Book: Wheat Belly by William Davis

Here is a book that I could not read, because it was so focused on the OMG! OBESITY! PANIC!, that it was hard to find any usable info.

I suppose I should’ve expected that with a title like Wheat Belly, but it’d been long recommended by people in the celiac disease community as the “a-ha!” guide to making sense of the hundreds of seemingly unrelated symptoms of celiac disease. But these authors brought everything back to fatness and weight, as glutenfreedom as the cure, and that being fat is icky.

They say glutenous, they mean gluttonous.

Anyway, I skimmed the whole book and couldn’t find a single page that didn’t loop back to anti-fatness.

I was hoping for a book about the history of wheat and how that impacts the body, but this book ain’t it.

Book: China Rx by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh

Before I got sick, I worked in pharma. I had a great pharma internship as an undergrad and I felt like I’d found my niche. I enjoyed analytical chemistry and I had a real knack for anything medical. I worked in the industry for a couple years, then took an analytical chemist position in another industry mainly because I wanted to move closer to my future spouse. I missed pharma and tried interviewing for positions closer to my new home, with no luck. (Probably for the best: the best prospect was at a brand new state-of-the-art research and development facility, which laid everyone off and shut down 6 months later.)

Once started treating celiac disease and adopting a mobility device for a failing back, I was ready and able to go back to work. But no one wants to hire a chemist who’s been out of the industry for nearly a decade. And by then, many of the jobs had moved overseas.

So this book was personally relevant.

China Rx describes the long game played by the Chinese government to become the only supplier of necessary items, including medications and supplements. Since the US government (and its corporations) is far more concerned with this quarter or this election term, it puts the Chinese government in a far better strategic position to achieve its long-term goals.

The US used to make its own antibiotics, vitamin C, and other drugs and drug products. Nowadays, much of the manufacturing of critical raw materials happens in China, because it’s cheaper. Drug companies want to maximize profits, which means purchasing raw materials at the lowest possible cost.

The book describes the heparin horror story when tainted heparin (a blood thinner used regularly in hospitals as standard practice to prevent blood clots, and which, incidentally, is a meat industry byproduct produced from the entrails of slaughtered pigs) sickened and killed many people. When the problem was identified, the FDA did not rush to act because recalling the US heparin supply would’ve caused a national shortage. It’s better to have potentially tainted heparin than no heparin at all.

The book also describes incidents in which Chinese companies prohibited from exporting to the US would use a different company’s label to circumvent bans and export to the US. These companies are partially owned by the state (Chinese government), so it seems more reasonable to assume this is a strategic governmental move, not unscrupulous business owners (although that happens, too).

One of the reasons China can manufacture so cheaply is its lax environmental regulations. For example, making antibiotics is a dirty job. It stinks, there are waste products, and an impact on the local environment. (Soil, air, water.) Rather than spending the money in the US to innovate a cleaner, safer manufacturing process, they outsource the same old ways to a region whose government doesn’t worry about it (to the detriment of its citizens).

The book discusses lax and loosening trade regulations that resulted from supply chain issues. The US military now relies on China for critical medications and medical devices. The US used to manufacture its own penicillin in wartime, but now it relies on China for the only treatments available for anthrax.

The FDA really has very little control over what comes in from overseas, and not much control over what happens in the US either. Recalls are voluntary. Testing is rare. The FDA lacks the manpower, authority, and budget to effect much change. And the revolving door between pharma and the FDA means that few people want to speak out. (Not to mention the overt censorship happening.)

Chances are, most of your medications and vitamins were manufactured in China. If not the entire product, then critical components like the active ingredient and/or the inactive ingredients responsible for extended release dosing. But labeling rules make it very difficult to figure out where your medicines are made. If you’re curious: you can call the manufacturer directly, and sometimes you can find the info on DailyMed or

It was interesting (if depressing) reading about places I’ve physically worked (and learning that some of those places no longer exist), and seeing what happened after I got sick. I know now that it wasn’t solely a long illness that prevented me from reentering the industry, but also many, many changes far beyond my control.

The messy world of supplements

A delayed celiac diagnosis means I struggle with adequate nutrition. I’m still combatting a lifetime of unabsorbed nutrients. It’s exhausting.

I have to rely on supplements in some cases, and supplements are the Wild West of the nutrition world. Little regulation goes into them, and it’s entirely possible that vitamin bottle doesn’t contain any vitamins at all, and the only way you’ll ever know is if someone tests it, or if it contains something risky and someone gets hurt.

I am allergic to lanolin, which is used to produce the majority of vitamin D3 supplements. D3 seems to be better absorbed by most people (especially those with gut problems) compared to non-lanolin derived D2. I took massive doses of D2 for months with no impact on my single-digit levels. I managed lanolin-derived D3 for awhile, but eventually the allergy symptoms got too severe. In the last several years, a vegetarian source of D3 has been discovered (lichen), which works well enough.

A new bottle of D3 I recently purchased caused me a lanolin-like reaction. I decided to write the company, because it seemed like the wrong D was in the bottle. I emailed the company with the lot number, explained the situation, and hoped they’d look into it.

They contract with a 3rd party QA service, which asked me to call them on the phone. I talk on the phone a lot for work and I’m exhausted. I asked if they would work by email. The email bounced back and there is no way to get a hold of them without calling on the phone.

I emailed the manufacturer again and explained I am tired and disabled. I’m happy to help you with this free labor, but please let me do it by email. They said they would.

I never heard back from them, and today I got an email reply, weeks later, claiming I gave them an invalid lot number so the case was being closed. I checked my sent mail, and the lot number they’re working on is different than the one in my original email.

Seems like working by email should prevent this, because everything is in writing, but the communication still got all bungled up.

I replied with the correct lot number, but who knows what’ll happen.

No one even offered a coupon for the two brand new bottles of D3, which are medically necessary but unsafe to take.

Celiac + allergies under capitalism is a dangerous existence.