Yesterday, I was challenged during a lunch meeting when my young friend sternly admonished me that he had Celiac disease and insisted that there was no cure available. I did point out to him that he might want to study everything available about his dilemma, especially given his youth, which suggested that he would have to deal with his ailment for many years. I wanted him to consider that there might be solutions to cure his condition or at least to lessen its symptoms. He tested me with a very Western question: “Are you saying that Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM] can cure me?”
There is much in his response of rejection and defensiveness. A lunch break in a busy shopping mall was not a fitting setting in which I could reflect upon his high-energy response and his seemingly boundless certainty about the hopelessness of his condition. A saying of Lao Tzu came to my mind: “He who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know.”
For bloggers searching for a cure or quick fix for Celiac disease, let me put the facts at the beginning. Yes, several approaches can improve the condition of anyone with a digestive disorder or an autoimmune disorder. TCM offers no monolithic perspective on treating gluten intolerance as currently diagnosed, but the symptoms, treatments, and positive effects for digestive help have been well-understood and documented by practitioners of Eastern medicine for hundreds of years.
You will never hear a respected TCM practitioner using the word cure or the word healing. Modern TCM science clearly demonstrates that with precise efforts, great results can be achieved in making the condition of people severely affected by Celiac disease manageable. Sometimes, the condition can even be reversed.
To the young man at lunch, I wanted to point out that his dilemma had already affected him and not just physiologically. I think he is a great person, a strong-minded individual, precisely becauseof his ways of dealing with the challenge of Celiac disease. Often someone will not embrace any idea of change because that would require a changed perspective towards oneself and could require the serious study of new ideas and the abandonment of toxic Western medicines that only conceal the symptoms without eradicating the underlying medical imbalances.
Often, people with a handicap are defined by their condition. I walked away from the lunch meeting with a strong sense that even if I could “cure” this man, it would be taking away the very essence that gave him the drive to become himself. Now was not the time to change what seems to me to keep him in balance with life. A rescue swimmer might know that you can’t help someone who screams and fights, as that individual will most likely take you down with him or her; you have to wait at a safe distance until that person’s energy subsides or they come to embrace someone’s willingness to offer aid.
Back to the dilemma of having Celiac disease: Being intolerant of certain foods is often a good thing, not a bad one, as proclaimed in many articles available about gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is not a disease from the perspective of TCM. Instead, Celiac disease demonstrates merely a disharmony of organ functions. With very few observations (tongue, pulse, talk, and touch), appropriate and effective solutions can be identified and made available to most people who deal with these conditions.
As this is a general blog, I will give you general advice: It’s perfectly OK not to consume wheat products. Wheat products merely fill your belly and are quickly converted to carbohydrates. When starch enters the body, it is digested by enzymes in the mouth and stomach via amylase, which turns the starch into maltose. Maltose in turn breaks down to maltase and then into glucose, which can then be used for respiration. However, if you are not active (via exercise, yoga, or brain use), it turns to stubborn fat, the kind most difficult to get rid of!
Celiac disease is conceptualized as the inability of the body to deal with celiac sprue (a gluten-sensitive enteropathy). This digestive and autoimmune disorder causes damage to the villi, the hairlike structures along the lining of the small intestine (mucosa) when foods with gluten are eaten. Glutens are a form of plant protein found in some grains. For unknown reasons (current research suggests genetically manipulated food sources), for some people, their own digestive enzymes attack their digestive tract’s lining instead of breaking down starch. The damage to the intestine makes it hard for the body to absorb nutrients, especially fat, calcium, iron, and folate.
Currently, we have a worldwide epidemic of this condition. More children are now born with starch sensitivity, possibly a reaction to our modern patterns of food consumption. An inherited gene will cause a series of side effects that typically are treated in Western medicine with a combination of medicines that often cause elevated sensitivity and toxicity to the very organs already stressed by the original condition.
Eastern medicine would activate supporting organs to strengthen the digestive tract and balance the responsibilities of supporting organs. In this scenario, the harmony of pancreas and spleen needs to be supported with foods that are ideal for their activity, such as yams, butternut squash, mango, carrots, avocado, rhubarb, oats, pears, walnut, sesame, lemon, and ginger; and some healthy TCM herbs.
If you have a personal experience or would like to consult with me about your condition, please share your thoughts on this public forum.