Reasons Not to Bash a Gluten-Free Diet – It’s Not All BS

A recent article in the New York Post, “Gluten-Free is Total BS” caught my attention and rubbed me the wrong way. The article shares one woman’s experience of how going gluten-free made her gain weight and caused her to feel unwell, and makes the point that a gluten-free diet may not be right for everyone. The piece fails to mention important information about the health risks of eating a lot of gluten—a water soluble protein found in many common grains such as wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and oats—that can impact more people than just those diagnosed with celiac disease , an autoimmune disease caused by eating gluten. For the purpose of this blog, I’m focusing on wheat, the grain found in everyday foods like bread, crackers, cakes, muffins, cereals, pasta, and even soy sauce and processed foods such as lunch meats.

A warm roll or baguette with butter every once in a while is undeniably delicious. Makes my mouth water writing about it. However, if your daily go-to foods contain a lot of gluten, are you paying attention to how eating those foods makes you feel? Or considering the possible health consequences, even if you don’t have celiac disease?

Here are a few valuable insights into gluten to be aware of. And for the ladies, note that digestion plays a critical role in your monthly flow, fertility, and pregnancy. When it comes to your female reproductive health, it’s worth chewing on the pros and cons of a gluten- versus non-gluten diet.

  • Blocks minerals and raises blood sugar: Gluten contains phytic acid, which is known to prevent the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc. Back in the day, grains were allowed to rest in fields for a few weeks and sprout before the grain was threshed, or separated. The benefit of sprouting is that it increases the amounts of vitamins and allows the phytic acid to break down. Unfortunately, the majority of wheat and other grains are not sprouted today. Poor absorption of nutrients is linked to increased risks of anemia and osteoporosis.

Your glycemic index—the amount of sugar in your blood—rises eating wheat. Two slices of wheat bread have a higher glycemic index  than a candy bar. Foods with a high glycemic index don’t help to alleviate diabetes and obesity that are common health challenges today.

  • Early 20th century wheat vs. today’s wheat: What’s also different from wheat of fifty years ago is how grains are produced. To maximize crops and profits, wheat is cross-bred to make the wheat grain harder, the stalks shorter, and the growth stronger.

o   Cross-breeding has changed the amino acids in wheat’s gluten protein and is linked to contributing to the dramatic increase of celiac disease—reports indicate a 400 percent increase in the last forty years.

o   Wheat’s two proteins are glutenin and gliadin. Due to cross-breeding, gliadin has changed over time and is now known to create an opioid-like reaction because it acts as an appetite stimulant. (Hello—heroin is an opioid).

o   Hybridized wheat  contains sodium azide , a known toxin. It’s unsettling to think that the craving for a comforting bite of bread is tied to a science experiment laced with toxins.

  • Gut reaction and fertility: There are thousands of reports of people who experience relief from acid reflux, diarrhea, joint swelling, and a host of other ailments after they cut wheat from their diets. Ailments appear to arise because the immune system identifies gluten proteins as a foreign invader, attacks the digestive tract, and causes inflammation. A lot of people who poo-poo gluten-free diets might not be aware of a study that indicated people who didn’t have celiac disease had adverse reactions to their gastrointestinal health eating gluten.

Gluten isn’t just affecting woman’s fertility. According to a 2013 article  in World Journal Gastroenterogy, “Reproductive Changes Associated with Celiac Disease,” it’s also affecting men’s semen quality. The article states that fertility problems could indicate an autoimmune response due to gluten intolerance, and that a gluten-free diet can reverse infertility.

It’s great that the woman who shared her story in the article took action and was proactive about changing her diet to feel better. Each person has the opportunity to notice the difference between their energy levels, farts, and comfort when eating gluten or not. I’m sure the gluten debate will continue, but in the meantime, be aware of what you’re eating and how it’s making you feel.

Suggested reading:

The Autoimmune Solution by Amy Myers

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis, M.D.