Thursday, August 26, 2010

Give up Gluten?

One of my patients whom I've turned gluten-free told me about this article in the WSJ: "Giving Up Gluten to Lose Weight? Not So Fast". Thanks J! So I thought I'd comment on it. First, I think it's a great article and am happy that the WSJ is reporting on this topic, even mentioning "leaky gut", which naturopathic doctors harp about.

Although the article states that giving up gluten won't help you lose weight. I have seen people shed pounds, but it's not from being gluten-free. Being gluten-free (for many) means a lower-carbohydrate diet with more focus on fruit & vegetables, which is reason for the weight loss.

For some, being gluten-free can have other tremendous benefits. When faced with chronic disease, naturopaths often suggest the Allergy Elimination Diet -- eliminating the top food allergens for a period of time to see if symptoms resolve. Gluten is one of them. I have put several people on this diet (myself included) and have seen various results. Some have reported not much of a change, but for some, it completely changed their lives - for better. (Lucky me, I have no problems with gluten.)

Giving up gluten forever is not for everyone, but if you suffer from chronic disease, such as digestive disorders, fatigue, depression/anxiety, diabetes, PCOS, infertility, chronic pain, eczema, autoimmune disease, it's worth exploring. And the test for celiac disease, anti-gliadin antibodies, doesn't always catch it. Gluten sensitivity is different from celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. Gluten causes the destruction of intestinal villi, which helps to absorb nutrients from food. With this destruction, the person is malnourished. In gluten sensitivity, gluten fragments enter the bloodstream (perhaps by "leaky gut") and is seen as a foreign protein, therefore the immune system attacks it as such, causing a more generalized inflammatory response. I usually describe it as your body sees some food proteins as invaders, such as virus or bacteria even pollen, therefore will start attacking to rid of it. This usually brings about inflammatory markers, therefore if there is a constant supply of invaders, there is constant inflammation, which can have widespread effects.

Why now? Personally I think that the overly processed glutinous white breads + other processed wheat products have bombarded us with higher concentrations of gluten than our bodies are meant to handle (our ancestors certainly weren't eating Wonder Bread). Anything in large quantities isn't good for us. In general, although I'm ok with gluten, I still opt for gluten-free options or (even better) will choose whole grains vs overly processed foods. Unfortunately many gluten-free products on the market have a bunch of other suspicious ingredients like xanthan gum. Quinoa and brown rice are nice. :)

If you've been plagued with a chronic disease and think that that's just how life will be, a Gluten or Allergy Elimination Diet, under the supervision of a doctor, is definitely worth trying out.

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