Gluten and Inflammation

May 2, 2008

Over the 22 years I have been treating people with chronic pain, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. About 2 years ago I noticed an alarming trend. More and more of our patients were showing signs of gluten sensitivity. Where as in the past some people needed to avoid gluten ( true celiac disease ) long term, and a small percentage of people had to eliminate gluten from their diets for 3 to 6 months while we fixed up their gut through integrative manual therapy; now we were finding that almost all of our clients were showing significant signs of gluten sensitivity. It has come to the point that it is very hard to help chronic pains and other problems if the patient does not eliminate gluten. This is different than even 2 years ago. What has happened? Why are so many of our clients showing this intolerance to gluten? Why do the patients who get off gluten heal; and why do the ones who don’t get off gluten have so many relapses? I think other practitioners must be finding similar things in their patients. Why else would Whole Foods and others have so many gluten free products. The market is paying attention. Others must be telling their patients to get off gluten. Why? What’s going on? Is the world changing? Why is it that to date we personally have over 18,000 scientific references about the links between gluten and diseases, pain and disabilities. Please feel free to ask us and we can get you information on this.

Here are some of the ideas I have seen from a variety of practitioners. I’ve studied with Integrative Manual Therapy practitioners, Functional Medicine practitioners and others and here are some ideas that I see that account for these findings and phenomena.

First off gluten in our foods now is not the same as gluten in our food even 10 years ago. It is preserved with formaldehyde a known carcinogen. Gluten has been genetically modified and the most common carrier to move DNA from one organism to another is e. coli bacteria. Gluten has been added to many food items and now it is nearly impossible to eat the standard american diet without getting a significant amount of gluten. So were getting more gluten in our diets than ever before and it is treated with formaldehyde and it’s been modified using e. coli to move DNA around.

It is know in the field of epigenetics that if you introduce a certain type of toxin to a rat, you will cause the rat to become obese. In this way scientists can study obesity. If these obese rats reproduce they will reproduce rats that are obese. Even the offspring from these rats will be obese and on down the line, the DNA will be expressed in such a way that the rats are all obese.

Well toxins such as genetically modified, formaldehyde laced gluten has been added to our diets over the years. These toxins could be starting to show a long term effect on us and could be at least part of the reason everyone is showing up in our clinic as intolerant to gluten.

Also, gluten is inflammatory and inflammation has been linked to most chronic illnesses and pain syndromes.  If you look at the gluten molecule from a biochemistry standpoint what you see is that the gluten molecule is very similar to the cartilage in joints.  So, if someone has an allergic type reaction to gluten or if they have an auto-immune problem they could be making it worse by eating gluten. The body is attacking the gluten but then attacking itself too.  The biochemistry pathways for anti-inflammation are used when the diet is high in alkaline producing foods such as fruits, vegetables and omega 3’s (fish oils) and the pathways for inflammation are used by the body when the diet is high in processed foods and grains, especially gluten.  Inflammation has been linked to most chronic illness including heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration, systemic lupus, arthritis and many others.

Clinically what we see is that if we get a patient off gluten 100%, they heal at a predictable rate; they stay well and they can get on with their lives in a painfree way. Clinically what we see is that the clients who take in gluten don’t heal very well; they have significant ups and downs; they don’t have good outcomes.

Like I said this is different than even 2 years ago. Something is going on. Other practitioners and people must see this. Whole Foods has big gluten free sections now. Something is going on. I think part of the reason is due to the way gluten has been modified and the way we have so much gluten in almost all processed foods.

If you want a quick read with alot of scientific references, a good source is Shari Lieberman, PhD’s book “The Gluten Connection”. Check it out and let me know what you think. Health care practitioners, let me know what you are finding. We are picking up alot of cecum and iliocecal valve problems with dysbiosis ( leaky gut) which resolves with gluten free diet and Integrative Manual Therapy. Like I said something is going on here; let me know what you are finding.

Ralph Havens, PT, OCS, IMTC


  1. This is a very thought provoking article. I have put a link to it up on my site. Thank you for the link to my site that you put up too.

    Can you tell me the source for your info that gluten is being genetically modified? That is the first that I had heard that. (and I have had a long interest in avoiding GMO’s) What does genetic modification supposedly do? Why are they doing that here?


    JoAnn Farb

  2. I have had undescribable pain throughout my body for six years. We have seen every dr. been on every medicine. I always hurt and am frequently, frequently getting sick. I am sooo down. Do you think gluten could play a role in this? Can it play a role in emotions? if you can please e mail me at ndyer139@msn.com. Thanks.

    • Hello Natalie–There is a new product that a lot of people have seen a lot of results with. My son and I are currently taking it. It works on a cellular level, as that is what every part of us is made of….trillions of cells. We live and die a cellular at a cellular level. If you would like more info you can go to teamasea.com/amyschneider or you can contact me at 812-756-2906. God bless!

  3. for a copy of our newsletter please email me at ralph@missionhillspt.com
    Gluten Sensitivity Newsletter – An Integrative Manual Therapy perspective.

    Ralph Havens PT OCS IMTC

  4. This is one of the best blogs that I’ve ever read on gluten and its devastating consequences. Having been gluten free for only 4 months, I am desperately hoping that some of the early conditions that I have may reverse, macular degeneration being one of them. However, the long standing ones I know I am stuck with, such as Type 2 diabetes, pancreatic insufficiency, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism. It’s so good to find that some professionals are picking up on gluten intolerance and treating their patients accordingly. I would so love to know what improvements people have made once going gluten free.

  5. Hi Ralph, My Chiropractor has been trying to get me off gluten since my pain is getting worse, thruout and especially in joints ~ I’m going to give it a try and want to be on your newsletter mailing list. thank you so much for this, have been in the alternative healing practices for 35 yrs and its not an option to end up crippled and walking like a 90 yr old!! Vicki

  6. […] Ralph Havens, PT, OCS, IMTC, “Gluten and Inflammation.” Mission Hills Physical Therapy: Wellness Blog, San Diego, CA (May 2, 2008) missionhillspt.wordpress.com/2008/05/02/gluten-and-inflammation […]

    • thanks
      great blog!!!!
      we’ll tell our clients about it.
      Ralph Havens PT
      certified matrix energetics practitioner
      San Diego / Vancouver

  7. Very interesting information. I have eliminated gluten from my diet and notice a great improvement in foot pain.

    • sounds great. I would predict it is more likely to be your right foot. Not always but since the cecum ( large intestine affected by gluten) is on the right side we tend to see more Right leg problems. Please feel free to pass on our newsletter on gluten at http://missionhillspt.com/newsletters

  8. wonderful… i am seeing huge improvement in my skin ~ waiting for the left big toe pain to improve and also my fingers!!! i know it will happen!

    • that’s awesome; keep us posted on all the changes!

  9. Hello,

    I want to try going gluten free.
    I have fibromyalgia that has ruined my life.
    Can you steer my toward a diet that is gluten free
    so it will be easy to follow?

    Thank you
    Jacky k.

    • here is some info and some newsletters and diet info.
      let me know if you need other info ; if you are in San Diego we have a way use integrative manual therapy to help speed up the healing process.


      • Also the best advice is to go 100% off gluten for 3 months no exceptions and see what changes you notice. The recent research actually says this is the best test as there is something called occult gluten sensitivity meaning negative test result yet disease process still goes away on a 100% gluten free diet. keep us posted

    • My recent reading up of Formaldehyde exposed me to the artifical sweetener Aspartame, E951. It is reputed to make fibromyalgia symptoms notably more severe. Try searching for “fibro” occurrences at the following URL for an idea of what I am talking about:


      There is lots there, but it may prove worth it. Apologies if you already know this stuff.

  10. Something is going on? An understatement I would suggest. What do you make of this…

    I’m based in the U.K. I am British. My wife is Japanese.

    We both have an intolerance to Gluten. My wife’s intolerance to Gluten clears up completely within 3 weeks whenever she goes back to

    Japan. She never had a problem in her life with Gluten based products when she grew up in Japan.

    Conclusion: Gluten intolerance is not for life, although I am sure Coealiac’s is a different matter.

    We recently moved into a new build property and bought new bedroom furniture – wardrobes made of MDF. They have a particularly

    unpleasant new smell. They are comprised of MDF, which is typically stuck together with urea formaldehyde resin. It off-gases

    Formaldehyde constantly. Materials used in new build properties generally off gas, Formaldehyde amongst other VOCs. Paints can off-gas

    VOCs, including Formaldehyde. New carpets use to be treated with Formaldehyde but I do not know if this practice is still prevelant.

    If you want to know more at this point, relevant subjects are Sick Building (or House )Syndrome, and Indoor Air Quality. Both subjects

    are a pretty big deal in Japan.

    My own intolerance to Gluten manifested itself perhaps 4 years ago, about 7 months after moving in to a newly refurbished property.

    The doctor said initially it looked like chemical burns on my fingers (my gluten intolerance manifests as little watery blisters on

    fingers which are very painful and dry skin too, also I typically get itchy skin on my chest and abdomen especially after a bath). I went to Japan for 4 weeks at the time and it cleared up. When I came back from Japan I was no longer living in the refurbished property, I was living in an older property. My “gluten intolerance” (which I had not identified as a gluten intolerance) did not reappear.

    Over two years later my gluten intolerance came back again. Guess what, it was three months after moving in to a refurbished property.

    Can you see where this is going yet?

    Didn’t you say something about wheat being laced with Formaldehyde these days.

    Anyone out there drink diet drinks? Have you seen if Aspartame is added to it? That is another way to take in Formaldehyde.

    Sugar free chewing gum will typically contain Aspartame. I used to chew it regularly. Since I gave it up I have permitted myself to

    consume some wheat containing products (not excessively, but enough that would have previously caused me discomfort) and have not had

    as much trouble as I would expect.

    Ever look to see if your washing up liquid contains Formaldehyde? I never used washing up gloves before. Also, many hand washes contain

    Formaldehyde releasers (you need to research these for yourselves).

    I strongly believe that if I can cut down my exposure to Formaldehyde (quite difficult living in a new build house) then I won’t have

    to worry so much about my gluten intake, especially if the product is Organic.

    Did I mention that Formaldehyde is used in agriculture to preserve Wheat?

    Has anybody got any thoughts on my observations? I guess what I am trying to suggest is that gluten intolerance may not be so much of a gluten intolerance as it is your body falling victim after a much greater exposure to formaldehyde than it can cope with.

    Also, another relevant fact is that my wife gets “Asian Flush” if you drinks alcohol (which is why she only rarely drinks it). It is a common enough phenomena in Japan (apparently in Taiwan and Han-Chinese too). Her body can break the methanol (the alcohol in the drink) quicker than normal so that it becomes acetaldehyde (an aldehyde that is similar to formaldehyde). However, the ADLH2 (acetaldehyde dehyrogeneuse enzyme, or something like that) is deficient so instead of getting broken down the acetaldehyde gets into her blood stream. My wife cannot currently live in our new house and it does seem as though she is particularly sensitive to Formaldehyde. I wonder if the “Asian Flush” is related?

    I would love to have a very big and long dialogue on this with lots of people with lots of interesting points of view. This is my first

    posting anywhere on the subject.

    I’m basically brain dumping in this response because there are so many factors involved and I believe they are all interconnected. I have tried to include everything.

    I look forward to constructive responses.

  11. Hi, i have to say that i moved in 2005 into a very old property which needed lots of work… i got new laminate floors thruout the downstairs and new paint… both of those of course must be off-gassing ~ and my gluten sensitivity has gotten worse over the last 5 yrs to the point that they are really bad now ~ very very painful and inflammed joints in fingers and one toe… hips and knees somewhat… they are tolerable without the gluten but intolerable with any gluten… very little relief but a little better ~ i thought that after 4 yrs the gases would be much less ….. i too want to hear any and all ideas!!!

  12. Hi Vicki Lee and others.

    Apologies for my earlier posting having a bad format and therefore being difficult to read.

    I’ll share more of what I think I know but it is not as much as I would like it to be.

    The thought of e.coli being used to move DNA around (from the original article) scares me a bit. I don’t know if that classifies it as a GM product (we use GM for genetically modified in UK, I assume it is the same in the USA), so I don’t know how easy or difficult avoiding that type of gluten may be!

    My reading so far indicates that manufacturers of food (probably a better phrase to use than producers of food?) don’t have to declare content that is a by-product of their processes rather than added deliberately for a purpose. I find that troublesome.

    It scares me what they can hide in food under E numbers. Do look out for Aspartame, E951. It really is evil but you may already know this even before my earlier posting. E240 is the number for Formaldehyde.

    We have had some laminate flooring down in our new home but only in our kitchen (approx 15 metres squared). I have read that laminate floors can off-gas, but I have access to an industrial measuring instrument that measures the amount of Formaldehyde and some other VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) in the air. The readings that I have taken do not indicate that the kitchen is more of a problem in respect of off-gassing than any of the other rooms. I would say that our laminate was quite cheap and so will not be of the highest quality.

    Our new wardrobes are evil though. Formaldehyde measurements outside our house are typically 0.01 ppm (parts per million). This is an expected ambient reading. When I first started taking readings in our house they were between 0.03 and 0.06 (not completely unexpected as indoor air quality is typically notably lower than that of the outdoors). In our new wardrobes the readings were 0.16 (Japan has tough legislation and 0.08 is their limit for buildings, so our wardrobes would be illegal over there). So every night we were sleeping next to wardrobes that were off-gassing over ten times the normal amount of Formaldehyde you would deal with in the outdoors and four or five times a typical indoors amount!

    Researching the subject indicates that house plants can greatly improve the quality of indoor air. There are lots of VOCs, some are harmful and many are not, and different people have different levels of sensitivity to them. Typically the plant will take in the VOC and after processing will release oxygen. My understanding (my learning is still in the early days on this subject) is that some plants do off-gas VOCs but not necessarily the harmful ones). I’m certain that I am over simplifying but I believe the point is made. I have seen many references to research by NASA demonstrating the benefits of house plants, but I have not seen their article for myself. However, I have seen other articles on the subject, enough to convince me to introduce plants into our home. I will try a link as an example for further information:


    We have added varieties of Ficus and Dracaena to our house. Only Foliage plants because we both suffer from hayfever so flowers are not such a good idea.

    Anyway, I opened the wardrobes and had the plants in the bedroom with them in and by the end of the week readings are down to a consistent 0.02, so I do believe the plants make a difference and I have evidence that seems to back that up. I will post any relevant updates on this subject here.

    Warmth and humidity are factors in off-gassing. The more warm and humid it is, typically the more Formaldehyde will be released in a reveresal of the process that was used to bond it in the first place.

    At this point I would say don’t be too scared of the off-gassing. Off-gassing should reduce over time and there is research that backs this up.

    House insulation material can off-gas depending on what it is made from. It is also worth noting that Formaldehyde is a product (not sure if the correct term is by-product) of incomplete cobustion. So you will get it in greater amounts around smoke, wood fires, coal fires. Does your old property have an open hearth that you use or a stove?

    As silly and simple as it may sound, airing the house as frequently as you can will make a difference. I personally believe that the gradual push for more “environmentally friendly” homes that keep in the warmth may not in fact be so good for our health, as they cut down the amount of fresh air circulated from outdoors.

    Its definitely worth trying to find out as much information as you can on the subject. My own belief is that there are alot of factors involved in all of this.

    I do believe strongly that eating and drinking Organic products wherever possible will make a difference.

    Also, anti-oxidants might help. When I know more about this I will share it, but my wife has started to drink Green Tea again more regularly.

    Also we have gone back to taking Vitamin and Mineral supplements, but will be making an effort to ensure that we have a regular intake of food and drink that naturally contain Vitamin C and Vitamin B12. I think I read that Niacin can be quite good, but I need to find that article again to double-check the context.

    Formaldehyde does occur naturally in the environment and our body is well-suited to dealing with “normal” amounts. The question I believe is what happens if we are exposed to more than we are suited to dealing with? And what if we are ingesting it regularly as part of our diet (Aspartame the sweetener! Diet drinks, chewing gum. Always read the label!) I personally think that we are (initially gradually but nowadays more rapidly) becoming victims of societies of mass-production. They make foods as cheaply as they can and until now it never really mattered because we did not know the damage it was doing to us. I believe our food is the main culprit and gluten just happens to be the most common form of delivery of this poisoning.

    I’m slightly worried about the implications of the things that I am saying and thinking. I’ll leave that subject for another day though.

  13. HI Charlie …. yes i know what you mean about what you are thinking and saying… so important that we think about all the Good coming and going in our lives and perhaps envision all the chemicals as something good? i know that is a challenge … what we say and think brings us what we have so try to think about what you want and just focus on that as much as possible!! i really want pain free hands and feet and other joints and muscles… not sure if i am really focusing on that that i want or focusing too much on what i am feeling daily… right now, little left finger extra swollen from one beer yesterday that was from wheat ~
    thank you for all your research on the wardrobes and floors… i got my floors 5 years ago and am thinking they dont outsource any more or not much and i have lots of foilage plants in my house!
    whatever the source of my pain, i am seeing that going going gone soon!!
    yep eating organically and raw as much as possible really helps alot!! standard american diet (SAD) is hugely responsible for many ails and pains!!
    be well and talk soon,

  14. I’ve been cutting back on gluten foods for about a month (it takes a while to figure it all out).
    The most drastic was cutting bread and cake.

    Well my friend saw me the other day and was amazed that my goiter on one side of my neck is gone.

    I was diagnosed with the goiter 2 years ago and no doctor knew why or what to do.

    Doctors are pharmaceutical puppets and just want to treat the symptom.

    I am so happy that I found the cause of my goiter and that it’s gone.

    I eat a lot of potatoes and rice.
    I make my own soup, cornbread.
    I eat salads, cottage cheeze and yogurt.

    I hope that the rest of my body will heal soon.

    I hope this diet cures my kidney stone problem.

    We are so lucky that we have the power of the internet to learn about how to be healthy because the doctors don’t have a clue what to do (except Dr Oz).

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