I went gluten-free a little over a year ago. More than one person thought I was crazy, but since then I no longer have brain fog (that feeling of rusty steel wool scratching around my head while I’m trying to think), bloating, heart palpitations, or dizziness after eating things like pancakes, French toast, and pizza.
I’ve heard gluten-free eating called a “fad”. One recent article in a well-known traditional foods journal called it a “gluten-free craze” that lacks common sense, hurts the wheat industry, and randomly condemns an entire food group. The article also came pretty close to accusing parents who put their children on gluten-free diets of committing dietary child abuse.
Those words hung over my head like a dark, angry cloud. I’d encouraged my adolescent daughter to join me in going gluten-free. Was eating gluten-free really just the latest health panacea? Are the gluten-free foods spilling from grocery store shelves there only to appease customers lacking common sense?
The journal article author placed doubts where there had been none before. Did I simply condemn an entire food group by going gluten-free? Was I swept up in a lot of hype?
These were some of the questions that caused me to carefully examine my choices. They also brought up new questions: Are there other symptoms of gluten intolerance besides gastro-intestinal disturbances? Is a medical test required for it to be socially acceptable to eat gluten-free foods? Most importantly, was I harming my child?
In this post I will share the reflections, research, and critical thinking that resulted from my intense soul-searching during the past year and a half.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the main protein in wheat, barley, and rye. Wheat relatives such as spelt, kamut, triticale, emmer, and einkorn also contain gluten. It is a stretchy protein that gives breads a fabulous texture and allows them to rise and hold their shape.
Gluten sensitivity is characterized by the commonly understood painful intestinal symptoms, but also many other seemingly unrelated ones. According to Dr. Tom O’Bryan, for every gluten sensitive patient with the typical gastro-intestinal symptoms, there are eight patients with no GI symptoms.
Gluten sensitivity may appear on the skin as dermatitis or psoriasis, it may appear in muscle inflammation such as myositis, it may appear in the brain as imbalanced neurotransmitters, Schizophrenia, ADHD or even loss of coordination or balance; or it could appear in the nerves as carpal tunnel or neuralgia. There are even more places this sensitivity could manifest. The most well-known type of gluten sensitivity is Celiac Disease.
Celiac Disease is more common than most people realize, affecting an estimated 1 in 100. I hope no one would accuse someone with Celiac Disease as lacking common sense or getting swept up in a fad. Yet in spite of being well known, Celiac is still difficult to diagnose with symptoms ranging from typical gastro-intestinal distress and diarrhea to constipation to osteoporosis. (Osteoporosis is so commonly linked with Celiac that some scientists feel anyone diagnosed with osteoporosis should automatically be screened for Celiac.) According to this source, most cases of Celiac Disease remain undiagnosed, so these people are going through life with sub-par health and they don’t even know why. Also alarming is the fact that children with Celiac, diagnosed or not, have a three times higher risk of depression and death than children without Celiac.
Still, 1 in 100 is just 1%. Does that warrant the 28% of Americans who buy gluten-free products from a booming $10 billion industry? I kept digging for answers. As I suspected, there are more gluten-related disorders than just the familiar Celiac Disease. Recent studies show that a separate condition of gluten sensitivity also exists and is also going undiagnosed. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity affects as many as 10 percent of the population. (source)
The causes for this gluten sensitivity are not as clear-cut as Celiac. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity appears to stem from not only a genetic tendency, but also as a result of modern hybridization of wheat, genetically modified foods, over use of gluten as a food additive in processed foods, toxins in the environment, unbalanced hormones, intestinal infections and other auto-immune diseases. In fact, most of the western world is at risk for developing gluten-sensitivity when you consider these cause factors.
Typical symptoms of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) include headache, joint/muscle pain, numbness, skin rash, history of food allergies from infancy, dermatitis, depression, foggy mind, anemia, anxiety, and irritable bowel. It also seems to affect females more than males. (source)
In addition to gluten, many people are sensitive to wheat germ agglutinin which can cause inflammation; or lectins (apparently anyone with type O blood is sensitive to wheat lectins which cause their blood to clump); or wheat amylase trypsin inhibitors which elicit strong immune system responses; or not enough of the right kinds of good bacteria in their gut; or inability to produce enough stomach acid (HCl) or digestive enzymes – there are so many sides to this debate it’s hard to know where to stop or start. So I turned where I always turn when I need grounding in common sense, real food advice – with Nourishing Traditions.
Genetic or Epigenetic?
Nourishing Traditions jump-started my real food journey more than seven years ago. I’ve read it cover-to-cover at least twice and some sections dozens of times. In it, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig state that casein and gluten are the two most difficult proteins to digest and it is because of this that traditional cultures always soaked or sprouted their grains and fermented/cultured their dairy. They also note that gluten intolerance runs in families with alcoholism, arthritis, Down’s Syndrome, Schizophrenia and dementia.
Whoa — stop — having also read Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s landmark book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, the alarm bells went off. Those families are classic “GAPS” families. While these may seem like genetic issues running in families, they are actually epigenetic.
It’s the age-old Nature vs. Nurture question. In other words, there is something in the environment of these families that is promoting these serious health issues, and the fact that gluten intolerance runs in tandem with the rest gave me the key to unlocking the puzzle: Leaky gut is at the root of all of these conditions.
This means that good candidates for gluten-free diets are anyone with a damaged digestive tract, auto-immune disease or any of the GAPS-related disorders such as ADHD, autism spectrum, learning disorders, multiple courses of antibiotics for chronic conditions, depression, OCD, arthritis or digestive disorders.
Why is a healthy digestive tract so important to eating wheat/gluten? For that answer I returned to Dr. Tom O’Bryan. He illustrates the situation this way:
Imagine the digestive tract as being lined with a layer of cheesecloth. Food gets digested down into molecules small enough to slip through the tiny holes of the cheesecloth and get transported into the rest of the body for fuel and nourishment. However, gluten always causes a rip in the cheesecloth whenever it passes through. People with strong, healthy immune systems can repair that hole easily, especially if that wheat was prepared with traditional methods like sourdough or sprouting. But people whose digestive tracts or immune systems are compromised in any way cannot repair those holes as quickly.
Maybe they are taking antibiotics, maybe they are taking pain killers of some kind (including aspirin and ibuprofen), maybe they are elderly or very young — any number of reasons really — and so they eat toast for breakfast (rip), sandwich for lunch (rip rip) and pasta for dinner (rip rip rrriiipp). Over time those tears in the cheesecloth become so large and so numerous that all kinds of undigested food can get through, plus any toxins that were carried in on the food, pollen, viruses… It all leaks into the body without being small enough and safe enough to actually be there. The body sounds an alarm for foreign invaders and sets up an immune system response. This is where we get food allergies, inflammation, brain dysfunction and so much more — just from unrepaired tears in the lining of our digestive tract.
Healing Through Food
This is where healing diets such as GAPS or the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) come into play. By eliminating difficult-to-digest foods as well as focusing on healing the lining and rebuilding the beneficial gut flora, these diets bring relief to hundreds and hundreds of people every year. Done well, the GAPS diet can allow some people to eat well-prepared grains again. Others find those foods still cause flare-ups, although not in the debilitating way they used to. They may not be Celiac, but they still must avoid gluten.
Knowing whether or not you have a leaky digestive tract is a good place to start. There are several online quizzes you can take that give you an idea. This is a good one.
If you find out you have leaky gut, you need to take steps to heal and repair it, and eliminating gluten (and possibly all grains) until you are well again may be the direction you need to go. These two online courses focus specifically on gut healing protocols and each is led by a nutritional therapist: Heal Your Gut and the GAPS Class.
Once you are healthy again, you must educate yourself on the safe way to prepare grains so you don’t cause new injury. Traditional Cooking School membership (especially the Fundamentals module) can show you how more about traditional grain preparation methods.
It appears the bottom line is that anyone with a normally functioning immune system CAN eat gluten (wheat, barley, rye), but anyone with any kind of compromised immune system needs to be cautious. Each person’s immune system is as unique as their fingerprint, so each person needs to make their own choice about whether gluten is right or not for them.
Which brings me back to my initial reasons for going gluten-free. In spite of eating a stellar, whole foods, traditionally prepared diet for the last five years, I could not overcome a lifetime of uninformed choices. I struggled with physical and mental symptoms of leaky gut, and it wasn’t until going gluten-free that I really began to find relief.
It hasn’t been instantaneous either. Baby steps better describe my journey now. My family finds humor in all of this: I’m a traditional food blogger with a DVD on how to prepare nourishing breads yet I’ve been gluten-free for over a year.
My husband’s recent birthday gave us a chance to laugh at it all when he said “I want real bread with real gluten in it for my birthday dinner!” It was also an opportunity to test how we were doing. I used Red Fife wheat (a landrace/heritage variety) to make a four day fermented artisan loaf which we ate spread with plenty of butter and olive oil along with our Italian pot roast casserole.
My daughter said she felt fine, and I was pleased to find out my symptoms were much less drastic. She feels she is ready to begin adding back wheat, but I’m still not ready; I need more time to heal. I’m revisiting the GAPS Intro diet this week to get a little kick-start.
Later, I plan to try again using other heritage wheat varieties like spelt and kamut. I’m finding the variety of wheat makes a big difference in the severity of my symptoms. When we vacationed in Italy last Christmas I was able to eat their delicious breads with very little discomfort. I assume this is because the Italian wheat varieties are much less hybridized. I’m not completely healthy yet, but I am actively working on it.
But what about those healthy people Dr. Weston A. Price studied that gave him the foundation for the principles of traditional diets that are the backbone of the Weston A. Price Foundation? Nourishing Traditions, as well as Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston Price, carefully detail the diet and lifestyle of the healthiest people in the world. It dawned on me that while some of these traditional people did eat grains, many of them did not. The ones that did eat grains took an awful lot of time and effort in their preparation — the Swiss from the Loetschental Valley fermented their sourdough for two weeks!
But there were more of these traditional cultures that just didn’t eat grains at all? Are we going to accuse them of fad dieting? Should we have forced them to include bread in their diets? There is no record of Dr. Price trying to force Masai tribesmen to make sourdough or chastising the Eskimo for not trying to grow wheat. He never commented at all that some traditional cultures seemed to be condemning an entire food group.
Obviously the choice to eat gluten-free is both personal as well as cultural. Traditional cultures were able to maintain good health with a wide variety of diets.
Therefore, nutritious ways to eat grains must exist. What are they?
(Einkorn Sourdough Chapatis – recipe found here)
Can you buy nutritiously prepared grains and breads? I can guarantee you that most bread eaten today, whether gluten-filled or gluten-free, is NOT from homemade, traditionally prepared recipes. Rather, this bread is industrially made and highly processed. Even premixed bags of gluten-free flours are highly processed and include ingredients that aren’t any safer or healthier than the wheat they are replacing.
However, it is absolutely possible to make your own gluten-free flours from naturally gluten-free grains and real-food flours. Grains contain many important vitamins and minerals that can benefit our bodies if they are prepared in the right way.
Without wheat I’ve branched out to using all kinds of different grains. Rice, corn, and gluten-free oats of course, but also amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and teff. I love to use the flour mixture in this recipe. I mix up a big batch of the grains, run them through my grain mill, and then stir in sprouted cornmeal from To Your Health Sprouted Flours. I keep the freshly milled flour in my freezer and scoop it out whenever I want to make muffins or pancakes (soaked, of course).
(You can find Traditional Cooking School recommended gluten-free flour blends in the Allergy-Free Cooking module of the exclusive membership materials.)
Grains can definitely be nutritious. Wheat that is grown in rich, fertile soil is a good source of many vitamins and minerals. But the modern hybridizing and growing methods can greatly reduce these nutrients! Of the more than 200 varieties of wheat available, only 3 make up 90% of the world’s wheat crop. Instead of modern wheat, look for ancient and heritage varieties — such as emmer, einkorn, and spelt — grown with organic methods. This means better bread for you.
These ancient wheat varieties date back thousands and thousands of years making them staples for many of the world’s cultures. On the other hand, modern hybrid wheat varieties have been in our food supply for only about the last 50 years. Additionally, most modern wheat is further processed, compartmentalized, and fractionated, making it less of a food and more of a toxin.
But even the heritage varieties must be soaked, sprouted, or fermented (soured) before eating. Nourishing Traditions credits the Chinese with discovering the nutritional value of sprouting grains. Sprouted grains have more vitamins, more enzymes, and fewer toxins. In contrast, unsprouted grains can even neutralize our own digestive enzymes making them very tough indeed to digest.
Learn more about traditional grain preparation methods, including easy step-by-step tutorials, in Traditional Cooking School exclusive membership materials.
Should whole wheat flour (even freshly milled) be your sole source for baking and cooking? Is exclusively using wheat flour any healthier than using processed gluten-free flours?
Somehow I don’t think a daily diet of wheat flour is a great idea. Just because you are having pancakes, baguettes, pasta and pilafs doesn’t mean you’ve just eaten a varied diet. Changing the outward shape doesn’t change the fact that it’s all wheat. When we look back to the traditional cultures, we see a seasonal ebb and flow to the foods they eat depending on what was available. Eating a varied diet means eating different things throughout the year — not the same thing every day.
Traditional methods of preparation are virtually unknown to the general public, but as Traditional Cooking School readers you are much better educated about these techniques. Within the traditional food communities like this, people still take the time and effort to soak, sprout, or ferment grains — and use wild yeasts in a sourdough starter rather than commercial yeast.
Why follow traditional methods? Even though grains contain important nutrients, they are simply not available for digestion and absorption in commercially prepared (or even homemade conventional) whole grain breads. Instead, the anti-nutrients in these conventionally prepared foods serve to further deplete and damage western bodies.
Choosing to follow the wisdom of the healthy traditional cultures can put you and your family on the path to good health for generations. Develop and hone the important skill of listening to your body, so that you will understand which foods build you up rather than tear you down.
Whether or not you eat wheat — or any grains at all — should be a personal decision based on your own experiences or the results of medical tests from your practitioner. Not because someone else thinks you should include or exclude it from your diet. And please, if you do suspect trouble with your digestive tract or your immune system don’t ignore it, take the time to learn more about healing it.
For healing, instruction, and further information, see:
- Heal Your Gut online course from nutritional therapist Lydia Shatney (click for free meals plans and/or eBook)
- GAPS Class online course from GAPS practitioner Melanie Christner (click to get a FREE 30-Day GAPS Guide)
- Are Grains Okay When Healing Your Gut? blog post here at Traditional Cooking School by Lydia Shatney
- more articles on GAPS right here at Traditional Cooking School
- Traditional Cooking School membership (specifically traditional grain prep methods in Fundamentals module and/or the Allergy-Free Cooking module)
- GAPS Starter Bundle from Cara at Health, Home, and Happiness (GAPS meal plans, resources, and more)
- The most cutting-edge test for Celiac and other gluten sensitivities comes from Cyrex Labs which tests for more than the conventional markers for these diseases
- Do you have leaky gut? quiz
Please share your gluten-free story or comments below. We really want to hear from you!
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Thank you so much for this informative post! My family and I went gluten free at the beginning of the year. Since then my sons painful stomach cramps have vanished, he is able to fall asleep faster and his focus is better and emotions much more stable (I suspected he was ADD but now see it was merely a gluten intolerance!). My migraines and daily headaches have gone etc. I could go on but I’ll stop. It’s hard to be the butt of jokes but the health improvements we’ve seen by eliminating wheat speaks for itself.
Lee Burdett says
Congratulations on unraveling a big piece of your family’s puzzle! I used to be more uncomfortable with standing out, especially when eating out with friends, but I’m finding more restaurants are prepared to help, and when the restaurant staff treats you with care it seems like everyone else is also willing to do so. I hope you all continue to make improvements!
Michelle Bishop says
First of all, this is expertly written. Thank you!
I just left gluten behind, at almost 39, after a pregnancy triggered the worst health issues I’ve ever experienced. Eating WAPF style for 7 mos has helped; however I now know the missing link was GLUTEN SENSITIVITY.
I have a degree in nutrition and was a paracticing licensed herbalist for several years. This gluten stuff was just not as well known as it is slowly becoming now. I wish I could go back and tell my former patients to go gluten free!
Part of my training in natural medicine included Chinese tongue diagnosis. If I showed you how stopping glutens changed my tongue you would not believe it! My Before and After pictures, mere days apart, were enough to tell me I was surely on the right track. At present I have no plans of ever eating glutens again, no matter how much my gut heals. Why risk it? It’s like developing a tolerance to a poison, it still doesn’t belong in the body.
I work for miss Wardee, she knows my gluten ah-ha moment and the measurable changes I experienced, even within 48 hrs. I am so glad she posted this article today! I will share this with everyone who will listen!
Lee Burdett says
Thank you Michelle! I’m afraid so many of us are what Pottenger would call a “2nd or 3rd generation cat”, and gluten removal can be the key to reclaiming our health. I hope that with the dietary changes I have made in our house that maybe my grandchildren will be back to that generation #1 and able to successfully utilize all the nutritious foods once eaten by all the traditional cultures from Dr Price’s studies.
Michelle Bishop says
My son is 17 mos and I’m pretty sure that we will do GF with him from now on. That way maybe his kids will reap the benefits. Plus he and I share an immune issue (inborn) and I feel like it would serve him well there, too.
So many autism sites recommend GF and CF now.
In fact I think the rise of Paleo is born, in part, by people realizing that something is amiss when they eat grains. Obviously most do not eat soaked or sprouted grains, let alone sourdough! But I was eating properly prepared grains and having severe symptoms. I’m not joking that even 48hr without glutens made measurable differences.
Megan Stevens has an awesome website, they’re GF and it has helped her with interstitial cystitis, an inflammatory bladder condition that I was recently diagnosed with. I am looking forward to getting relief there as well!
To our health!
Lee Burdett says
Thanks! I will check out those resources too!
Can you tell me: Apparently, from what I’ve seen, soaking the grains will remove the gluten and reduce the phytates. What about the Lecktins? And are the phytates reduced enough to make it healthful? My husband had decided to go totally grain free, but since I’ve started looking over this site, he’s agreeing that perhaps if we soak everything… But would totally grain free be better. Seems to me there ARE nutrients in the grains that we need. I very much appreciate your help.
Lee Burdett says
Esther when you soak (or sour or sprout) you are changing the structure of the gluten (and the gliadin which is another protein in grains) but you are definitely NOT removing it. This is why someone who is celiac still cannot eat soaked or sourdough wheat, rye or barley breads. Soaking and souring act as a way to pre-digest the gluten so it is easier to be digested by our body. For people with gluten sensitivity the soaking or souring may be enough, for others like myself it isn’t.
Phytates and lectins are different from gluten. All seeds, beans and grains have these to some degree as they are used to keep the seed viable until it can be planted. However they also act as anti-nutrients in that they bind to the minerals and vitamins and sort of kidnap them and take them out without allowing them to be digested and used. Lectins are found in all plants to some degree, but grains and beans have more than others as a general rule. Lectins act as nature’s pesticide, a way for plants to fight back. They can be harmful because they are sticky and can stick to the gut lining and then tear tiny holes that over time may lead to leaky gut. Once again soaking is the way to pre-digest the lectins and neutralize the phytates (and phytic acid) so they don’t cause problems. (Here is an article from Mark’s Daily Apple that explains lectins http://www.marksdailyapple.com/lectin/#axzz3ZTiJ0fS7) So if you are not gluten sensitive then keeping wheat, rye and barley in your diet, but preparing them in traditional ways, can be a good solution. If you are gluten sensitive (or gliadin sensitive – the other protein in all grains) then soaking may help, but eliminating them entirely until you can heal your gut may be the way to go.
After reading this well written article the gluten-free diet makes much more sense to me. Thank you so much for all the research and thought you put into your writing!
I am jus tarting this journey an will appreciate any help.
Lee Burdett says
The links within this article for the GAPS classes, the leaky gut quiz, and the allergy-free cooking class can all give you tools to use to help guide yourself. Also Dr. Tom O’Bryan’s website (also linked) is filled with helpful articles and he also has done a Gluten Free Summit which can be purchased through his website. If you need more personal help I suggest finding a certified GAPS practitioner or a Functional Medicine Practitioner near you who can do some testing, or ask you doctor to run the gluten panels from Cyrex labs. Best wishes to you!
Hello, came across your site while doing my usual research…I just wanted to share with you about a recent article I read on Dr. Mercola’s site. This scientist was wondering why all of the sudden gluten sensitivities within the last 15 years when wheat is Not a GMO crop. She discovered what they do with wheat is right before harvest time, the wheat is sprayed with toxic Roundup. The wheat basically dies and just after its last gasp it releases it seeds. This causes a slight higher yield for the next crop and an earlier start. The chemical called glyphosate in roundup binds to many minerals in the gut and also produces leaky gut syndrome. Unfortunately, because of man’s greed and the corruption of our government has lead to all of this!! It’s becoming increasingly difficult to buy any kind of wholesome foods even at stores like Wholefoods, Earthfare and Trader Joes. You really have to read labels and make most of your foods and seasonings from scratch to try to survive. Thank you, I have enjoyed your site!
Lee Burdett says
Yes, glyphosate is not a friend to our digestive system! The mechanism by which it kills plants, making it an effective herbicide, also happens to act on the same biological pathways (shikimate pathways) used by our beneficial gut flora to produce energy to survive. So when we eat something that has been sprayed with glyphosate we are in a sense spraying our own gut flora too. It also shuts down our body’s ability to make cytochrome P450, a crucial substance we use to detoxify and protect ourselves from foreign invaders that enter our body. So even though wheat is not yet a GMO-approved crop it still functions as one due to the heavy use of glyphosate in the agricultural practices with which is it raised.
Thank you for this article. I was especially interested in the information on osteoporosis. I was inspired to make a new pinterest board because my Grandma has suffered with osteoporosis. I will be pinning this there!
Lee Burdett says
Thank you Kristie! Prayers for your Grandma’s healing!
Personally I think the processed food industry is to blame for the rise of “gluten-free” as a “fad diet.” There is a lot of hype that banks on the uninformed public assuming that slapping a “gluten-free” label on something makes it “healthy.”. You can find “gluten-free” labels on everything — mustard, tea, butter, and bottled water are just a few I see regularly — and some people will buy these items over that obviously gluten-filled other bottled water. This makes it really easy to want to roll your eyes at anyone who uses the term “gluten-free” at all. I have several friends and acquaintances that are “gluten-free” and unfortunately most do not know what gluten is, just that it is “unhealthy” (I learned for myself what gluten was about 8 years ago when my husband had a co-worker with celiac). One friend uses the term “gluten-free” to mean no carbs and another told me gluten was a type of sugar. There is nothing “healthy” about replacing your store-bought bread, crackers, cereal, cookies, and cake mix with “gluten-free” store-bought bread, crackers, cereal, cookies, and cake mix. I have learned the most basic thing you can do to eat “healthy” is stop buying anything in a box and make as much as you can yourself. I’ve made a lot of my own baked goods for several years, and 4 months ago I got a bread machine which has allowed me to stop buying bread (and pizza dough, hamburger buns, etc.) altogether. We now naturally eat less gluten without even trying to, since bread is something I have to plan time to make instead of just have my husband pick up on the way home from work.
Lee Burdett says
I agree with you that the ‘gluten-free’ label is way overused as a marketing tool to prey on uninformed consumers! The upside for me is that things that really do have hidden gluten, like salad dressings, spaghetti sauces, and even some chips, are now easier to identify and avoid. Kudos to you for taking the time and effort to make more things from scratch!
This was an especially good article. I read the article in the well known traditional foods journal that you are referring to and while it made sense on the surface I knew in my gut (no pun intended!) that something about the author’s viewpoint wasn’t right. You have done an excellent job voicing your concerns, providing solid research, and tying it all together. I especially appreciate how you demonstrate that the point is to heal the gut so that most people can eventually resume eating foods with gluten again (when they are properly prepared) if they want to. I have shared the link to this article with many friends. I so hope they will take the time to read it, and to also share it with others who could benefit from this excellent post. I also hope that this article will be included in the next issue of that traditional foods journal!
Lee Burdett says
Thanks Amy – I appreciate you sharing the article!
Lee, another great article from you. You explained leaky gut syndrome very well. I especially like the visual graphic. I had never read your bio before, even though I’ve been linking to some of your posts on Well Fed Family. Sounds like we have a lot in common! I have a degree in music education and am a former band director as well. (I’d love to chat with you more sometime.) I’m also trying to heal my gut with GAPS and have been gluten-free for over six years. The debate over whether the gluten-free diet is a fad drives me crazy. I’ve written about it on my blog. I also quote Dr. Tom O’Bryan. He definitely know his stuff!
Lee Burdett says
Thanks Tracy! The graphic was something Wardee found, I like it too! I’ve linked and pinned some of your posts too – glad to get to know you a little more. 🙂
Thank you for the well written and very thorough article.
Doctors recommended that my daughter go gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free because of some learning difficulties. The learning curve to doing so was really steep for us even though we thought we had been eating a very healthy diet before. It has only been three months, but I am seeing such a marked improvement in her! I told her I would do it with her, and I’m seeing better health in me as well.
We probably miss cheese the most and look forward to one day adding it back in. This site has been helpful with recipes and ideas, but even more so with articles like yours that give us and understanding of what is really going on.
Lee Burdett says
I’m so glad you and your daughter are having health improvements! I appreciate your feedback.
i went grain n dairy free and the no cheese was very hard. but no pizza, as a true crust is impossible without grains, is AWFUL…no grains OR cheese! i rly rly love pizza.
i would have kept at it past 4 mos tho if the elimination would have helped my issues. with no motivating results i gave up n eat cheese again n even that opioid, wheat.
i will lose the wheat again n just eat barley n oats maybe rice but im trying ketosis next so grains will be alooooong way off lol
and yes, ketosis is extreme but every other effort has not produced results yet.
Amy P. says
I actually read the article you referred to at the beginning of this blog. It made me stop and think for a split second if I had been making the right choices. Then I remembered how my daughter could not even memorize her ABC’s at six years old. Within a month of having no grain in her diet, she not only learned her ABC’s, but also learned to read. She is now twelve. She will not touch grain with a ten foot pole because she still has dire consequences from it. We now realize that we have four out of six of us that have Leaky Gut.
What people do not realize is that we all would have sheer pleasure in eating bread, pizza, anything of this sort! We sure in the heck do not continue eating grain free because we need to be in the craze of the moment.
Thank you for this post. It was very well done!
Lee Burdett says
Thank you for adding your perspective on this subject. I have another friend who had been told by her doctor to go gluten-free, but then read the article I referenced and decided her doctor was wrong and that she didn’t want to be part of a “fad” and was going to continue to eat her homemade bread. Without trying the gluten-free advice at least for a period to see if her condition was made better or not. I don’t think that was the intent of that author, but that has been the consequence with at least three people that I know of.
whats sad is the vast majority of families do not have the time available to make these needed foods from scratch. especially single moms working and working and working. their dyslexic, adhd, itchy kids just suffer. the answer is so simple, to alleviate most of the root problem anyway, and so undoable for these families that would benefit so tremendously.
replacing grains with greens is a good rhythym but pricey to implement, let alone completely inconvenient for moms who are mostly not home. sitters think ur crazy and those 2 precious hrs a day u get to be with ur kids just dont get spent doing more than getting ready to leave again tomorrow after trying to fix something super fast, very cheap yet healthy? sending cheerios (oats) for breakfast to the sitters and only using rice or rice pasta or corn tortillas for dinner helps, but no wheat for lunch as bread or pasta is impossible.
Well, I am one of the 28% of Americans who is buying some gluten free, although I am not gluten sensitive. I buy it because my eight year old niece has Celiac. I keep food for her when she visits. Her entire immediate family is gluten free.
Lee Burdett says
Bless you for being an understanding and supportive aunt!!
I’ve been gluten-free for about three years because of digestive issues. I went on the paleo diet and then Auto-immune Paleo which is similar to GAPS but even stricter! I got worse!!! I had no energy and suffered from anxiety, depression and thyroid problems. I’ve just reintroduced grains – started with rice. I feel so much better and anxiety problems have disappeared. The thyroid still has to come right. I have to say that a severely restricted diet doesn’t work long term and also isn’t for everyone. It made my adrenals work overtime. I soaked some whole wheat yesterday and ate some bread for the first time in three years. I was petrified. I had a bit of heartburn and a brief headache that didn’t last long, but nothing serious. I had another slice this morning and felt fine. It’s so hard to tell if it’s harming me or not. I want to vary my diet and not only eat rice. How do you know for sure it’s a problem food?? So confused. I don’t want to limit myself but also don’t want to harm my health by inadvertently eating something that’s harming me.
Lee Burdett says
I agree that the restrictive diets are not intended to be a long-term solution unless there is irreparable damage to the digestive tract, in which case it is a necessity. However it sounds like you would benefit from the advice of a certified GAPS practitioner or Functional Medicine practitioner – they would better be able to help you identify if it is indeed grains or if it is something else. Blessings to you on your journey!
This is an excellent question to consider on an individual level because, in my experience, the relationship I have with the food I am eating and with my body (“You’re amazing!” Versus “You’re a mess: why can’t you be nicer to me?”) has as much to do with my health as *what* I am eating, because those things can dramatically affect when I eat, why I eat, how I feel when I eat and so much more.
Our reasons FOR eating certain foods or choosing not to buy others can be empowering and can lead to learning, hope and energy. Reasons to AVOID this or that can cripple us, if we’re not careful.
I’m not saying that attitude is EVERYTHING when it comes to diet; sure our bodies need good food fuel in order to work optimally, especially for an extended time. But as we find a need to change, for whatever reason, there is power in finding a positive “why”, not merely fears to react to.
I love that the post author walked us through her journey with the personal question: Why AM I doing this?
So, how would you rephrase the question to ask yourself personally?
If celiac disease has taught me anything, it is that people can have very, very strong opinions about things they know little about.
Wheat. The forbidden fruit. Did you really believe that it was an apple?
Great article, thank you. After about 4 years of suffering with the life-changing symptoms of MS, I finally decided to take my aunt’s advice (who also has MS) and go gluten free. Believe me … I REALLY didn’t want it to help. I enjoy sourdough bread and homemade pasta so much!! It was with great reluctance that I went gluten free with a one month commitment. That was two months ago. As much as I didn’t want to do it, I am now so glad I did … so glad in fact that after the end of the commitment I felt so good I extended my experiment until further notice.
No more mental confusion or brain fog, I feel physically stronger, I can walk almost normal, my weak right side seems a little better, my naps are getting shorter, I can do normal work around the house and work outside in the garden, I can spell again, etc. So many things have improved with the elimination of gluten. I don’t care who thinks I’m crazy … if they could walk a mile in my shoes they’d be jumping for joy 🙂
I’m much too young to be so dysfunctional.
Anyway, thanks for the informative article.
Lee Burdett says
Thanks for sharing your story! Congratulations for making such a difficult commitment and sticking with it! When there is a problem with gluten it is amazing how much of a difference it can make in the way you feel! I had someone stop me at church last week and tell me how he’d been battling peripheral neuropathy for years, couldn’t sleep because of the pain being so bad at times, and nothing had helped- no Rx, no pain relievers – and his doctor had ridiculed the notion of a dietary fix. But within a week of going gluten-free his pain was gone for the first time in a long, long time. It is definitely worth a try even if someone thinks gluten couldn’t possibly be the issue. If it helps then you’ve benefited. If it doesn’t help then you can always go back to eating it.
Lori Shipley says
I have had MS since 1997 and have been on disability since 2000. I had gone through all of the “ABC” drugs and did Tysabri for 7 years. I picked up the Wheat Belly book by Dr. William Davis a year and a half ago and ut changed my life. I had started to lose weight before going GF but it had taken me almost a year to lose about 40 lbs. and I still had the bloated stomach and double chin issues, etc. Within the first week of going GF my stomach started flattening due to no bloating, I lost 2 lbs., and it was enough to convince me to stick with it. A year and a half later the changes in me are nothing short of amazing. I’ve lost a total of 86 lbs. (I’m a size 8 instead of an 18/20), I am off of my CPAP machine with my doctor’s blessing), I’m off of my fentanyl patch and Percocet for pain, my age spots on the back of my hands have disappeared as has my rosacea on my face, I’ve gotten off of a couple of other prescription drugs, I have enough energy that I have been able to work at a part-time job working 25 hrs. a week for 7 months, and I had to get a new driver’s license picture taken because I didn’t even resemble the woman on my license from 10 years ago. My neurologist is amazed at the improvements to my MS as well (she’s going to buy the book). My MRIs have been stable for the last 2 years. I haven’t been on any MS drugs for the last 2 years but I’m not recommending that either. I am doing well enough though that instead of a monthly IV infusion of Tysabri that I will be able to take a pill now which is fantastic news – I’m so tired of needles after 18 years! I saw my former neurologist at a drug presentation and I told him about how well I was doing since going GF and he said “some people have improvements with their MS when they cut out gluten” but he never told me to give it a try when I was his patient. My current neurologist said she’s never heard of dietary changes to help MS. She has now! Keep it up….it can’t hurt you but it can very well help you too. Good luck!!
Ginger Coleen says
I went gluten free as a test. My new neighbor and I had a conversation one day where he told me his horrible experience of being continuously ill for years until he found a natural healing doc that determined he had celiac disease. So, we talked a lot about eating gluten free.
I had been very ill for several years and even though I’d read tons of stuff online and thought I was eating healthy, I guess I was not. I decided to go gluten free for awhile and test the waters. A week later, I no longer woke up every morning with a stuffed up nose.
So, I continued. A month later, I had not lost any weight but my clothes were much looser and I looked thinner. So, my body had been completely inflamed from gluten. Now, I can look at people who are overweight and pretty much tell if they are also inflamed. If they look kind of like the Pillsbury Doughboy that’s usually the case. The inflammation causes that puffiness. And I also had water retention that disappeared at that time and has never returned.
But, after listening a lot to Tom O’Bryan and other experts, I disagree that we should ever go back to eating gluten. First, it’s due to the way it is grown which was outlined in one of the earlier comments. Second, in that last video I watched of Tom O’Bryan speaking he said that they had done a study to see if everyone, even those without known sensitivities to gluten, had a reaction. The results were conclusive that everyone has an intolerance to gluten. But it takes time for the health issues to appear. Our bodies can normally heal those tears in the gut until, for some unknown reason, one day, they simply no longer can.
And, you cannot “feel” whether your body is better or worse after eating gluten. Only those of us that have been highly compromised are aware of the specific issues gluten can create and can only ‘suspect’ that is the reason and continue to stay away.
But if you have healed Leaky Gut and start eating it again, it is likely, at some point in time, you will end up where you started from. And, then you create the dynamic for another Autoimmune disease. And, it takes a lot of work, money for supplements, diet changes and a long time to heal it again. I, for one, am not willing to chance it again.
Today, many functional practitioners are recognizing that Autoimmunity is the #1 cause of death. The only reason it isn’t heralded that way is because it comes in so many different flavors. And, doctors who practice conventional medicine don’t know they all have the same root cause — Leaky Gut. In fact, these doctors often tell patients that there is no cure.
Another reason, I don’t think we should ever eat gluten again is because of all the toxins in the world today. My health issues were originally a result of being massively exposed to Malathion on 2 occasions in a short period of time. Malathion essentially shuts down the endocrine system. It happened with the State of Florida decided to spray 5 counties from helicopters with Malathion in 1996. The use of Malathion is now outlawed, however, there are other just as pervasive toxins being used in our environments every day. And, they can contribute to leaky gut, as can antibiotics, GMOs and so many other things in our food supply and household environments.
It drives me crazy to see people spraying Roundup to kill weeds around their house and insisting on pesticide spraying when there are so many non-toxic ways that are just as effective to deal with pests. We have just forgotten how to use non-toxic methods.
We are the only species on earth that continues to destroy the very planet that sustains us. It has to stop or we will someday cease to exist.
Thanks for a great article and resources for everything from figuring out gut health to making traditional foods. I have shared this with my clients and students as a easier place for them to find much info without browsing all over the web.
Having psoriasis and IBS myself, I cannot stress the benefits of gluten free enough with clients who have these symptoms. I find that a 100% grain free diet is even better.
I am very new to this website. I am trying to find grains that are not good for people with hypothyroidism. I read somewhere that any kind of millet should be avoided on a regular basis. Is this true?
Also would like to know , are amaranth flour and buck wheat Flour good for Hypothyroid patients?
I have both Hypothyroidism and Diabetes Type 2 so wanted to know my Gluten free options.
Thanks and best wishes to all !
the link for the leaky gut quiz is broken, try this one instead