In this episode, you will learn why gluten is bad for you and if gluten is okay for anyone. Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Why is gluten bad for you?
I’m going to respectfully sound like some of my elders when I say this, BUT, if I had a dime for every time someone said to me, “gluten doesn’t seem to be a problem for me.” I’d be sitting on the beach somewhere full time.
I'd also love to let the world know- that gluten-free is not a fad. Depending on where you are in your health journey it can be VERY detrimental all the way to EXTREMELY dangerous and DEADLY. Nothing irritates me more, especially as the parent of kids who can't have gluten for health reasons, when adults (or kids) act like gluten-free is just a coddled request or a silly fad.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a group of proteins that are found in grains. It makes up 75-85% of the protein content in wheat but is also found in related wheat species and hybrids, such as spelt, Khorasan, emmer, einkorn, and triticale; barley, rye, and oats as well as products derived from these grains such as breads and malts.
These days, with modern food manufacturing, you can bet that many things, even things that shouldn’t have gluten in them do. Unless they are specifically labeled as “gluten-free”. This includes many shampoos, conditioners, topical products, and well as food! (Hint: it's a cheap way to thicken products.)
Should I avoid Gluten?
In short, a resounding YES. But that usually isn’t enough to convince people that they should avoid this inflammatory agent.
Even me, standing on my soapbox and shouting it from ALL of my platforms, “NO MORE GLUTEN PEOPLE!” I still hear questions and statements like:
“I don’t think I have issues with gluten” or “ Gluten doesn’t seem to be a problem for me” while also inquiring about pain, inflammation, chronic illness, autoimmune, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, brain fog, hormones issues, inability to lose weight, anxiety, ADHD, psoriasis, cancer, allergies, chemical sensitivities, seizures, depression, and/or medically unexplained symptoms.
Rather than dive into all of the physiology and anatomy about gluten and its effect on the cells. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture. There have been many many studies on this topic, but let's look at a most recent one, in 2015, there was a study completed and published from Harvard.
For this study, they took four different groups of people. Group 1 had people with recently diagnosed celiac, so very inflamed people. Group 2 was full of people that had been diagnosed with celiac but it had been put into remission with at least 1 year on a gluten-free diet. Group 3 had people with nonceliac gluten sensitivity, so they had come to the Harvard clinic with complaints about gluten but had not been diagnosed with celiacs. The final group, group 4, were people that “didn’t feel they had an issue with gluten” at all.
They took all 4 of these groups and exposed them to alpha-gliadin. Alpha-gliadin is the scientific name for one of the proteins found in gluten. Do you know what they found?
In ALL FOUR groups, every single person, in all groups developed intestinal permeability also known as leaky gut. And they didn’t just develop it, it occurred within 5 minutes. Interestingly and as a side note: I usually talk about animal studies and how they do or do not correlate to humans, in this case, this study was duplicated in animals, sooooo kick the gluten to the curb for your dogs too.
Signs Gluten is Affecting Your Health
The signs gluten is affecting your health are too numerous to list. If has a different effect on each and every person. Some of the most common symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or really stinky bowel movements, abdominal pain, headaches, fatigue/feeling tired, skin problems (hair loss, psoriasis, chronic urticaria), depression, unexplained weight loss/gain, anxiety, autoimmune, joint/muscle pain, leg/arm numbness, brain fog, allergies.
The most commonly reported symptom associated with gluten troubles - generalized lack of wellbeing. Meaning, just not functioning well outside of the gut.
Pretty broad right? Essentially, if you eat gluten AND have any kind of chronic health trouble then that IS a sign that gluten is affecting your health.
Why does Gluten affect everyone differently
Gluten affects everyone differently and here’s why, here’s what the science tells us. While our human suits in the Harvard study reacted in the same way, with intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. What happens after that is a little bit different for each person and it depends on where your particular weak link is.
When the intestines become permeable, what that means is that partially food particles, rather than what the body expects, amino acid chains or individual molecules, enter the bloodstream. Since the body, specifically the immune system, doesn’t recognize that substance, it creates memory B cells or antibodies against it.
Now here’s where it gets a little different for each person, if you continue to follow the chain of what happens after the immune system and inflammation happens for all humans, what happens next depends on your weak link. The weak link is defined by your genes and your antecedents or what you have been exposed to mentally, physically, energetically over your lifetime. So for you, this might later rise to the surface as psoriasis, and for your sister as acne, for your neighbor as rheumatoid arthritis, for your coworker as thyroid issues, and for someone else as cancer.
As you continue to consume gluten, you continue to throw gasoline on the inflammatory fire, and as a result, you increase the breakdown in whatever organ or organ system is your personal “weak link.”
So what that means, is that depending on your weak link, it could show up as something small and nagging, and if ignored will continue to grow and morph until you have something big and scary. This can happen whether you are 2, 10, 22, 45, or 97 years old, depending on your genetic imprint.
Can I have a little bit of gluten?
Here’s the thing, having a little bit of gluten is like being a little bit pregnant. Because our culture is driven by calorie reduction, many people often ask me if they can have some gluten or they will say, “I’m doing good, I’ve given up gluten...except for weekly pizza night or …except for a beer or two each night or ...except for the power bar I have to eat because I’m so active.”
Just like you can’t be a little bit pregnant, you can’t have a little gluten. It can’t be in your food, your lipstick, you shampoo, your moisturizer, and your supplements. And you may think, your products are safe, but likely they aren’t. You have to do your due diligence and read the labels. I am including a free download of gluten-free foods and hidden gluten additives to watch for.
You can download that here:
In my practice, getting rid of gluten is one a handful of the nonnegotiables, because I have seen over and over again that we can’t see what is really going on if we are looking through muddy water. In order to clear the muddy water and the generalized inflammation, we must get rid of the constant inflammation.
Sometimes people will say that they can eat certain kinds of gluten, like, when traveling to Europe for example, they don’t seem to be affected in the same way as they do with U.S. gluten products and even others say they saw a study that said “Gluten doesn’t have an effect on the GI system.”
There are a few reasons for this, the study most people are referring to is a study out of Australia that was done in 2015. Really the study was good but the title was misleading. The title of the study was something like “Gluten has no effect on the GI system” or something like that. The world jumped on that study and said mostly at the behest of the food manufacturers, that gluten isn’t a problem.
If you dive into the what the study actually shows, beyond the title, is that when you have GI effects in terms of bloating, and gas, and cramping, diarrhea, and constipation, when you have any or a group of those type symptoms, your system is likely responding to a component of wheat called FODMAPS. FODMAPS are a group of carbohydrates that are poorly digested by most people, and they occur in gluten-containing grains (and some other foods like beans too). This study showed that these FODMAPS are big contributors to the immediate reaction for gluten-containing foods but not the long term issue like actual gluten proteins. What the study actually said, and literally stated, that FODMAPS create the immediate gut, bloating and gas issues and the gluten affects other systems of the body.
All of that to demonstrate, the bread, the wheat strains in Europe are much lower in FODMAPS than in the U.S., so people go and think - hmmm no bloating, no gas, I can eat European bread. But that doesn’t stop the long term effects of gluten.
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So let’s do a quick recap.
To wrap this up, gluten is NOT for humans (or our 4-legged friends either). If you are having any nagging or not-so-nagging health issues, lets clear the muddy waters and get to the root cause. The first step is to kick gluten to the curb. If you need help on how to avoid it, grab my ebook here: