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is going gluten free really worth it?


I recently had the opportunity to read an article in the January 2015 issue of Consumer Reports called Will a Gluten-Free Diet Really Make you Healthier?  In this piece, the authors raise six different points about going Gluten Free, coming to the conclusion that, “there’s very limited research to substantiate any of those beliefs.  I would like to show you where Consumer Reports is correct, and where they are missing the boat concerning the protein we call GLUTEN.

  • GLUTEN FREE ISN’T NUTRITIOUS (AND MAYBE LESS SO):   I can certainly buy this first point (and have actually written an article on it HERE).   It’s true because most people who go “Gluten Free” do so the wrong way.  Processed food is processed food, whether or not it contains Gluten.  If you are wanting to go Gluten Free, do an ELIMINATION DIET to find if you are sensitive.  If so, don’t run out and buy a whole bunch of Gluten Free products to take the place of the Gluten-containing products you dumped in your trash.  The only real reason that anyone would avoid Gluten is because it can be a major cause of SYSTEMIC INFLAMMATION.  Following an ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET such as Functional Neurologist, Dr. David Seaman wrote about in an issue of Practical Pain Management, is by far the best way to go about it.  His advice?  Eat vegetation or animals that ate vegetation. 


  • YOU’LL PROBABLY INCREASE YOUR EXPOSURE TO ARSENIC:  This statement makes the assumption that if you go Gluten Free, you’ll be consuming much more rice — a grain which Consumer Reports did an article on back in 2012.  In today’s article they state that, “A 2009-10 study from the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 17 percent of an average person’s dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic comes from rice.”   Before leaping to conclusions, just realize that an Elimination Diet is necessary in order to determine if rice is reactive to your Immune System (it’s one of the 40 or 50 GLUTEN CROSS-REACTORS).  Furthermore, if you are going to consume rice, you need to find a good source. 


  • YOU MIGHT GAIN WEIGHT:  Let me put it this way; if you are gaining weight on a Gluten Free Diet, you are doing something drastically wrong (see the first bullet point).  Weight gain occurs because there is a, “tendency for gluten-free foods to have more calories, sugars, and fat than their regular counterparts.”  Again, this is only true if you are eating those Processed Gluten Free foods I warned you about.   It’s under this point that Consumer Reports takes on books like Wheat Belly — the bloating and BELLY FAT that is so heavily associated with Gluten Sensitivity.   One more time; crappy processed foods are crappy processed foods, whether or not they contain Gluten. 


  • YOU’LL PAY MORE:  Once again, this is only true if you are playing the “SUBSTITUTION GAME“.  Far too often, people expunge one type of unhealthy food from their diet, only to replace it with something equally as cruddy, but not widely thought to be cruddy (my next post is going to address this issue in more depth).  If you are doing Gluten Free the proper way (PALEO or similar), it is not going to cost more, although most of those who are SERIOUSLY ADDICTED TO PROCESSED FOODS will argue incessantly that it will.


  • YOU MIGHT MISS A SERIOUS HEALTH CONDITION:  The author’s reasoning on this point has to do with the difference between Celiac Disease and something called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS).   In this point, Consumer Reports warns that if people truly suspect Gluten is the culprit to their health woes, they should, “get a blood test to check for certain antibodies associated with celiac disease….  If it’s positive, then you should have an endoscopic biopsy of your small intestine to check for damage.”  But what if the test is negative, and you are still convinced Gluten is the culprit?  After all, only about one in one hundred people have Celiac Disease — an Autoimmune Disease whereby the body makes antibodies against and attacks its own Small Intestine.  They mention IBS and the issue of FODMAPS, but fail to warn readers that both these problems, as well as NCGS, have the potential to be every bit as serious as full-blown Celiac Disease.  Thus, we are erroneously led to believe that Celiac is far worse than NCGS.   Not necessarily.  All that the label “Celiac” tells us is that the small intestine is involved in an AUTOIMMUNE REACTION.  When you begin to see how Gluten can effect the BRAIN and NERVOUS SYSTEM, you’ll see just how serious it can be — even in the absence of full-blown Celiac Disease.  The truth is, you are far more likely to miss a “serious” health condition by not going Gluten Free.


  • YOU MIGHT STILL BE EATING GLUTEN ANYWAY:  There are any number of reasons that this could be true — if you are going about “Gluten Free” the way that Consumer Reports recommends.  For one, the peer-reviewed literature on the subject suggests that about 5% of all “Gluten Free” foods contain over 20 ppm (parts per million) of Gluten — the FDA threshold.  Then there’s the issue of cross-contamination.  This occurs when non-Gluten foods are processed in the same facilities as wheat, barley, or rye.  It can also happen in the field itself if a bit of wheat gets into the oat field.  Once more, if you follow my advice on how to go Gluten Free, you don’t have to worry much about this point either way.

This article ends with the heading, “A Commonsense Way to go Gluten-Free“.  The authors reveal what they believe to be the “healthy” way to go Gluten Free is.  Make sure to, “get your grains. Whether you’re on a gluten-free diet or not, eating a variety of grains is healthy, so don’t cut out whole grains. Replace wheat with amaranth, corn, millet, quinoa, teff, and the occasional serving of rice.”  All of these are Cross-Reactors.  They might not be a problem for you.  But if you really want to do Gluten Free the right way, you had better do an Elimination Diet to find out.  And if you are one of the tens of millions of Americans who has issues with BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION, make sure that corn is not a staple.  Not only is it virtually all GMO, but because for the past 50 years or more it’s all been bred for high sugar content (think HFCS here).


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