These days most people are familiar with the term “gluten-free”, and many will have a vague understanding of what a gluten-free diet consists of. For many, gluten is assumed to only be a problem for people who have celiac disease; a strong physical reaction to gluten, and that gluten is fine (or even good) for everyone else. After all, we’ve been eating it for years and seem fine, our grandparents and great grandparents probably still eat it, and it’s promoted by mainstream health practitioners – how can we possibly not eat it?!
In this post I hope to inform you of the effect gluten has on both celiac and non-celiac individuals through the way it damages the gut, which can switch on a host of (often non-digestive) physical and mental illnesses. I’m not wanting to scaremonger nor to place judgement, I simply wish to inform, encourage enquiry and promote the idea that what you eat powerfully impacts your current and future health. Taking gluten out of your diet is not just a fad associated with certain “types” of health-conscious people. A gluten-free diet for many unwell adults and children is critical – the vital key to unlocking better health and a happier more vibrant life.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, bran, farina and kamut.
What foods contain the protein gluten?
- Oats milled with wheat products
And also the following products where flour can be used as an ingredient:
- Baked goods – cookies, cakes, doughnuts, pastries, waffles, pancakes
- Sauces/dressings – soya sauce, can be used to thicken soups, gravies, salad dressings, marinades, curries, Japanese sushi rolls, Chinese dishes
- Batter/crumbs/crusts – pizza, fishcakes, burger patties, tempura, fritters, pies, sausage rolls, samosas, hot chips/wedges
- Snacks – breakfast cereals, cereal bars, crackers, croutons, processed lunch meats, imitation meat, pretzels, liquorice
- Drinks – beer, some ciders, sake, gin and whiskey
- Beauty products – toothpaste, lip balm, lipstick, make-up
- Medication and vitamins
What’s so wrong with gluten?
The composition of gluten’s two amino acid sequence (gliadin and glutenin) is still too new and too tricky for our digestive systems to properly deal with.
“Gluten is not digestable by ANYONE on the planet” – Dr. David Perlmutter.
“We need to appreciate that we did not evolve to deal with these proteins. As a matter of fact, for almost 99.9% of humankind’s evolution our ancestors have been gluten-free” – Dr. Alessio Fasano.
What does this mean?
When we eat gluten it breaks down the protective lining of our gut. Despite the gut having an incredible ability to heal itself, it really struggles to when it’s constantly bombarded with pollutants such as antibiotics, painkillers, pharmaceutical medications, a poor diet, stress, chemical toxins in the air and household products, the contraceptive pill and so on. Our gut lining houses virtually our entire immune system, and it has more neurons than our brain, so if we break this lining down we essentially lessen our ability to fight off the many bugs and emotional stresses that we are exposed to. This could mean that we become more susceptible to:
- Catching colds, flus, viruses, wheezing, cough, tummy bugs; less resilience to food poisoning
- Developing allergies to animals, grasses, moulds, cosmetics; dermatitis, rashes, eczema, athsma
- Developing allergies to different foods; feeling bloated; having intestinal pain, bad wind, diarrhea, constipation
- Feeling tired or wired, irritable, sad, anxious; having “brain fog”; difficulty concentrating and remembering things
- Low or no sex drive; acne; weight gain/loss; sleep and menstrual cycle irregularity
…to name a few
When we consume gluten regularly our gut lining becomes so thin that undigested food particles break through our gut wall and get into our bloodstream – this is known as leaky gut syndrome. Our poor immune system gets so messed up with all this floating debris that it confuses what is good and bad and starts attacking our own system, creating autoimmune disorders and switching on genetic disorders you may have inherited from your parents that have otherwise been lying dormant.
By the time the gluten protein reaches the brain its chemical structure has changed to one similar to addictive opiates such as morphine and heroin. These opiates act to block off certain areas of the brain causing inflammation and triggering any number of mental health-related disorders.
So our guts and brains are on fire and the rest of the body is smoldering – was that cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner really worth this? Most people eat these things and have no idea of the havoc they are wreaking until major illnesses show up and can’t be ignored. Some of these illnesses include:
- Psychological problems – seizures, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, autism, schizophrenia
- Blood sugar and cardiovasular disorders – Diabetes Types I, II, and III / Alzheimers, asthma, cardiovasular disease
- Autoimmune diseases – Hashimoto’s, Alopecia, Graves’ disease, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis
- Gut diseases – Chron’s disease, celiac, leaky gut syndrome
- Muscular skeletal diseases/disorders – rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, cerebella ataxia, Ankylosing Spondylolisthesis
- Hormonal disturbances – PCOS, endometriosis, infertility, miscarriage or still births
“What is so profound is that this is a mechanism that happens in all humans, not just the 30% or more of us who have blood tests that show that we are sensitive to gluten. This is all comers. It’s all of us who mount an increased permeability of the gut when exposed to this perverse protein called gluten”
Dr. David Perlmutter. Hello Paleo.
How can we put the fire out and not just fan the flames with various medications?
Removing the fuel that’s feeding the fire, i.e. gluten, will stop the damage so the healing process can begin. Even small amounts of gluten can halt the healing process and begin damaging tissue again, so you must be gluten zero. Of course some people can slowly reintroduce gluten once their gut is healed, but many simply choose to remain gluten-free after feeling so well without it.
Why don’t our doctors tell us this? Why isn’t it more common place?
Translational research is research that changes the way doctors think and the way they practise. Now, it sounds utterly preposterous, but it is sadly true, that it will take around 17 years for mainstream doctors to act from this new information. This is an average, not an exception.
It was 21 years ago (in 1992) that Professor Michael Marsh authored a research paper that connected gluten consumption with celiac disease. How is it that still SO many people out there, including doctors, do not either know about or value the importance of a gluten-free diet when it comes to health and well-being? It was only 2 years ago that research about non-celiac gluten sensitivity came out – we cannot wait another 15 years until this vital information becomes mainstream.
What this research tells us is that there are MANY more people who are sensitive to gluten but do not have celiac disease. For every 1 person that has a problem in the gut after eating gluten (bloating, pain, constipation and so on) there are 8 people that have problems somewhere else in their body which they don’t directly connect with eating gluten (brain fog, depression, anxiety, arthritis, psoriasis, ADHD).
If you are suffering from any kind of ailment that your doctor has been unable to help you with, and he or she has not asked you about your diet, then I URGE you to go out and find a Functional Medicine Practitioner. A FMP is someone who practises mainstream medicine but also has the view that you can regenerate anything in your body depending on the environment you give it – be that with relation to food, exercise, sleep and so on. They will not send you off with a prescription or make the conclusion that you are just a ‘sickly’ person or that your child is just naughty.
If you want gain a deeper understanding follow the links here to hear 29 of the world’s experts and opinion leaders on the topics of gluten-related disorders, nutrition and healthy living.
Try it out
- Mainly eat: vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, avocado, coconut oil, butter, animal fats
- Moderately eat: fruit, coconut, nuts, seeds, rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, gluten-free oats, organic corn.
- Become a label reader. Choose good quality gluten-free labelled products – you should be able to pronounce and recognise every ingredient on the label. Avoid all chemical additives and preservatives – no numbers!
- Follow my recipes (all gluten-free), or google gluten-free recipes, or buy a recipe book – there are loads out there!
* If you have gut-related disturbances you may want to also cut out all dairy products or at least replace them with raw dairy from a trusted source.
If our bodies are expending less energy to deal with this tough protein, they have more energy for other more productive processes. Our liver, digestive and immune systems will get back to properly cleansing, nourishing, energising and strengthening us. We will feel happy vibrant and ourselves again.
“The fate of your health, including that of the brain, is a choice,
not a destiny dictated by your genes”
– Dr David Perlmutter