Is Gluten Harmful to Those with Hepatitis C?
Gluten-free foods have been increasing in popularity – fueled by diagnoses of Celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the body reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, triticale and sometimes oats. Celiac disease is estimated to affect at least 5 percent of the population, but gluten sensitivity – or intolerance – is much more common, impacting up to 18 million people in the U.S. Although few physicians have yet to make the connection, a liver battling the Hepatitis C virus might be excessively burdened by gluten consumption.
Gluten is a large, hard to digest molecule that gives many foods a fluffy, stretchy quality. In addition to causing an immune reaction in the gut of those susceptible, experts believe the rise in gluten sensitivities has to do with the genetic modification of many crops. Setting a prime example of genetic modification, the seeds of wheat and other crops have been genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate – the key ingredient in RoundUp® weed killer. Because it increases crop yield by reducing natural threats in agriculture such as disease, pests and weeds, genetically modified food is big business.
According to research published in a December 2013 edition of the journal Interdisciplinary Toxicology, researchers examined the impact of glyphosate on human health. Glyphosate kills weeds by starving them of certain amino acids and by weakening their natural immunity. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration still considers glyphosate to be safe for humans, the researchers found that glyphosate is the most important factor in the rise of gluten intolerance. They proposed that glyphosate causes humans’ gut bacteria to create toxic substances that are normally deactivated by a healthy liver. As such, Hepatitis C would make people more susceptible to the toxicity created by glyphosate.
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
The symptoms of gluten intolerance resemble many other digestive health problems associated with foods, especially when people eat crops genetically engineered to resist weed killers. Although not an exhaustive list, some of the more common symptoms associated with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance are:
- Abdominal cramps, gas, flatulence and bloating
- Bone and joint pain
- Depression and irritability
- Diarrhea, foul-smelling stool, increased amount of fat in stool
- Easy bruising
- Fluid retention
- Gastritis and other gastrointestinal symptoms
- General weakness and fatigue
- Persistent hunger, malnutrition and nutrient deficiency
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Muscle weakness and muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Skin rashes
- Dizziness, headaches and vertigo
Whether coincidence or not, many of these symptoms coincide with signs of chronic Hepatitis C.
What Is Leaky Gut?
In Celiac disease, gluten causes an immune reaction that leads to inflammation and destruction of the inner lining of the small intestine. In those with gluten intolerance or sensitivity, gluten leads to inflammation in the digestive system. This chronic digestive inflammation damages the gut’s walls and inhibits the absorption of vital nutrients.
The inability to properly digest and process gluten that creates a chronic state of inflammation leads to a ‘leaky gut’ – a syndrome where toxins and other pathogens seep through the digestive system’s barriers and enter the bloodstream. These unwelcome toxins in the blood place a hefty burden on the liver. For a liver already working overtime to battle the Hepatitis C virus, additional toxins from a leaky gut can overload the liver and increase the rate of liver damage.
3 Steps to Avoid Damage from Gluten
Regardless if digestive harm is caused by the gluten molecule itself or from it being genetically modified, these three steps can help protect a liver with Hepatitis C from glutinous harm:
- Avoid Gluten – The first and most effective strategy is to completely eliminate gluten (and genetically modified food) from your diet. Unfortunately, this can be confusing and challenging. For a good primer on how to go gluten-free, read Gluten’s Role in Liver Disease and 7 Ways to Protect Yourself.
- Digestive Enzymes – Because an occasional gluten slipup is bound to occur, you can help your gut deal with this hard to digest protein with specialized enzymes. Gluten Support is an example of a supplement containing digestive enzymes proficient at breaking down gluten to prevent inflammation and any ensuing gut leaks.
- Probiotics – Gluten, especially when genetically modified, can create a toxic environment that diminishes the gut’s healthy bacteria. Thus, fortifying with a wide spectrum of probiotics (healthy bacteria) recolonizes the digestive system to attain a healthy flora balance. When choosing a good probiotic, look for one that has billions of living cells per capsule. Super Probiotics has 5 billion living cells per capsule and Ultra Probiotic Formula has 35 billion! Higher quantities of living cells are warranted for more severe gastrointestinal symptoms.
Just because you have Hepatitis C, doesn’t mean you need to avoid gluten. However, if you are having any of the symptoms described above, gluten that is organic or genetically modified might be responsible. The good news is, experimenting with a gluten-free diet is harmless and doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription. If some improvement is noticed by avoiding gluten, then you know what has to happen next.
In addition to eating gluten-free, take digestive enzymes and probiotics to help your gut recover from gluten’s damage and relieve the unnecessary stress from your hardworking liver.
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