Many of us even know what celiac disease is as we have heard or read about it in articles. Pay attention to the data in these articles – gluten issues are a major issue, not to be taken lightly. Many people have shared these articles with me, and I would love to use this opportunity to teach you what gluten actually is. In one study in particular, they looked at over 300 patients that went gluten free and their digestive issues didn’t resolve during the thirty day study. First, food intolerance don’t always rear their ugly head in the form of digestive issues. As I have mentioned, food intolerance can show themselves as brain fog, painful menstruation, infertility, acne, joint pain, among so many others. So just because the control group didn’t have digestive issues resolved, doesn’t mean gluten is the only cause of digestive problems.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is found in almost all grains, including wheat, barley and rye. It messes up the entire digestive symptom because it damages the area of the small intestine (microvilli) where nutrients are absorbed. When gluten is consumed, regardless if you are celiac or even test positive for gluten intolerance, it makes your intestine more permeable, leading to leaky gut syndrome and SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). What’s worse, is continuing to consume gluten can lead to other food intolerance, immune system deficiency, and removes the ability to effectively produce vitamin B12. This, among other problems, can cause you to gain weight and contribute to weight loss resistance.
Although, as ironic as it sounds, celiac disease doesn’t cause weight gain like gluten intolerance can. Because patients with celiac disease have such a hard time for their body to absorb nutrients and vitamins, they tend to be thin and underweight. And the whole Julia Childs philosophy of “everything in moderation”, doesn’t apply with the pesky gluten. Why? Because consuming gluten after it is cut out, can sabotage your weight loss effort, not because of the carbs, but because it causes severe inflammation of the digestive system. It can create significant problems for you. Plain and simple.
Celiac disease, despite knowing at least one friend or family member with it, affects about 1 in 133 people having full blown celiac. However, gluten intolerance are much more common, affecting nearly 40 percent of the population. I don’t know if you recall, but I remember in the late 90’s, reading a TIME for Kids magazine in elementary school and learning about this kid who had a peanut allergy. Such a strange thought to be allergic to peanut butter. It’s like being allergic to the sun, I thought. (Which is a real thing too!) And as the years went by, more and more people began to develop peanut allergies. The same goes for Gluten intolerance and celiac disease. I never heard about it, then all of a sudden my freshman year of college a friend came over and couldn’t eat my spread of wheat crackers and cheeses because he was allergic to gluten. “What the hell?” I thought. “What is gluten?” Not long after my cousin developed a diagnosed case of gluten intolerance, my sister not long behind her. Why the sudden increase in gluten intolerance? Well, as author JJ Virgin puts it best, “We’ve made gluten containing grains more “gluten-y” because it makes food fluffier and softer. If you go to Italy and eat the pasta or pizza, it’s entirely different because they haven’t overly glutenized their grains.” Ever wondered why the baguette loving French or the pasta eating Italians don’t seem to be obese? This plays a part.
If you find it hard to give up grains, bread, and pasta, consider this; if you eat it, you will disrupt your digestive system. Then, it will take its toll on your body, prematurely aging you and making you prone to disease. You may develop various medical issues, and then gain weight.
We’ve discussed why America is more affected by gluten than other countries, we’ve discussed what effect it has on the body, but now let us dive deeper into this Gluten.
Since gluten is a protein, many people will think it’s good for you. But some proteins cause our bodies a lot of damage. We all love gluten. It will either make your food light and fluffy, or chewy and crunchy. It hides in the most unlikely of places including ice cream, condiments, pickles, and even deli meats to make it thicker.
When I lived in Austin, Texas, while still studying to become a nutritionist, I would see deli meats saying “gluten free” on the packaging. I just thought this was because gluten is huge in the media now, everyone wants to go gluten free to be healthy. I didn’t understand at the time that some deli meats are pumped full of gluten to thicken them. Think about it, you go to the deli counter at the supermarket and order a pound of freshly sliced turkey breast. The deli worker pulls out a giant 10 pound turkey breast and begins slicing your order. Have you ever seen a turkey with a ten pound breast? I grew up in the country having pet chickens and turkeys, and never once did I see a ten pound turkey breast like I did at the deli counter. After the meat is ground up into a watery sludge, it’s then pumped full of gluten and shoved into a mold. Pretty gross right? So it’s important to look for gluten free deli meats. Also, a lot of sausages contains gluten. This is because it will either be a filler or the fact that many machines that make sausage are cleaned out using bread. Then it’s a cross contamination, not an ingredient so it won’t be listed on the ingredient list, but will have a disclaimer of being used on shared equipment.
Eating gluten helps your body release a protein called Zonulin. Once this happens, this protein begins to break up the cell lining that is keeping your small intestines, well, inside your small intestines, leading to intestinal permeability, or Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Now let’s discuss the effect gluten has on autoimmune disorders. We know celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, other autoimmune disorders include asthma, allergies, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, arthritis, lupus, among so many others! So, following the 30 Day Challenge is a great way to remove some of the triggers, and start healing yourself from autoimmune disease.
Lectins and Phytates
Gluten has what are called lectins and Phytates. Lectins attach themselves to insulin receptors which can make you become insulin resistant, causing weight gain and weight loss resistance. Lectins attach themselves to the inside of your intestines throwing off the population of good and bad bacteria creating SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). Lectins could also create Leptin resistance, too!
If you recall back to your biology class, there are many hormones responsible for digestion. A lot of clients I’ve talked to only think that the only hormones they have in their body is estrogen and testosterone. Some will get really fancy and throw in Progesterone into the mix too. But the reality is there are many hormones that are in the body, in particular many are involved in the process of digestion. One of them being Leptin. This is the hormone that regulates whether or not you are hungry or full. Leptin resistance can make you hungry, even after you’ve eaten a huge plate of food (more than you need!), putting you at risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure, and so much more.
Phytates are just as bad! These bad boys are found in gluten too (surprise, surprise)! They are referred to by many as an “Anti-nutrient” because they make minerals unavailable. And they say whole grains are chocked full of vitamins and minerals!
One thing that I stress to every client about going gluten free is gluten free foods are not superfoods. Just because you found a great tasting pizza that is gluten free, or found a gluten free doughnut shop, doesn’t automatically turn it into a health food. I have seen many clients find a great tasting gluten free pizza, or sweets, and incorporate them into their diet all the time. You wouldn’t have done this with normal pizza or sweets, so don’t start making them a daily thing for you now.
I want you to do some homework on gluten. Learn about conditions like Gluten Ataxia, where the autoimmune response attacks your cerebellum, or how gluten lights up the same areas of the brain as morphine and other addicting drugs causing you to crave more, and feel good when you eat it. This gives a whole new meaning to comfort food, huh? You literally feel happy eating it. Don’t just take my word for it, do your own homework! Also bear in mind when choosing alcohol that not all liquors are created equal. Make sure you find a gluten free alcohol.
Yes the list of gluten containing foods is long, but you have two advantages in your favor. First, many foods label themselves as gluten free making it far easier to know it’s free of gluten, and secondly, some of these you probably wouldn’t ever eat anyway. But on the following page are some examples of where gluten can hide. Bear in mind that this is only a few examples, and some things like dry mustard powder and curry powder (among others) are on the list because some brands use flour as a bulking agent, just because it’s on the list doesn’t mean you have to avoid it, many brands manufacture differently. Do your own research on what products are gluten free, especially by checking out sites for celiac disease and the thousands of apps out there that can scan barcodes of products to learn if they contain gluten.