Your Guide to Gluten

The Staff of Life?
“Religious tradition calls it the ‘Staff of Life.’ Most of us eat it every day. It’s even a phrase from a well-known prayer: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ But a growing and undeniable body of research…tells us that our daily bread…may be negatively affecting as many as 90 million Americans and may be a basic cause of illness for up to 10 million.” Dangerous Grains, p. iv.

Statistics and Facts
• 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease
• 1 in 3 is gluten-intolerant
• Celiac disease is four times more common today than it was 5 decades ago, according to 2009 Mayo Clinic research.
• Risk of death quadruples for celiacs if they are unaware they have it, which most are. Reasons: nutritional deficiencies, increased inflammation, osteoporosis, immune disturbances, certain cancers.

What is Gluten?
Gluten is a large, water-soluble protein found in the seeds or grains of wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and triticale. Gluten gives baked goods elasticity and chewiness and helps them rise and hold their shape. You can find gluten in everything from lunch meat to soup to candy.

How Does Gluten Cause Disease?
Gluten contains the protein gliadin, which the immune system often sees as a foreign invader in the body. Worse, the immune system sometimes cannot distinguish gliadin proteins from the body’s own proteins and attacks them both. Gluten can also create nutritional deficiencies. The effects of the immune systems attacks and nutritional deficiencies contribute to many modern diseases.

Signs of Gluten Sensitivity
“Gluten sensitivity or intolerance, once thought to be rare, is now believed to affect a third of the population. (Some believe this number is substantially higher.) It’s considered a genetically influenced, life-long autoimmune disease, but it sometimes doesn’t manifest itself until a person is in their thirties or even forties. When an affected person eats or drinks something containing gluten, the protein initiates a kind of allergic reaction in the body, resulting in some level of inflammatory reaction. The reaction can vary significantly from person to person and can manifest itself in a wide variety of initial symptoms that include: dermatitis, fatigue, joint pain, acid reflux, abnormal menses, and infertility. Some gluten sensitive people are asymptomatic, at least for a certain period of their lives.” From:

The symptoms of celiac and gluten-intolerance can be absent, nonspecific, or minor well into adulthood. The symptoms may be there in a young baby first fed a gluten grain, but it goes undiagnosed. The baby reacts with intestinal distress to the gluten, but it is dismissed as a normal case of runny nose, colic, diarrhea, or spitting up that often occur in infancy. The connection to gluten is not made, the baby continues to be fed gluten, and the baby seems to recover. This is because the body adapts, or maladapts, to the chronic source of dietary stress. Regular, frequent consumption of gluten, standard in most homes, maintains and perpetuates the maladaptation. The body learns to tolerate the stress, but the body continues to demonstrate low level symptoms until one day full-blown disease presents itself. Low level and full-blown symptoms include:

1. First-degree relative with gluten-sensitivity.
2. First-degree relative has autoimmune disease or insulin-dependent diabetes.
3. Food cravings.
4. Bloating and discomfort after meals.
5. Severe abdominal cramping.
6. Strange or addictive reactions to alcohol.
7. Smoker.
8. Anxiety or depression.
9. Odd visual perceptions.
10. Difficulty falling asleep.
11. Excessive need for sleep.
12. Disoriented and confused when you awaken.
13. Get up frequently during night to urinate.
14. Bed wetter.
15. Fatigue, low energy.
16. Heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux.
17. Frequent fractures.
18. Short stature, failure to grow.
19. Obesity
20. Deficiencies in iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium, calcium, folate, B12, Vit C, Vit K.
21. Elevated free homocysteine or liver enzymes.
22. Low blood pressure
23. Easy bruising.
24. Frequent infections.
25. Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath.
26. Canker sores.
27. 5th fingers are short and palms orange.
28. Fingertips are clubbed.
29. Fingernails are thin, brittle, and spoon-shaped.
30. Nail beds remain pale when pressed.
31. Allergies.
32. Autoimmunity.
33. Bowel disease.
34. Cancer.
35. Learning disorders.
36. Lung disease.
37. Psychiatric ailments.
38. Reproductive problems.
39. Seizures.
40. Irritability.
41. Eczema
42. Autism spectrum.
43. Unexplained infertility.
44. Brain fog.
45. Migraines.

How Does Gluten Affect the Body?

Cancer – Gluten Opioids Stop Our Natural Killer Cells
There are opioids in gluten (yes, think morphine, cocaine and heroin) that interfere with our natural killer cells’ ability to seek and destroy pre-cancerous cells. Natural killer cells are our first line of defense against cancer, and when they are chronically inhibited by the opioids in gluten, we are at higher risk for cancer. Research shows very little to no cancer among people who do not consume gluten grains, and where gluten grains are introduced, cancer begins to appear until it reaches American levels. It is not coincidence that heroin addicts have long been recognized as highly susceptible to a variety of cancers.

Autoimmune Disease – The Body Attacks the Gluten and Itself
When a person has a leaky gut, meaning that the gut wall is permeable and allows food proteins to leak into the bloodstream, she is at risk for an autoimmune reaction to gluten and other foods. Through the process of molecular mimicry, the immune system sees those food proteins as identical to self proteins, and attacks both the food and the self, resulting in autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases related to gluten include Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, canker sores, sarcoidosis, lupus, kidney disease, and hypoparathyroidism, among others.

Osteoporosis – Gluten Prevents Mineral Absorption
Gluten grains contain phytates, which bind to minerals in the foods we eat and prevent them from being absorbed and utilized by the body. Phytates bind to calcium, magnesium, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D, all of which are critical for bone health. An important note about calcium supplementation and our culture’s obsession with calcium supplements and dairy consumption: Dairy products and calcium supplementation may actually have a harmful effect on our bones, exactly the opposite of what we have been told. Magnesium, calcium, zinc, boron, and vitamins D and K are all absorbed from the intestine by the same mechanism. Loading the digestive tract with calcium alone overwhelms this transport mechanism and prevents absorption of the other minerals and vitamins critical for bone health. We already have diets deficient in magnesium and zinc, and calcium overload makes it even less likely we will absorb what little we are getting from our diet. It’s a perfect storm: our bodies need calcium, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D, but the phytates in the gluten grains we eat prevent absporption of them; we under consume magnesium and zinc, but overconsume calcium, thereby preventing even further the absporption of the essential nutrients. Americans eat huge quantities of dairy and take tons of calcium supplements compared to the rest of the world, yet we have the highest rates of osteoporosis. Our huge dairy consumption is part of the problem, and so is our huge gluten grain consumption.

Brain Disorders
A large research group in Sheffield, England has demonstrated that gluten is a factor in a wide range of neurological conditions. More than half of studied neurological patients have gluten intolerance. Gluten has been shown to damage the brain in two different ways: 1) damage to brain structures and blood vessels, and 2) damage to brain waves. These changes are sometimes irreversible. Common neurological conditions associated with gluten consumption are: depression, migraines, learning disorders, sleep problems, seizures, hallucinations, schizophrenia, senility, neurotransmitter deficiencies, autism, hyperactivity disorders, and epilepsy, among others. Patients with these conditions often show symptoms of altered brain waves within half an hour of consuming gluten, and they often find their symptoms resolve within weeks to a year on a gluten-free diet.

Bowel Diseases and Gluten
Gluten is related to a number of bowel diseases besides celiac disease, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS affects 22% of the Western population), Crohn’s disease, enteritis, and ulcerative colitis. Gut symptoms that can be alleviated by a gluten-free diet include:
1. abdominal pain
2. chronic diarrhea of unknown cause
3. steatorhea (excessive fat in stools)
4. canker sores
5. nausea and vomiting
6. flatulence
7. GI bleeding
8. enlarged, inflamed tongue
9. ulcers
10. leaky gut
11. pancreatic insufficiency
12. acid reflux/indigestion

What to Do if You Think You Might be Gluten-Intolerant
• Have your doctor to do a blood test for antibodies to gluten BEFORE you go gluten free. You must be consuming gluten for a blood test to be accurate. Doctors may be reluctant to do this test.
• Have an endoscopy to determine if you have intestinal damage (present only in celiac disease, not in gluten intolerance). Doctors will only do this if they suspect celiac disease.
• Do a food challenge.

How to Do a Food Challenge
• Eliminate all foods you suspect you might be intolerant to for two to four weeks.
• Can also eliminate any foods you eat frequently or tend to crave, as these are often foods you are intolerant to.
• Common suspects include gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, citrus, and nuts.
• If symptoms don’t improve during challenge, you might not have food intolerance.
• If symptoms do improve, challenge yourself to re-introduce the foods one at a time for 4 days, noting how your body reacts.
• If you suffer a reaction, take the food back out. Then add back another food.
• If you feel fine, leave it in and add back in another food.
• Assessing all foods will take about 2 months.

You’ve Decided to Go Gluten-Free. Now What?
You will need to avoid all sources of gluten completely, including wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and triticale. Oats that are not certified gluten-free should probably be avoided. In addition to avoiding the gluten grains just listed, those who wish to be gluten-free should also avoid the following hidden sources of gluten:

Hidden Sources of Gluten
Abyssian hard wheat
Artificial color*
Artificial flavor*
Baking powder
Barley grass
Barley malt
Bleached flour
Bleu cheese
Brewer’s yeast
Caramel color*
Cereal binding
Citric acid*
Durum wheat triticum
Edible starch
Farina graham
Food starch
Fu – dried wheat gluten
Glutamic acid
Graham flour
Gravy cubes
Gum base
Hard wheat
Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP)*
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)*
Malt extracts
Malt syrup
Malt flavoring
Malt vinegar
Matzo semolina
Modified food starch
Mustard powder
Natural flavor
Pearl barley
Rice malt
Semolina triticum
Small spelt
Soba noodles
Sodium caseinate
Soy sauce
Sprouted wheat or barley
Stock/ Bullion cubes
Strong flour
Suet in packets
Textured plant protein (TPP)
Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Teriyaki sauce
Triticum aestivum
Triticum durum
Vegetable starch
Wheat germ (oil)
Wheat grass
Wheat nuts
Wheat starch
*The manufacturing process may use products that contain gluten.

Other foods and ingredients that may contain gluten:
Beer and lagers
Breading and stuffing
Brown rice syrup
Dry soup mixes and soup bases
Hot dogs
Meat sauces, tomato sauces
Nondairy creamers
Some herbal teas and instant coffees
Sour cream, ice cream, puddings
Soy sauce or teriyaki sauce
Lipsticks, shampoo
Vitamins, supplements, prescription medications

Safe Sources and Ingredients for Flour
Caveat: Always double-check for risk of contamination.
Acacia gum
Arabic gum
Bean, adzuki
Bean, hyacinth
Bean, lentil
Bean, mung
Bean, chickpea
Cellulose gum
Corn flour
Corn syrup
Flaked rice
Guar gum
Methyl cellulose
Pea flour
Potato flour
Rice flour
Sesame seed
Sunflower seed
Sweet chestnut flour
Tapioca flour
Teff flour
Waxy maize
Wild rice
Xanthan gum
Yam flour

For 1 cup wheat all-purpose flour, use the following. Add flours carefully. Amount to use may vary.
• 1 cup corn flour
• 1 cup potato flour
• ¾ cup cornmeal
• 7/8 cup rice flour

For 1 TBSP wheat (to thicken sauces, gravies, puddings):
• 1 TBSP arrowroot
• ½ TBSP potato starch flour
• ½ TBSP tapioca (quick cooking)
• 1 TSP xanthan gum

What Should I Eat When I Go Gluten-Free?
The best advice is to go gluten-free naturally…that is by eliminating gluten-grains and processed foods with gluten fillers in them and eating what we were created to eat. Eat plenty of protein (probably about 15-25% of your daily intake), plenty of fats (about 50% of your calories should come from saturated and monounsaturated fats…avoid polyunsaturated fats), and the rest from vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

You will feel best if you do not replace your usual gluten containing foods with gluten-free versions. If you are accustomed to eating Raisin Bran for breakfast, a bagel for lunch, pretzels for a snack, and pasta for dinner, and you go out and buy gluten-free versions of all these foods, your bank account will shrink considerably, and your waist will likely grow considerably. You will lose out on the many benefits that come from grain elimination and reduction. Our bodies do very poorly on high levels of grain. Grains are high carbohydrate foods that spike our insulin levels. Chronically elevated insulin levels lead to a condition called hyperinsulinemia, which leads to Metabolic Syndrome and the host of disease that accompany it, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Stick to “real” food that is as close to fresh and natural as possible and you will reap amazing rewards in the form of a shrinking waistline, improved energy, and better health. Click here for more information about a real foods way of eating.

Those of you without weight problems or with children may want to include some homemade or store-bought gluten-free foods, and many are available. You can make many treats at home such as cookies, cakes, and breads. Stores now have a wide variety of gluten-free foods including pizza crusts, pretzels, bread, snack bars, pasta and more. You’ll find even more online. Enjoy Life and Namaste are two really good brands I have used before. I’ve found that Sprouts and Whole Foods have the most options, but Kroger, Tom Thumb and Walmart also have increasingly more and more options too.

References and Recommended Reading
Allan, C. B., & Lutz, W. 2000. Life Without Bread: How a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Can Save Your Life. McGraw Hill.

Carrera-Bastos, P., Fontes-Villalba, M., O’Keefe, J. H., Lindeberg, S., Cordain, L. 2011. The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization. Research Reports in Clinical Cardiology. 2011:2, pp. 15-35.

Cordain, L. “Cereal grains: Humanity’s double-edged sword.” World rev Nutr Diet. Simopopulos A. (ed.). 1999, vol 84; Karger, Basel: 5, 6, 12, 13.

Batchelor AJ, Compston JE. “Reduced plasma half-life of radio-labelled 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 in subjects receiving a high-fibre diet.” Br J Nutr. 1983 Mar;49(2):213-6.

Biesiekierski JR, Newnham ED, Irving PM, Barrett JS, Haines M, Doecke JD, Shepherd SJ, Muir JG, Gibson PR. “Gluten causes gastrointestinal symptoms in subjects without celiac disease: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial.” Am J Gastroenterol. 2011 Mar;106(3):508-14; quiz 515. Epub 2011 Jan 11.

Braly, J., and Hoggan, R. 2002. Dangerous Grains. Avery: New York.

García-Manzanares A, Lucendo AJ, González-Castillo S, Moreno-Fernández J.
“Resolution of metabolic syndrome after following a gluten free diet in an adult woman diagnosed with celiac disease.” World J Gastrointest Pathophysiol. 2011 Jun 15;2(3):49-52.

Greger, J. L. 1999. “Nondigestible Carbohydrates and Mineral Bioavailability.” J. Nutr. July 1, 1999 vol. 129 no. 7 1434

Guyenet, S. 2008 “Gluten Sensitivity: Celiac Disease is the Tip of the Iceberg.” Whole Health Source.…

Guyenet, S. 2011. “Eating Wheat Gluten Causes Symptoms in Some People Who Don’t Have Celiac Disease.” Whole Health Source.…

Hammond, L., & Rominger, L. M. 2003. “Allergy-Proof Recipes for Kids.” Fair Winds Press: Beverly, Mass.

Marsh, M. N. “Gluten sensitivity and latency: Can patterns of intestinal antibody secretion define the great ‘silent majority’?” Gastroenterology. 1993 May; 104(5): 1550-53.

Singh, M., and Kay, S. “Wheat gluten as a pathogenic factor in schizophrenia.” Science. 1976.; 191:401-2.

Sisson, M. 2011. “Dear Mark: Gluten.” Mark’s Daily Apple.

Sisson, M. 2011. “Why Grains are Unhealthy” Mark’s Daily Apple.

Taubes, G. (2001). “Good Calories,Bad Calories.” New York: Anchor Books.

Taubes, G. (2002). “>What If It’sAll Been a Big Fat Lie? The New York Times Magazine” July 7, 2002.

Taubes, G. (2011). “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It.” Knopf.

Wellness Mama. 2011. “How Grains Are Killing You Slowly.”

Wellness Mama. 2011. “Does the Bible Say We Should Eat Grains?”

Wikipedia. 2011. “Gluten.”

Zanchi C, Di Leo G, Ronfani L, Martelossi S, Not T, Ventura A. “Bone metabolism in celiac disease.” J Pediatr. 2008 Aug;153(2):262-5. Epub 2008 Apr 14.

Useful Web Sites

Wellness Mama.

Gluten Intolerance Group.

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