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WBB: Asthma, atrial fibrillation, and attitude

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Posted: 1/4/2013 12:00:00 PM
Edited: 4/30/2022 11:29:24 AM (1)

Sourced from: Infinite Health Blog, by Dr. Davis, originally posted on the Wheat Belly Blog: 2013-01-04

Asthma, atrial fibrillation, and attitude

David posted these important observations he made about his own health.

I am a 48 year old male and have been healthy and fit for the majority of my life. I am an avid cyclist and have been so for twenty years now. I have the good fortune of excellent blood pressure and heart rate and my cholesterol and triglycerides are in the healthy range. Until recently, my only notable health challenge has been exercise-induced asthma. I have not been able to ride my bike without an inhaler since I was a kid. Anyone who uses a salbutamol inhaler will be aware that it is a nasty inhalant and can make you agitated and irritable. I have personally hated the thing and wished for years that I could ride without it, but that was never an option. Once or twice I forgot to use it and, within a few hundred meters, I could feel my bronchial passageways closing. I had accepted it as an inevitable reality of my life and condition.

As you can imagine, after reading Wheat Belly, I was in a fervent passion to dump wheat products to see if it would affect my breathing. In my world, the loss of wheat would be a tiny price to pay if I could lose that cursed inhaler once and for all. I am thrilled to announce that for the past two weeks I have been riding without the aid of the salbutamol inhaler and have never been happier in my life. My entire cardiovascular function has changed in some subtle and not-so-subtle ways and I find myself powering up over tough hills and long inclines even better than I did with the inhaler. My recovery rates are faster and more efficient than ever before. This has truly been a miraculous event and I thank Dr. Davis for his work on this subject and for an extraordinary improvement in my health and my life.

But this is not the end of the story. In May of 2012, while working on my farm, I had my first diagnosed event of atrial fibrillation. I had a neighbor rush me to the hospital where it was officially diagnosed. I believe I had a couple of previous A. fib. events that I had passed off as anxiety attacks but in fact they were A. fibs. I learned that it was also a condition that has plagued both of my parents over the years and I was in the high risk category to suffer from it as I got older. I underwent a subsequent battery of tests under the supervision of a cardiologist and was informed that, although my heart is healthy and strong and all of my vitals are excellent, I am doomed to suffer from occasional bouts of A. fib. I have been prescribed ‘event’ medication to take when the arrhythmia strikes. I was also informed that, although rarely fatal, I am at increased risk for a stroke and no amount of exercise or life management will eliminate this condition. I have had 7 A. fib. episodes since the first one in the spring. Needless to say, I am less than happy about this development.

I do not smoke, take drugs, eat poorly or drink coffee. I am a very moderate drinker, although I am a passionate lover of fine red wines. I drink them often but very rarely to excess. So when my cardiologist suggested that I would have to give them up, I was very, very disappointed. On the other hand, A. fib. episodes are nasty beasts and I would be prepared to give up wine (albeit reluctantly) if it meant I could avoid the heart distress.

So, in the fall of this year, I cut back dramatically on my wine intake, limiting myself to only a very occasional glass. It is a fact that 5 of the 7 recent A-fib episodes involved some amount of alcohol (wine or beer). In my case, all of my A. fib. episodes have been preceded by a warning of sorts. I experience an upper chest (gastrointestinal) anxiety or nervousness followed by a couple of heart flutters, which then gives way to a full-fledged attack. The degree of the severity will fluctuate from episode to episode, but the warning signs are always pretty consistent. Notably, there have also been numerous occasions when that upper G.I. nervousness has not resulted in an A. fib. attack, but itself is an unsettling and uncomfortable condition. I have struggled for months to get to the root of this problem without success. So I was astonished to discover that within two days of dropping wheat gluten, my upper G.I. discomfort vanished like magic and I have not had an A. fib. episode since. Over Christmas, I freely indulged in wine without the slightest tremor. I even drank enough on two occasions to require a taxi or designated driver (not drunk, just delightfully tipsy).

I met with my cardiologist and with great excitement told her my story. She simply stared blankly at me and then proceeded to tell me that I had no idea what I was talking about. She is fully prepared to tell me that wine has a direct link but is not willing to accept the possibility that wheat gluten could also be a trigger. In the same breath she also explained that we do not definitively know the trigger for A. fib. So in one breath she will admit it can be caused by the ingestion of a substance and in the other she claims its cause is unknown. Then she proceeded to prescribe a new course of medication. Hypocrisy!! I was furious with her and do not expect to return to her for further consultation. If she cannot show herself to be better than a butcher or drug peddler, then I will have to find a more creative physician.

On the other hand, I accept that there may be far more to this than simple dietary changes but I cannot argue with the outcome. I am further convinced that there is a causal connection, because when I began to review some if the episodes, they almost all had a couple of things in common: alcohol and gluten. The most recent attack involved a bottle of wine and a loaf of sour dough bread shared with a colleague. Another involved wheat beer and yet another involved a family meal with wine, turkey stuffing and pastries. When these gluten items are eliminated, the A. fib. does not occur. I don’t think this is an irrelevant fact and will be watching closely in the months ahead to see if the rule remains true. If I get to the one year mark without an episode I will be looking for a cardiologist who is willing to study this more carefully to see if there is relief for other A. fib. sufferers in the gluten free regimen.

Notwithstanding the unwillingness of traditional medical professionals to accept a causal link between A. fib. and gluten or asthma and gluten, I am thrilled and renewed with excitement about the prospects of the next couple of decades of my life without inhalants and heart rate mediators. Dr. Davis, I thank you for your thoughtful and carefully researched work and your passion for the cause of health through moderated diet.

David experienced asthma with exercise likely due to the allergic effects of omega-gliadin from wheat on lungs and airways. Use all the inhalers, antihistamines, or prednisone in the world, but real relief can ONLY come through removing the provocative factor–wheat.

The atrial fibrillation is another story. It is not clear to me why, as with David, I’ve seen many people experience either a marked reduction in the frequency and/or severity of atrial fibrillation episodes, occasionally complete cessation of the rhythm. Could it be the inflammation-reducing effects of eliminating the gliadin protein (responsible for two way increased small intestinal permeability)? Could it be due to eliminating the excessive high blood glucose/glycation of the amylopectin A of wheat? Or perhaps some other arrhythmogenic (abnormal rhythm-generating) component of modern wheat?

I don’t presently have an answer. But the potential effects of wheat elimination on atrial fibrillation would be consistent with all the other observations we are making: There is no organ system that is not adversely affected by consumption of modern wheat.

David’s experience is also an example of how modern healthcare has a drug for virtually every wheat-related condition: inhalers for asthma, beta blockers and rhythm-suppressing agents for atrial fibrillation, acid blocking drugs for acid reflux, anti-inflammatory medication for joint pain, blood pressure medication for hypertension, cholesterol drugs for “high cholesterol,” antipsychotic drugs for the paranoia of schizophrenia, and so on. Aside from tending to victims of motor vehicle accidents and other traumatic injuries, to a great extent modern healthcare is a healthcare system set up to treat the consequences of wheat consumption.

D.D. Infinite Health icon