and encourages you to pack a variety of foods.

Colin, I hope that this has given you some ideas. Leaky gut can be overcome. There is lots of help available from Steve and Jordan on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet Lifestyle website here. In the meantime, while you may not get a free lunch, a grain free lunch is perfectly doable.

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