EPI 19: Gluten

EPI 19: Gluten

August 09, 2019


Current Health News

According to Mayo Medical Laboratories, normal levels of estradiol (E2) for menstruating women range from 15 to 350 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). For postmenopausal women, normal levels should be lower than 10 pg/mL. Estradiol levels that are higher than normal may suggest early puberty.

A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge and the State Serum Institute in Denmark measures the levels of four prenatal steroid hormones, including two known as androgens, in the amniotic fluid in the womb and discovered that they were higher in male fetuses who later developed autism. These androgens are produced in higher quantities in male than in female fetuses on average, so might also explain why autism occurs more often in boys.

Right now, the same scientists have built on their previous findings by testing the amniotic fluid samples from the same 98 individuals sampled from the Danish Biobank, which has collected amniotic samples from over 100,000 pregnancies, but this time looking at another set of prenatal sex steroid hormones called oestrogens.

All four oestrogens were significantly elevated, on average, in the 98 fetuses who later developed autism, compared to the 177 fetuses who did not. High levels of prenatal oestrogens were even more predictive of the likelihood of autism than were high levels of prenatal androgens (such as testosterone).

Credit: Link

This new finding supports the idea that increased prenatal sex steroid hormones are one of the potential causes for the condition.

An interesting correlation to understand here is how is the estrogen being elevated in the womb during pregnancy?

Research shows that some of these chemical ingredients are hormone disruptors, which throw our hormones out of balance and trigger a variety of side effects, such as weight gain, mood swings, anxiety, loss of sleep and skin issues. Some may cause cancer.

How Hormone Disruptors Work

Our hormonal system is our endocrine system. It includes our thyroid, adrenals, ovaries, pancreas, hypothalamus and pituitary glands. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) include substances in our environment, water, food, and personal care products that interfere with the production, transport, breakdown, binding, and elimination of hormones. Exposure to these chemicals ultimately affect the balance of the body that could lead to several health problems, including weight gain, hypothyroid, infertility, adrenal imbalances, estrogen dominance, lowered sperm counts, obesity, diabetes, and certain types of cancers. This can also affect the skin, the bodies largest organ.

Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid

In the United States, skincare products are not well regulated or screened for true safety. While other countries have banned hundreds of ingredients in personal care products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned only 11 ingredients. If you have a thyroid issue or imbalanced cortisol or any endocrine issues, it’s important that you detox now and avoid these ingredients as best as you can.

  1. Formaldehyde: A known carcinogen and irritant found in nail products, hair dye, fake eyelash adhesives, and some shampoos. It has been banned in other countries.
  2. Fragrance: Has hormone-disrupting effects. The fragrance is also connected to headaches, dizziness, asthma, and allergies. Instead, use products with natural fragrances only.
  3. Lead: A known carcinogen and hormone disruptor found in certain eyeliners, hair dye, and lipsticks.
  4. Mercury: A known irritant and allergen that, with body accumulation over time, can impair the brain and nervous system.
  5. Parabens (Propyl-, Isopropyl-, Butyl- and Isobutyl-): Used as preservatives in many products. A study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology in 2004 detected parabens in breast tumors and discussed their estrogen-like properties. While this doesn’t create a direct connection with cancer, It is recommended to avoid these ingredients.
  6. Oxybenzone: An active ingredient in chemical sunscreens that accumulates in fatty tissues and is linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cellular damage. I recommend wearing skin-protective clothing and using natural minerals or zinc products.
  7. DEA/TEA/MEA (Ethanolamines): Used as emulsifiers and foaming agents for shampoos, body washes, soaps, and topical application. It’s been associated with cancer in animal studies.
  8. Sodium lauryl (ether) sulfate (SLS, SLES): A former industrial degreaser now used to make soap foamy, it’s absorbed into the body.
  9. Diethylene glycol (or DEG): A central nervous system depressant and potent kidney and liver toxin. Sometimes found in fragrances. Glycerin and propylene glycol are sometimes contaminated with DEG, which is a common ingredient in personal care products.

Credit: Link

Examples of Nonbeauty products:

BPA: BPA has links to breast cancer, reproductive problems, obesity, asthma, tooth decay, early puberty, blood pressureand heart disease. This chemical, which is commonly found in plastics, mimics the hormone estrogen, wreaking havoc on the body's systems. What's worse, studies show that more than 90% of Americans have BPA in their bodies.

Mercury: A study found that 84% of the world's fish are contaminated with mercury. Most mercury pollution is emitted by coal power plants, but it is also produced as a byproduct of gold mining, cement production, iron and steel production, and waste disposal. Mercury poisoning can lead to health issues such as impaired fetal development, kidney failure, hair loss, and extreme muscle weakness.

Credit: Link

Myths and facts of gluten

What is gluten?

Gluten refers to the proteins in grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is found in the endosperm (a type of tissue produced in seeds that are ground to make flour). Later on, gluten affects the elasticity of dough, acting as a glue to hold the food together, which in turn affects the chewiness of baked products.

Not all grains are similar tho. Some examples of gluten-free grains are millet, brown rice, buckwheat, wild rice, corn, quinoa. Oats are also gluten-free but may be contaminated during the process, so look for a gluten-free label. 

It's common in foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, and cereal.

Gluten provides no essential nutrients.

What is Celiac disease?

People with celiac disease have an immune reaction that is triggered by eating gluten. They develop inflammation and damage in their intestinal tracts and other parts of the body when they eat foods containing gluten. Current estimates suggest that up to 1% of the population has this condition. 

People with this disease when consuming gluten, their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.

Long-term health conditions if left untreated

  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Early-onset osteoporosis or osteopenia
  • Infertility and miscarriage
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Central and peripheral nervous system disorders
  • Pancreatic insufficiency
  • Intestinal lymphomas and other GI cancers (malignancies)
  • Gall bladder malfunction
  • Neurological manifestations, including ataxia, epileptic seizures, dementia, migraine, neuropathy, myopathy, and multifocal leukoencephalopathy

Celiac disease affects one in every 141 people in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

According to a survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, a full 63% of Americans believe that a gluten-free diet could improve their mental or physical health. And up to a third of Americans are cutting back on it in the hope that it will improve their health or prevent disease.

More than $15.5 billion were spent on retail sales of gluten-free foods in 2016. The gluten-free diet is driven by multiple factors, including social and traditional media coverage, aggressive consumer-directed marketing by manufacturers and retail outlets, and reports in the medical literature and mainstream press of the clinical benefits of gluten avoidance.

So is living gluten-free healthier? Or is it a myth?

A myth is a statement with no compelling scientific evidence to support it. Possible may have some scientific evidence against it.

Symptoms with someone that has gluten sensitivity:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired
  • Skin problems
  • Unexplained weight loss

Who should avoid Gluten?

As stated anyone who has Celiac disease avoids sickness and maintain much better health if they follow a gluten-free diet. For them it is essential. Also, there are people described as "gluten-sensitive." Their tests for celiac disease are negative (normal) and yet they get symptoms whenever they eat foods that contain gluten. One cause for this is a wheat allergy, a disorder that can be diagnosed by skin testing. 

How to test

Two blood tests can help diagnose it: Serology testing looks for antibodies in your blood. Elevated levels of certain antibody proteins indicate an immune reaction to gluten. Genetic testing for human leukocyte antigens (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8) can be used to rule out celiac disease.

What about everyone else?

There is no compelling evidence that a gluten-free diet will improve health if you don't have celiac disease. The same is true if you can eat gluten without trouble. Of course, future research could change this. 

If an individual whose diet contains large amounts of bread, pasta, and cookies (especially those made from refined flours) switches to a gluten-free diet which eliminates these foods while increasing fruits, vegetables, and other healthful gluten-free foods, the resulting diet would likely be healthier.

If you switch your diet without increasing healthy alternatives, then the person may experience a reduction in diet quality. 

Why are Gluten-Free diets so popular?

Do some think that it's logical to think if gluten is bad for people with celiac disease, maybe its bad for me? There are celebrity endorsements in which eliminating gluten is encouraged by someone I admire, then maybe I should give it a try. Let’s not forget about marketing. Never underestimate the power of persuasion. Those selling gluten-free products or books can be convincing even if there’s little science to behind it. 

The downside to gluten-free?

While many people in the Consumer Reports survey thought gluten-free diets were more nutritious and contained more minerals and vitamins than conventional foods, the opposite is often true. Gluten-free foods are commonly less fortified with folic acid, iron, and other nutrients than regular, gluten-containing foods. And gluten-free foods tend to have more sugar and fat.

An independent peer-reviewed journal of Gastroenterology and hepatology showed two studies that gluten-free foods are not enriched and may be deficient in several nutrients including dietary fiber, folate, iron, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine.

Other studies evaluating the nutritional composition of processed gluten-free products have demonstrated higher levels of lipids, trans fat, protein, and salt compared to their gluten-containing counterparts.

Another downside is the price difference. Gluten-free foods tend to be more expensive than conventional foods. It’s kind of the organic food option: people are often willing to pay more for the food they think is healthier. The problem is that there is little or no proof that these foods are better for you.

A cost-comparison analysis of gluten-free and gluten-containing foods in 2 large-chain grocery stores. All 56 gluten-free products were more expensive, with a mean unit price of $1.71 compared with $0.61 for gluten-containing products. On average, gluten-free products were 242% more expensive than regular products.

Credit: Link

Conditions with potential benefits from GFD

Potential Harms of a GFD

Gluten-sensitive irritable bowel syndrome

Deficiencies of micronutrients and fiber

Nonceliac gluten sensitivity

Increases in fat content of foods

Schizophrenia or other mental health conditions





Coronary artery disease


Increased financial costs

Athletic performance

Social impairment or restrictions




  1. https://www.dermstore.com/blog/9-commonly-used-beauty-ingredients-that-could-be-disrupting-your-hormones/
  2. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-07/uoc-hlo072619.php
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866307/
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/ditch-the-gluten-improve-your-health

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