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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Healthy?

Health and Beauty 

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Healthy?

Is Gluten Free Healthy?
You've most likely either heard of the gluten-free trend, are gluten-free yourself or many of your girl friends are. To be gluten-free means we have to avoid all wheat, rye, barley and even oat products. In other words: no pizza, no bread, no pasta and no granola to name just a few. Why would we do that? Is a gluten-free diet healthy? To answer that question we really need to look deeper into the issue.

What is Gluten?
Gluten is the general term to describe the protein in grains; especially prevalent in wheat, barley and rye. It is what gives elasticity to dough. It's yummy, and actually a healthy protein. Then why avoid it? Because many people feel so much better when they stay away from gluten. Others actually cannot eat it without severe reactions. Why is there an intolerance to gluten?

Why would I react to Gluten?

Some people are born with Celiac disease. Others, like myself, suddenly find themselves intolerant to gluten after years of eating gluten without a problem. Here are some of the reasons why we would react to gluten:

1. Our Genetic predisposition is a cause of allergies.

2. An unhealthy diet is also a reason. A poor diet that lacks healthy animal fats during childhood can cause weak intestinal walls (or “leaky gut syndrome”). Leaky gut syndrome is where partially digested food passes into the blood stream.

3. Also, sugar and refined carbohydrates in the gut can stimulate an overgrowth of candida albicans. Candida is a natural fungi that breaks down “dead” foods. With a diet that includes an over-consumption of dead foods, (like sugar and refined carbohydrates), candida multiply uncontrollably. Heavily yeasted foods can also encourage an unhealthy multiplication of candida. The yeasts will actually change form, attach and grow into the intestine, causing holes where undigested foods and toxins can enter the bloodstream. These toxins also produce candida and trigger allergic reactions.

4. Lastly, food allergies can be caused by a tendency to eat from just a few food families. Out of 4,000 edible plant species only three of them provide 60% of the worlds food. (57***) For some of us westerners, we mostly eat carbohydrates, a little meat, and even less veggies.

Not only is this kind of diet lacking in nutrients, but it also exhausts our supply of enzymes which are continuously used to digest such foods. It is an enzyme (called amylace) that actually breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars. The pancreas and salivary glands are what produces amylase. Because our food is grown in mineral deficient fields, picked under ripe, transported and stored for several days before it reaches us, our food is compromised and the result: enzyme deficiency. Because of this deficiency our body reacts in various ways. Including celiac disease, inflammation, chronic allergies, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue.

This is why we can eat what we believe to be “healthy” (staying away from the “bad refined stuff”) and still react negatively to our “healthy” food.

Best thing to do is cut out the foods that are causing the reactions, eat your own or locally grown foods, stop consuming “dead” foods, take enzymes with meals and consider doing a candida yeast cleanse.

So am I just intolerant or do I have an allergy?

Difference between Allergy and Intolerance

a damaging immune response by the body to a substance, especially a pollen, fur, a particular food, or dust, to which it has become hypersensitive.

an inability to eat food or take a drug without adverse side effects

Most prevalent allergies are milk and grain products, namely casein and gluten. Casein and gluten are both proteins, and are two of the hardest proteins to digest.

Traditional cultures normally sprouted or soaked their grains and cultured or fermented their dairy products.

Gluten intolerance is associated with a family history of alcoholism, arthritis, Down's symdrome, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia and dementia. Gluten intolerance has been linked with vitamin B6 deficiency. People with poor adrenal function are often unable to tolerate carbohydrates in any form.” (56***)

Rashes, fatigue, insomnia, headaches, joint pain and hoarseness are all warning signals from our body, telling us that we are allergic to a food.

What is the Difference between Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity?

Celiac disease is a true allergic reaction to gluten. Gluten in a person with celiac disease results in an attack on it's own tissue. Intestinal damage then occurs. And is thus an autoimmune disorder.

of or relating to disease caused by antibodies or lymphocytes produced against substances naturally present in the body.

An autoimmune disease is when the body mistakenly makes antibodies against itself, treating healthy organs and tissues like foreign invades.

An intolerance is not an autoimmune disorder.

Gluten intolerance, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, is an innate immune response.
In other words a natural response to intestinal issues. It is less serious than celiac disease with little intestinal damage and even though people who are gluten intolerant cannot consume gluten they will not show positive on a celiac disease test. Gluten intolerance also does not result in “leaky gut syndrome” like celiac disease. Gluten intolerance is different than an allergy because allergies are associated with IgE assays. People with gluten intolerance show negative on wheat allergy tests.*

Researches have concluded that celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are 'different clinical entities' marked by unique immune responses.” ** a Gluten-free Diet Healthy?

Firstly, I'd like to point out that going gluten-free is really a poor method to lose weight. I know of some people who have lost weight going gluten-free because they cut out their major carbohydrate intake. But normally people will just replace their gluten products with gluten-free products. Packaged gluten-free products are not healthier than whole-grain products. Going gluten-free is not a healthy diet. Replacing your gluten carbs with gluten-free carbs will not make you lose weight.

Going gluten-free can be a healthy diet. But this requires baking things from scratch with soaked or fermented wheat alternatives, or replacing the bread/noodle/crust with a vegetable. I know someone that uses eggpant as their pizza crust. I often shred squash into “noodles” as my pasta alternative. But beware, you can be just as unhealthy buying gluten-free packaged products as when you were on gluten. Many gluten-free treats are actually even unhealthier because the producers are trying to mask the dry unstickiness of their gluten-free product with sugar. Just read the labels.

The only reason a person should go gluten-free is if they are intolerant to gluten or have celiac disease. A better way to lose weight would be to start completely avoiding unhealthy refined carbohydrates, keeping your healthy carbohydrates to a balance and exercise. Gluten-free is not the answer to weight loss.

So naturally people ask, is a whole-grain diet healthy then?

Is a Whole Grains Diet Healthy?

Whole grains are much more healthy than refined, bleached, highly processed, dead grains. The thing to keep in mind is that our forefathers ate their grains soaked or fermented. Nourishing Traditions points to India's fermented rice and lentil dishes, Africa's soaked corn soups and stews, and their fermented millet porridge; Oriental and Latin America's fermented rice dishes, Ethiopian fermented injera bread, Mexico's corn cakes, Europe's fermented starters for breads and American sourdough breads and pancakes and biscuits. (***452).

The unfortunate thing about advising a whole grain diet is the fact that many forget that these grains are, yes much more healthy, but also very hard to digest. All grains contain an organic acid called “phytic acid” in the outer shell. Without soaking, or sprouting , this acid can block absorption of many minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc) in the intestinal tract. A diet high in whole grains without fermentation can easily lead to serious mineral deficiencies, bone loss, and irritable bowel syndrome. Soaking allows enzymes to break down and neutralize the phytic acid as well as enzyme inhibitors.

Protein in grain (namely gluten) is difficult to digest. A high diet in whole grains is an enormous strain on the digestive system. When this system is overtaxed the result is allergies, celiac disease, chronic indigestion and candida overgrowth. Unlike animals, we don't possess four stomachs to break proteins down. Our healthy whole grains must be fermented.


Going gluten-free is a necessary health choice for some people. Yet a gluten-free diet is not a great way to lose weight and actually can be just as unhealthy as a diet with gluten. Gluten is a healthy protein, but hard to digest. All our grains, whether they include gluten or not, are easier on the digestive system when soaked as they were traditionally.
Celiac Disease is an allergy and an autoimmune disorder. Gluten sensitivity is an intolerance.
Not everyone needs to be gluten-free, but if necessary, it can be done in a healthy way.



***Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon, 1999 Washington DC: NewTrends Publishing Inc., 2001.Print.

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  1. Very good post! Very true. I think too many people think they're eating so much 'healthier' because a label announces this product is Gluten free…. as though that's the golden-ticket to guarantee that all the ingredients are healthy! Great idea for a post.

  2. I agree with Liss, this was a great subject to post Toni! I've come across a lot of people who think "Gluten -free" is automatically healthier or better for diet purposes. But it isn't. I appreciated what you had to say. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks girls for the encouragement. I think it's fascinating. But's me. :)