Over the weekend, I happened to catch this news segment while nursing my morning coffee. Take a look:
It’s nice that the Senate is encouraging more people to be “aware” of Crohn’s and colitis, but I was already aware of them. I used to suffer bouts of colitis as a teenager and young adult.
I wasn’t aware, however, that rates of Crohn’s and colitis are on the rise. After viewing this segment, I did a little online searching and found some articles on the topic. Here’s one:
Inflammatory bowel disease on the rise in kids
The reason more children being diagnosed with ‘adult’ disease is a mystery
For 10-year-old Jacob Krause, getting ready for the new school year wasn’t a simple matter of back-to-school shopping. It also involved working out logistics for getting to the bathroom as many as 20 times during a single school day.
The Clarksville Elementary School fifth-grader has severe ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that increasingly, and somewhat mysteriously, strikes children.
The number of children afflicted by colitis and another inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, has increased 50 percent in the past decade, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. About 1.5 million Americans suffer from colitis and Crohn’s, about 10 percent of them under the age of 18.
“We’re seeing younger and younger children getting it over time,” said Dr. Maria Oliva-Hemker, chief of the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine’s division of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition.
The reasons for the increase are not clear. But many researchers believe something in the environment must be behind the surge in pediatric colitis, Crohn’s and other autoimmune diseases, which have been on the rise generally.
Hmmm … environmental causes … has anything in our environment changed significantly over the past 20 to 30 years?
One theory is that as the developed world has become more hygienic, the body has become less practiced at fighting off bugs — and more vulnerable to autoimmune diseases, in which the body attacks its own cells or tissues.
“Since we know [inflammatory bowel disease] is found in more developed countries, it must be something about the exposures that we are seeing in our day-to-day lives,” Oliva-Hemker said. “Probably the fact that we are a more hygienic society, the fact that children, even at an early age, are kept in very clean environments — not necessarily outside, playing in the dirt, being exposed to very low levels of routine viruses.”
Ahhh, yes, that must be it! Children are getting digestive disorders because we’re too darned clean. Thank goodness we just moved to a farm where my girls like to run around outside and return home dirty. Now if I can just talk Chareva out of insisting that the girls take a bath afterwards, they can avoid ruining their digestive systems through excess hygiene.
Here’s another article on the recent rise of intestinal disorders:
Baffling Rise of Intestinal Disorder in the Young
Crohn’s disease, a serious disorder of the intestines, appears to be increasing sharply among children, a trend that may reflect some unknown influence of Western industrial civilization, a British scientist said yesterday at a scientific symposium in Houston.
”It’s almost as if the infection-free environment of modern Western society could be a factor,” said Dr. John Walker-Smith of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, an expert on intestinal diseases of children.
In a telephone interview, Dr. Ferguson said that the excellent health records compiled through the National Health Service in Britain had allowed her to chart a dramatic and unexplained increase in Crohn’s disease among children in Scotland over 15 years.
Dr. Walker-Smith said it was possible that the decline of many childhood infections might allow children in the West to grow up without the vigorous development of their immune defense systems that such infections would ordinarily promote.
Dr. Walker-Smith admitted that this is speculation, but he noted that the increase in the disease among children was real and there was evidence indicating that something in the modern Western environment or experience might be involved.
Once again, the possible explanation offered is that our kids are so clean and so free of infections, they’re no longer developing immunities early in life to whatever mysterious bugs cause Crohn’s and colitis.
Interesting hypothesis. Although I have to wonder: since Crohn’s and colitis are still rising in developed countries — where hygiene has been good and rates of childhood infections have low for many decades now –- doesn’t it seem likely that these digestive-tract diseases are caused by something kids in developed countries regularly digest … such as mutant wheat?
In Wheat Belly, Dr. William Davis cites a study which showed that rates of celiac are four times higher now than 50 years ago. (That’s actual prevalence of the disease –- not diagnosis.) We also know that people who suffer from celiac are also more likely to suffer from other digestive ailments such as Crohn’s and colitis. So we can reasonably speculate (but not conclude) that whatever causes celiac also causes or aggravates these other digestive issues.
Considering that kids are eating wheat products that contain both more gluten overall and mutant gluten with a protein sequence that never existed until around 40 years ago, I think it’s entirely possible that Crohn’s and colitis are on the rise because kids (and adults) are consuming glutens their bodies can’t handle. These are, after all, auto-immune diseases. It’s not unreasonable to suspect that when these strange glutens seep in our systems, our bodies attack them and end up attacking our own tissues at the same time.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard from quite a few people whose digestive ailments went away when they stopped eating grains – including the sound engineer for Fat Head, who told me watching the film changed his life. He no longer needs a daily dose of Prilosec to get through the day.
As I’ve mentioned before, I used to always keep a bottle of Pepto-Bismal in my medicine cabinet and carried the tablet version whenever I traveled. Now I haven’t had a dose of the stuff in years — not since cutting way back on grains.
In the newsclip, Dr. Marion mentioned that new molecules and new medications are being developed to treat Crohn’s and colitis. Fine, but treating a disease isn’t the same as avoiding it in the first place. It would be nice if some of the research dollars chasing new medications were directed towards determining if the mutant grain we now call “wheat” is behind the rise in digestive diseases.
But I don’t expect that happen, not in a country where grains are big business and the federal government subsidizes wheat farmers. Look at what happened when school-lunch guidelines called for fewer fried potatoes. Politicians from potato-growing states rushed in and demanded changes in the guidelines.
The Senate may want us to all be aware of Crohn’s and colitis, but I seriously doubt farm-state senators will want us to also be aware that modern wheat may be causing them. We’ll have to spread that message ourselves.