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Guest Post: Gluten- Free Diets

Posted Jun 09 2012 1:55pm
Meet my friend Danielle (sorry, this could get confusing!).
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She & I have known each other for forever because we went to school together all growing up and graduated together, but recently became friends through our blogs and Facebook (although she lives on the other side of the country from me now). We reconnected as she decided to live a more healthy lifestyle, so we began talking about health related topics and sharing resources. Her lifestyle  changes are really inspiring. She and her husband Josh are  both extremely intelligent and do a lot of research, so I always enjoy reading her posts. We typically agree on most health-related topics, and recently she asked me what I thought about a gluten-free diet for people who are not gluten-intolerant.
 
I actually went to a nutritionist recently who told me that it is not necessary to eat gluten-free unless you are gluten intolerant (and as my gluten intolerant friends know, it can be expensive to buy some of the “gluten-free” products). However, she did mention that MOST people have a slight intolerance to both wheat and dairy. It’s so slight, that the majority of us do not recognize any symptoms or reactions, but she suggested that our systems do not utilize or break down those two food groups as well as we may other foods. The nutritionist recommended for me to eliminate wheat from my diet as much as possible (which I have) and limit my dairy, which can be disruptive to the flora in the gut (but is also a great source of calcium and protein if you’re not getting enough from other foods in your diet). She encouraged me to continue eating my steal cut oats, sweet potatoes, brown rice, Ezekial bread (yes, wheat!), and quinoa, just to name a few. So although I do not eat the typical wheat bread found in most grocery store aisles, I have not cut out carbs. (Whole wheat and multigrain breads can often be deceiving. We assume they’re healthy because it says “whole wheat or multirain” but if you look at the ingredients, one of the first few listed is usually enriched flour or wheat flour, which is not the real deal.) Check out this article for more info on the “whole wheat hoax.”  I eat mostly lean protein and veggies, but yes,  I do eat carbs as well. (Cutting carbs below 100 g a day can be harmful to women’s health, cycles, etc.)
 
According to the book Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD:
  • Wheat is actually addictive. After digestion, a component of wheat actually attaches itself to narcotic receptors in your brain, and this effect can be blocked by using a drug called Naltrexone (what we use in heroin addicts to get them off their “high” quickly)
  • Wheat causes inflammation in the body. Dr. Davis has thousands of cases of patients whose cholesterol levels dropped back to normal after taking wheat out of their diets. High cholesterol is a symptom of inflammation (and not a direct cause of heart disease). Thus dropping the inflammation, drops the cholesterol naturally…without drugs.
  • Two slices of whole wheat bread raises your blood sugar more than two TABLESPOONS of table sugar! Yikes! Even I didn’t know this. The sugar spike is even worse than eating white bread (which I don’t recommend either because it is devoid of nutrients). So pre-diabetics and people with blood sugar-handling problems like me, will actually store the sugar very quickly as FAT through the efficient action of insulin from the pancreas. Eventually though, the pancreas can “poop” out from all that work and BAM! You get diabetes.
  • His overweight, diabetic patients actually lose a ton of weight and become cured of their diabetes often when they cut out wheat and high glycemic carbohydrates out of their diets (corn, potato etc.)
Anyway, it seems as if more and more people are being diagnosed with Celiac’s disease, and obviously they have to incorporate gluten-free foods into their diets. Most of my friends seem to have theirs under control. Danielle said there is a recent push, especially in the celebrity world, to utilize a gluten-free diet as a form of weight loss/fad dieting, so she wanted to do some research and find out the scoop. Check out what she learned:
 
"What is not widely known about gluten-free products is that they still contain the same number of carbohydrates as their gluten-containing counterparts." [5.]
 
First and foremost, I would like to thank Danielle for allowing me the pleasure to guest post on her blog! I really wanted to reach out to as many people as I could with this post, and lets face the facts - she has a much larger number of followers than I do. It also doesn't hurt that we share the same view on the topic (like most) and a guest posting allows us to overlap and write one larger blog instead of two separate ones; we also share some of the same viewers. So let's get to it!
 
Starting off with some definitions: Celiac Disease and Gluten.
 
Celiac Disease: Celiac Disease (CD) is a lifelong inherited autoimmune condition affecting children and adults. When people with CD eat foods that contain gluten, it creates an immune-mediated toxic reaction that causes damage to the small intestine and does not allow food to be properly absorbed.
 
Gluten:  Gluten is the common name for the proteins in specific grains that are harmful to persons with celiac disease. These proteins are found in ALL forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn and faro) and related grains rye, barley and tritical.    [1.]
 
Gluten-free food is designed for people with celiac disease and was not even a common (on the shelves and restaurant menus) find until very recently. I can not say for sure when or why gluten-free became the new buzz word, but I can say after doing some further reading on the subject I know it is not the way I want to eat. Recently in the media a lot of celebrities [2.] have come out saying that they have shed POUNDS by switching a to gluten-free diet, but is this really the case? Was it the gluten-free switch that caused the weight loss or was it the fact that they also changed other eating habits in general and picked up more exercise routines?


It is important to note that a gluten-free diet is very strict and can get pretty costly, not to mention all those hard to find products. When ever you have a diet that prohibits you from eating a certain food you also need to look at the vitamins and minerals that are naturally found in that food group that you will also now be lacking. "Many grains are enriched with vitamins. Avoiding grains with a gluten-free diet may mean eating fewer of these enriched products." [3.] Some of the vitamins listed in this Mayo Clinic article were iron, calcium, fiber, thiamine (B-1), niacin (B-6), riboflavin (B-3), folate (folic acid). We are generally familiar with some of these vitamins, or have at least heard their names before - iron and calcium are needed for strong bones and fiber is needed for digestion. We also generally know that the B vitamin family is used for 'energy' and the metabolisms of certain foods and I am HOPING that as a women you are WELL WELL WELL informed of the importance of foliate and the roll it plays while you are pregnant. (we can address that in a later blog if needed). As you can see right away, if you are going to a gluten-free life, you are instantly missing out on some important vitamins.

"Some of the many gluten-free products on the market can be unhealthy, Fasano says, because manufacturers add extra sugar and fat to simulate the texture and satisfying fluffiness that gluten imparts." [4.]
On the flip side, this article on the CNN website [4.] claims "While celiac disease affects about 1 percent of the U.S. population, experts estimate that as many as 10 percent have a related and poorly understood condition known as non-celiac gluten intolerance (NCGI), or gluten sensitivity." It is then followed by a statement by Daniel Leffler, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston. "There is a tight definition of celiac disease, but gluten intolerance has been a moving target." Gluten intolerance may also be going mis/under-diagnosed; it has many symptoms that are overlapping with other more commonly diagnosed issues such as IBS. After reading this article you are lead to believe that a diet free of gluten will reduce bloat and fatigue, but at the very end (in the final few paragraphs)  the article takes a sharp turn. After giving all the information about gluten intolerance and what you should look out for and do to alleviate discomfort, it clearly states my point "Even though celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Gwyneth Paltrow have reportedly cut out gluten to "detox," there's nothing inherently healthier about a gluten-free diet."
And in this final piece to drive the point home and back up my question if it's really the cut in gluten that causes the weight-loss, I found countless sources that say NO, it is NOT healthier. "Many who go on a gluten-free diet may lose weight and feel better, but it has nothing to do with avoiding gluten. Just cutting out starchy, processed forms of carbohydrate or limiting carbohydrate intake helps with lowering insulin resistance, which leads to weight loss and improved energy." [5.]
 
Danielle (Butler) has hit the button on the nose, we all need to focus on a CLEAN diet and stick to what our bodies naturally crave. We have created this diet-based society that if you are not on the hottest most late-breaking fad that you are doing something wrong. That is a big fat negative! Eat clean and eat often. You know your body better than anyone so you should be listening the hardest - ignore fads and trends, they are just that for a reason. "For the rest of us, there's no need to follow the trends of what is currently in vogue with food manufacturers. Eating simple, unprocessed foods according to what your body can tolerate is the best way of eating." [5.]
**If you have the following symptoms, check with your doctor and see if you may in fact have Celiac disease:
 
headaches, tingling, fatigue, muscle pain, skin rashes, joint pain, and other symptoms, because the autoimmune attack at the root of the disease gradually erodes the wall of the intestine, leading to poor absorption of iron, folate, and other nutrients that affect everything from energy to brain function.[4.]
 
-Gluten sensitivity is a kind of "non-diagnosis," in other words -- a diagnosis by default for those who don't have celiac disease but feel better on a gluten-free diet [4.]

-To get an accurate diagnosis, you need a blood test and/or small bowel biopsy to determine if there is atrophy in your gut. [5.]
 
  1. Celiac.org
  2. http://www.fitsugar.com/Does-Gluten-Free-Diet-Help-You-Lose-Weight-16738335
  3. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gluten-free-diet/my01140 
  4. http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/04/12/gluten.free.diet.improve/index.html 
  5. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-b-dopart-ms-rd/gluten-free-diet-_b_838040.html
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