Gluten free: health fad or life saving diet?

By September 2, 2016 No Comments

wheat

Wheat, the staff of life, has been used by nearly every major civilization since the dawn of time, or at least the last 9000 years. This isn’t necessarily a good indicator that something is good for you.

Have you ever been told to avoid eating gluten or wheat products?

An estimated 1 in 100 people in the UK and in Europe; however, only about 24% of people with the condition are clinically diagnosed. has celiac disease.  It is estimated that 83% of Americans who have celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by a reaction to gluten, it is not a food allergy or an intolerance.

• Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Some people with coeliac disease are also sensitive to oats.
• Damage to the gut lining occurs on eating gluten.
• The average length of time taken for someone to be diagnosed with the disease from the onset of symptoms is a staggering 13 years.
• There is no cure for the condition; the only treatment is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet.
• If a gluten-free diet is not followed, the disease can ultimately lead to nutritional deficiencies and is linked with osteoporosis, cancer of the small bowel and unexplained infertility problems.
• If someone with coeliac disease accidentally eats gluten, they are likely to be unwell within a few hours. Symptoms can include severe diarrhoea and vomiting and can last several days.
• Gluten-free food can be contaminated by gluten-containing food during preparation. Potential sources of contamination include breadcrumbs in toasters and on bread boards, use of utensils for spreading and spooning jam, butter, chutney etc onto bread and from cooking oil and water
• Coeliac disease runs in families; studies show that if a family member has the condition, there is a 1 in 10 chance of a close relative developing the disease.
• 1 in 4 people with coeliac disease have previously been treated for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) prior to diagnosis of coeliac disease, so people with IBS should be screened for coeliac disease.
• People with coeliac disease cannot join the armed forces.
• Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is the skin presentation of coeliac disease.

Dr. Fasano, director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, published the first study looking at the molecular basis for gluten sensitivity and how it differs from celiac disease. He also participated in the research concluding that celiac disease incidence is one in every 133 people.

According to Dr. Fasano, gluten sensitivity potentially affects far more people than celiac disease. He estimates about 6% to 7% of the U.S. population may be gluten-sensitive, meaning some 20 million people in the United States alone could have the condition.

 

I have this conversation at least once a week.

 

Someone who knows I’m a nutrition & wellness coach approaches me saying, “Is it just me, or are a lot more people becoming gluten intolerant? Is this just a fad, or is it really on the rise?”

 

Surely you’ve noticed it, too. More parents are experimenting with gluten-free diets for their families.  More people announce they have a gluten-intolerance, despite not being tested by physicians or having a “real” diagnosis. And, when you read the words “gluten-free” in a recipe or on the packaging to baked goods, you think: “YAY. It’s healthy!!”

Going gluten and dairy free is certainly a recommendation I’ve made for years to my clients and online audience. The reason is that these foods trigger inflammatory responses in your body that make losing weight and enjoying good health almost impossible.

Not everyone is sensitive to them and not everyone will respond in exactly the same fashion, but I have yet to work with a human being on this planet whose health and waistline have not improved as a result of avoiding (or at least minimizing) these allergenic foods of wheat and dairy.

Let’s look at each one more closely to see how it causes your body to hold on to fat and why it is just bad.

 

First, let’s be clear, what is gluten?

To answer the first question, gluten is a protein composite (gliadin and glutenin) found in wheat, barley, and rye.

It gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape, and often gives the final baked product a chewy texture. It’s kind of like glue, hence the name.

So what is gluten intolerance? It isn’t a food allergy. It’s a physical condition in your gut.

 

Basically, undigested gluten proteins (prevalent in wheat and other grains) hang out in your intestines and are treated by your body like a foreign invader, irritating your gut and flattening the microvilli along the small intestine wall. Without those microvilli, you have considerably less surface area with which to absorb the nutrients from your food.

This leads sufferers to experience symptoms of malabsorption, including chronic fatigue, neurological disorders, nutrient deficiencies, anemia, nausea, skin rashes, depression, and more.

If you remove gluten from the diet, the gut heals and the myriad of symptoms disappears. Depending on the level and degree of the intolerance (which can range anywhere from a gluten sensitivity to a full-blown celiac disease), it may be possible to eventually re-introduce properly prepared grains (sourdough that has fermented for up to a month, sprouted grains, etc) into the diet.

 

Others are not so lucky. Their guts may heal, but their bodies will never be able to digest gluten — even if it’s been “bent” by traditional preparation methods (see below). They have a genetic pre-disposition that causes gluten-sensitivity.

 

Is it really that bad for you?

As for the second question, the answer is simple: Yes, it’s really that bad for you. There’s a good reason why gluten-free products have become perhaps the hottest trend in food right now: Wheat products are some of the greatest contributors to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, depression, and so many other health problems. Who knew all of these problems could be caused by something as simple as a diet consisting of bread, cereal, and pasta?

 

Having had those foods as the staple of my diet for nearly 20 years, I can attest to the sneaky health-robbing powers they possess. My personal beef with gluten is based on years’ worth of research as well as my own personal suffering with my hairloss, vertigo, stomach cramps, IBS symptoms and painful joints; since wheat consumption has been shown to cause celiac-like inflammation of the hair, skin and joints and can affect the brain, mood and energy.

 

I know that my life has changed since giving up gluten 3 years ago.

 

I know it’s hard to believe that wheat could wreak so much havoc on your health, especially when it’s touted as such an important staple of a healthy diet. However, you have to bear in mind that this is not the same wheat that your grandparents were eating.

 

What you eat today is drastically modified “Frankenwheat.”  According to Yuri Elkaim in his book.

 

He goes on to note, “For this, you can “thank” Norman Borlaug— often referred to as “the Man Who Saved a Billion Lives.” 4 Borlaug was perhaps the most noted agronomist of the 20th century, and his effort in the 1960s to increase the global yield of wheat through hybridization techniques was born of noble intentions: His goal was to feed the drastically increasing numbers of starving people in the developing world. The resulting semidwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat strain fulfilled his mission and won him a Nobel Prize, but his invention has inadvertently made millions of people sick and fat. Modifications have continued over the past 50 years, using techniques that include hybridization and chemical, gamma-ray, and x-ray mutagenesis.

 

The latter has been used to develop a new “superstrain” of wheat, called Clearfield, that is herbicide resistant. These modern, mutant strains of wheat are a far cry from the wheat spoken of in any holy book. You would think that the litany of studies showing the health issues related to these modern wheat strains would spur a return to older varieties, but this hasn’t been the case. A big part of the problem is that massive money and power support big grain lobby groups like the Grain Foods Foundation and the Whole Grains Council.

For decades, these groups have brainwashed us into believing that whole grains should be an essential part of our diets and that the fiber in their breads and cereals is good for lowering our cholesterol and improving other health markers. There’s a theme here that comes up time and time again when digging into the dirty laundry of the modern diet: When we start playing around with Mother Nature, we end up with far less predictable and less controllable outcomes. It’s kind of like Jurassic Park.”

About 60% of flour produced in the UK is used in the manufacture of bread products, with the remaining 40% being used in a huge diversity of food products. UK flour consumption reached 74kg per person per year in 2008/9.

Bread is bought by 99% of British households, and the equivalent of nearly 12 million loaves are sold each day. Approximately 75% of the bread we eat is white and sandwiches are thought to account for 50% of overall bread consumption. Average bread purchases are the equivalent of 43 loaves per person per year. According to the government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey, median bread consumption per person is approximately 90 grammes per day, higher for men (113g) than for women (76g).

As of 2014, the average American consumed about 179 pounds of wheat every year.

That’s the weight of an entire person!

Let’s now look at how this engineered wheat affects our bodies.

It contains amylopectin A— the most quickly digested and fattening form of starch. It contains a form of gluten that is superinflammatory.  It is highly addictive, which makes you crave and eat more of it. Amylopectin A Amylopectin A is a superstarch found in modern wheat that makes our bread nice and fluffy. However, it’s also a big part of the reason why a single slice of whole wheat bread (yes, even more so than white bread) now raises your blood sugar more than if you had consumed 1 tablespoon of table sugar!

 

As you’ll discover throughout my book The Warrior Goddess Body Book, the higher the blood sugar response after consumption of food, the greater the release of your fat-storing hormone— insulin— and the more fat that can potentially be stored in your body.

By contrast, beans and legumes contain amylopectin C— the least digestible form of the starch— which actually ends up feeding the good bacteria in your gut, making its sugar less available for absorption. As a result, it doesn’t cause a spike in your blood sugar. As if that wasn’t enough, amylopectin A not only spikes our blood sugar more viciously than do other starches, it also leads to the development of insulin resistance. In fact, a study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that it actually causes nonreversible insulin resistance in rats.  It’s helpful to understand that insulin resistance can be reversed through diet and exercise alone in most cases. However, this study showed that was impossible after just 16 weeks on a high– amylopectin A diet. Wheat consumption stimulates insulin-mediated fat storage, which is mostly directed to visceral fat— the fat around the organs in your gut. The bigger your belly gets, the poorer your response to insulin becomes because the deeper layers of visceral fat are less responsive to it. They ultimately demand more insulin, which eventually leads to insulin resistance, or diabetes.

 

How Gluten Causes Inflammation

When you think of inflammation, you might think of the swelling you see when you mistakenly stub your toe or bump your head. As painful and frustrating as that may be, it’s a healing mechanism your body has in place to help heal the injury. What you might not realize is that inflammation happens inside the body as well, where you can’t see it. When this hidden inflammation is ongoing, it can lead to all kinds of health problems. Can you imagine your whole body swelling up on the inside? It’s an unpleasant thought, and the scary reality is that many of us live day to day like this without knowing it.

 

Plenty of things give rise to this situation, and gluten is one of them. Gluten creates a cascade of low-level inflammation reactions throughout your body that, over time, can lead to a host of bigger problems. At the highest level, gluten can lead to full-blown celiac disease— an autoimmune disease that triggers body-wide inflammation leading to insulin resistance, which causes weight gain, diabetes, and more problems. Celiac disease results when the body creates antibodies against gluten that attack the lining of the small intestines, the main absorptive area in your body, which also provides a barrier separating you from your poop. This can lead to cramping, diarrhea, yellow stool, or even no symptoms at all in many cases. Over time, the destruction of the intestinal lining diminishes the amount of nutrients you can absorb from your food, leading to many nutritional deficiencies. The protein in wheat, gliadin, has been shown to trigger the release of a protein called zonulin, an important gatekeeper of intestinal permeability.

 

The more wheat you eat, the more zonulin you activate, and the weaker the tight junctions become in your small intestines. This broken-down intestinal lining then allows the protein components of wheat (and other food proteins) to seep into the bloodstream, where a range of nasty immune and inflammatory responses begins.

 

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that hidden gluten sensitivity (elevated antibodies without full-blown celiac disease) was shown to increase risk of death by 35 to 75 percent, mostly by causing heart disease and cancer.

 

Remember, gluten can trigger these same problems even if you don’t have full-blown celiac disease. Many people have elevated antibodies to gluten without even knowing it. The best course of action is to simply assume you do, too, so that you avoid the deleterious effects of gluten.

 

Gluten Addiction

 

It’s hard to eat just one doughnut, slice of fluffy white bread or a biscuit, isn’t it? I’ll be very honest with you— pizza and pasta are my nemesis, and I know why.

 

wheat addiction

 

At some level, I’m addicted to it, and that’s likely because I’ve eaten tons of it over the course of my life. I certainly don’t eat much of it now, but I scarfed so much of it in my childhood that a deep craving for it has probably embedded itself inside me. Even now, it returns from time to time, especially in moments of stress when my body just needs a comforting “fix.”

Wheat’s addictive properties are largely due to the fact that, upon digestion, its proteins are converted into shorter opioid-like proteins called gluten exorphins or gluteomorphins. They act in similar fashion to the endorphins you get from a runner’s high by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain. That process is also responsible for the high you get after taking an illegal drug, setting the stage for an addiction similar to but probably less intense than heroin addiction.

 

I hope by now you have a much better understanding of why wheat is terrible for your health and your ability to lose weight. It has no redeeming qualities, no matter what any dietitian, the American Diabetes Association, or even the latest food pyramid may tell you.

 

Some of these authorities will likely tell you that if you don’t have the HLA-DQ gene or specific antibodies against gluten, you’ll be fine eating copious amounts of bread. I’m here to tell you otherwise.

 

Let me save you the hassle of going through all sorts of blood and genetic tests. Let’s just agree that wheat is not good for your body, okay? For that reason, none of the recipes in my 28 Day Warrior Goddess Body programme— or any others that I ever create— will contain wheat or gluten. You don’t need it, and you certainly won’t miss it when you’re enjoying delicious meals that help you drop a few pounds in the space of a few days.

 

 

References for this article:

G Corazza et al ‘Celiac Disease and Alopecia Areata: Report of a New Association” Gastronenterlogy 109 no 4 (1995): 1333-37

H Foster-Powell and J Brand-Miller, “International Table of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 76 no1 (2002): 5-56

C Wiseman, “Amylopectin Starch Induces Nonreversible Insulin Resistance in Rats,” Journal of Nutrition 126, no 2 (1996): 410-15

S Drago et al, “Gliadin, Zonulin, and Gut Permeability: Effects on Celiac and Non Celiac Intestinal Mucosa and Intestinal Cell Lines,” Scandinavian Journal of Gastronenterlology 41, no 4(2006): 408-19

J F Ludvigsson, SM Montgomery, A. Ekbom, L. Brandt, and F Granath, “Small Intestinal Histopathology and Mortality Risk in Celiac Disease, “ Journal of the American Medical Association 302, no11 (September 16, 2009): 1171-78

 

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Lisa Barwise

Author Lisa Barwise

Hi, I'm Lisa. I consider myself a Wellness Alchemist, the catalyst in the transformation of Strong Women around the world. Strong of mind, body and character.

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