Sickle Cell Disease
I decided that I wasn’t going to make you wait for this one. Its way too important and illustrates a huge point. But first, a little background information.
I have been pretty amazed at the number of my Black American clients that have never been told the historical and global significance of the Sickle cell gene. The fact is that this gene protects those who possess it in areas of the world where malaria is a problem. When a malaria organism attempts to infect a red blood cell with the sickle cell gene, that cell turns into a sickle cell that, in turn, will not support the life of that malaria organism. So, without the sickle cell gene in their red cells, the victim of that mosquito bite would develop malaria. In other words, the sickle cell gene saved their life. So, what in the world happened to turn this life-saving gene against its host, creating a condition that the mere mention of its name could strike fear into those members of our population who carry it?
Sickle cell disease is a horrible collection of symptoms that centers around the rupture of red blood cells and the development of clots in blood vessels, leading to growth defects, pain syndromes, vascular damage in the lungs, liver and other organs, and severe anemia.
It is devastating to say the least. But once again, we have to ask (now more in unison due to the opening paragraph) How can something that used to save lives of Black Americans in their native homeland turn on them and cause such serious, life-threatening illness? Well, a good starting point is to look at what changed between there and here.
What did change? The climate, the air, the clothing, the water, and what else? Oh yeah, the diet. The reader had to know that this would be the focus of attention here and it is because I believe it deserves to be. The fact is that those in Africa did not eat wheat or drink cow milk at the time they were being taken into slavery. They lived on all of the gluten-free grains that are suitable for celiacs like myself-millet, sorghum, and maize- and consumed goat milk when they required dairy products. Their first exposure to the newly-improved (actually toxic) common wheat that our European ancestors had created in about 400 AD was on the slave boats during transport. History tells us that nearly 40% of the slaves never made it to their ports of destination, many of them dying of acute dysentery. This is exactly what happened in the years immediately following common wheat’s creation: acute celiac disease wiped out countless children and adults once the gluten hit their duodenal villi, crushed their immune systems, and allowed the dysentery to run rampant. Black Americans simply became the newest batch of celiacs, the way I see it. Couple that bread with a big glass of cow milk once they did arrive on our shores and you have a real immunological disaster in the making.
This is actually consistent with the clinical signs of sickle cell disease. The night I read a Merck medical manual on sickle cell, I called my brother with a run down of symptoms for an undisclosed disease. I asked him what they sounded like to him. He answered “Celiac disease”. I told him that it was sickle cell disease. He was amazed. That’s when I offered my “theory” to him. We agreed that it certainly made sense.
We know that celiac sufferers are very prone to autoimmune diseases. The damage to the small intestine sets them up for this, as described all over this site. They have 40-50 times higher rates of thyroid disorders, lupus, rheumatoid, and platelet disorders than the general population. Once we enter what I call “safe mode”…that time in our lives when the immune system starts reacting to numerous foreign proteins in order to protect us further…our immune system starts to attack these protein invaders (viruses, pleomorphic bacteria, inhalant proteins, lectins/dietary glycoproteins, etc.) wherever they may be. Some are deep in the tissue of our organs while others are in the blood stream and on the blood cells themselves. Red blood cells, platelets, and even the blood vessels can have these protein antigens attached to or within them.
So, I see sickle cell disease as a horrible cascade of events that starts with the formation of sickle cells from a stimulus other than the one intended: the infection of a red cell with the malaria organism. These sickle cells develop as a result of other antigenic insults on the red cell, the same ones that cause autoimmune hemolytic anemias and thrombocytopenias (platelet deficiencies) in celiacs and other immune-challenged people. But, in the sickle cell sufferer, the pump has been primed in an awful way, being programmed to fold like a card house when challenged.
Once the individual enters “safe mode”, all it takes is the right stimulus- a viral infection, a vaccine, a large dose of inhalant or food allergen, a drug reaction, a bacterial infection, etc- and the domino effect takes place, causing massive collapse of red cells and adhesion of these antigenically polarized cells to each other and to the vessels that contain them. The results are almost predictable as the blood vessels supplying the bones and various organs are occluded by these clots. It is truly a medical nightmare.
White Americans have had the longest time to adapt to the serious agricultural mistakes their ancestors made back in 400 AD. The creation of common wheat and the subsequent introduction of its man-altered gluten will live in infamy in the minds of those who understand the consequences of this historical milestone. Even Caucasians have had 1000 less years to adapt to their second big mistake- jumping ship from sheep and goat to cows as the source of milk- than they have to the wheat they created. I believe that is another reason why cow milk has been incriminated in so many of the conditions that affect us: We haven’t had enough time to adapt to its harmful effects.
Case in point: The groups with the highest rates of immune-mediated diseases stand for good reason. Diabetes has skyrocketed in the Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Indian American over the recent years. The African American leads the way in heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. These facts should no longer be such a surprise: These groups are the newest to the American (Western European) diet. Neither African Americans nor Asians consumed wheat, dairy or corn in their traditional diets, much less the man-engineered, genetically modified versions.
With 60-70% of this country’s diet now being made up of the two foods that harmed them most in history- wheat and dairy- the newcomers should see this correlation and take steps to correct it. The Japanese American women should easily see that it is cow milk consumption (with the help of hydrogenated oils) that is leading them into epidemic rates of breast cancer. The Black American woman should see that it is cow milk that is leading the way into such serious incidence of osteoporosis and diabetes, while contributing horribly to heart disease and their breast cancer rates.
But for the sake of this discussion, it should be clear why I suggest that diet turned Sickle Cell disease- a once life-saving trait- into a tragic medical condition. To me, this disease illustrates a number of the most important points that I have tried to make on this site. One: Things happen for a reason in our body. Something is “idiopathic” only because we have yet to ask the right question. Two: We are responsible for the things that go wrong in this body of ours. The holistic proponent is right when they say If something is wrong with your body than you have done something to it. This includes destroying your own immunity. Three: Genetics do not make you sick. They never have and they never will. Genetics simple determine what will happen to you if and when it all starts to come apart. As long as you stay healthy and out of “safe mode”, the genetic codes (and the viruses they contain) are nothing but a bunch of nucleotides. But, once the damage is done and the wall is hit, the genetics will help to determine which plague (or plagues) you get to endure. And four: The love of food is the root of all medical evil. (I thought I’d slip that in.)
Could that be true? Could the trouble foods that I preach about be the cause of all of our medical woes? If we ate perfectly and the damage to the gut never happened, the malabsorption of the nutrients never happened, the formation of food-related antibodies never happened, and we never went into my mythological “safe mode”, could we live to be the hundred and twenty years of age we were promised in the Bible?
What I do know is that by eliminating these foods from my diet, my life has done a 180-degree turn medically speaking. Bullet-proof is the term I use these days to describe how I feel most days. Could a person with Sickle Cell disease become bulletproof by avoiding the protein antigens that trigger the cascade of events described above? Perhaps we should ask those people in Africa and the Mediterranean who carry the gene but rarely suffer from the disease. At least, that used to be true. Watch what happens as the American diet makes its way around the world. Fast food: our gift to the world.