Should You Really Go Gluten-Free?
Is this food allergy making you sick, tired, depressed, and old?
The Gluten-Free Expo in Sandy, Utah is one of the country’s biggest events dedicated to wheat-free food.
The first ten minutes it opened, four hundred people flooded into the convention center; there were 1,200 people by the end of the first hour and 6,000 by the end of the day.
Now I’ve been on the gluten-free bandwagon for years, but this even blew me away. I couldn’t help thinking, “What the heck is going on?”
If you suffer with all kinds of weird symptoms whose cause you just can’t figure out, the culprit might be gluten. Let me explain…
The Back Story…
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye (and sometimes in oats). An extreme intolerance to gluten is called celiac disease.
When people with celiac eat foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the villi—little fingerlike protrusions that line walls of the small intestine and allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through those walls into the bloodstream.
This is bad news. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished. And though symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person, the list of conditions caused by it is pretty grim.
It includes abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, unexplained iron-deficiency anemia, fatigue, arthritis, joint pain, depression, and a baker’s dozen of other nasty symptoms.
About 1 in 133 people have full blown celiac, but here’s the problem. Like many health issues—blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and carbohydrate intolerance—reactions to gluten exist on a continuum.
Celiac disease may be the diagnosable “end point,” but there are plenty of people who have problems with gluten that don’t quite qualify as celiac yet suffer from symptoms that are pretty darn difficult to live with nonetheless.
Dr. Shari Lieberman, in her superb book, The Gluten Connection, suggests that gluten sensitivity can be a factor in conditions that range from neurological disorders to skin diseases. “The gluten problem touches far more of the US population than the 1 in 133 who have celiac”, she writes.
According to Dr. Lieberman, “Some researchers now speculate that as many as 29 percent—almost 3 out of 10 people—are gluten sensitive. And approximately 81 percent of Americans have a genetic disposition toward gluten sensitivity.”
Hence the Gluten-Free Expo.
Americans are waking up to the facts about gluten—facts that the alternative health community have long known about—and realizing that it might be time to get it out of their diets.
Which leads me to a question…
Is Gluten-free for You?
Gluten-free foods are available everywhere, and are certainly worth a try. But remember that just because a food is “gluten free” that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. (Remember the “fat-free” food craze of the 80’s?)
As Dr. William Davis points out in his magnificent book, Wheat Belly, there’s a lot of other problematic stuff in grains besides gluten, so cutting wheat out of your diet altogether might be worth a try as well.
The symptoms of wheat or gluten intolerance aren’t just physical, by the way.
One component of gluten called gliadin breaks down to a substance called gluteomorphin, an opioid peptide that passes into the brain and disrupts brain function. Davis suggests that gluteomorphin may be the reason wheat products can be addictive for many people.
So if you think you might be gluten sensitive, the first thing to do is get off gluten.
The second thing to do is to try some supplements that may help in certain cases. There’s a particular enzyme, for example, called DPP-IV (dipeptidyl peptidase IV) which assists in the complete breakdown of allergenic proteins such as gluten and casein. And there are a few other supplements that can help ease your symptoms and heal the damage done to your intestines by gluten.
Let’s take a look at our top recommendations for gluten intolerance.
This is a super probiotic with a special human strain that’s shown to help the body degrade the gluten proteins that create gluteomorphin and other opioid peptides (collectively known as exorphins). It also helps with casein, a protein from dairy.
“While this probiotic is helpful, it is often not enough to help fully digest gluten when it slips in on a gluten-free diet”, says our resident nutritionist Julie Haugen, RD, MS. That’s why we also recommend enzymes.
Similase is an excellent enzyme to take with each meal that might contain gluten or dairy. It has the DPP-IV protease blend I mentioned above, which helps degrade gluten very well.
I highly recommend this wonderful powder for helping to heal the damage caused by years of what our nutritionist Julie calls “gluten abuse”. One to two teaspoons per day mixed with water or a little juice can be very helpful on an empty stomach.
It has anti-inflammatory ingredients like DGL, aloe vera, slippery elm, marshmallow, chamomille, okra, and cat’s claw which help reduce the inflammation caused by gluten. It also has a special form of zinc (zinc carnosine) which helps with intestinal healing.
Used together with a gluten-free diet, these supplements can help you heal your small intestine, completely digest the nasty little peptides that may still be roaming around your system, and help you finally get some relief from all those weird symptoms you’ve been suffering with for too long.
Wishing you health and happiness,
The Rockwell Nutrition Team