Like all movements that start out with benevolent intention and sound underlying science, the “gluten free” movement has been preyed upon by marketers and advertisers. “gluten free” has become a catch phrase in recent times. Let me be crystal clear here, going gluten free is absolutely a good thing. At HDX Fit we are all about our clients removing gluten-containing grains and products from their diet. There is a mountain of evidence emerging linking gluten to over 200 diseases and syndromes. However, like most “movements” the gluten free movement has attracted it’s fair share of vultures. “Gluten free “ is often added to as a disguised sales tactic for nutritionally inferior products where gluten content is more or less inconsequential (Who cares if its gluten free when its full of sugar or aspartame?)
The way we explain the gluten free concept to clients is simple – gluten free essentially means stop eating processed high carbohydrate products, especially processed grain products and replace with nutrient dense foods. In fact we suggest the best insurance policy is to eliminate all processes foods completely. Almost all gluten-containing foods are processed. Gluten free doesn’t mean replacing crappy processed gluten products with crappy processed non-gluten products. It is a straight swap from nutrient poor to nutrient dense. If you absolutely must splurge on pizza once in a blue moon, by all means make sure its gluten free, just don’t expect to chow down on gluten free noodles every night and achieve/gain that six pack or any great level of vitality.
The Science of Gluten Intolerance
The dangers of gluten consumption are undeniable, in fact some very smart researchers and doctors have made it their mission to explore the subject and have found gluten could possibly be linked to more than 160 known diseases, including type 1 diabetes, auto immune conditions, arthritis, neuro-degeneration and the list goes on. Dr Ron Hoggan States “Some of these peptides from grains, particularly from gluten, are similar to our own tissues, consequently, when our immune system attacks them, it can also attack our own tissues and organs, resulting in many chronic diseases. The authors also point out that dairy products—milk and cheese—are recent additions to the human diet and there are peptides in casein (from milk), which can also participate in “molecular mimicry” and cause autoimmune problems.” Dr Loren Cordain has also echoed this sentiment, stating that the amino acid structure of grains is so close in structure to our own synovial tissue, that regular consumption can cause our immune system to attack our joints (read arthritis).
Dr. Allesio Fasano and a group of leading celiac disease researchers, including Drs. Peter Green (head of the Columbia University Celiac Disease Center) and Dr Marios Hadjivassiliou (a consultant neurologist and expert in gluten ataxia), completed a study in 2011 that found a difference between celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and a range of symptoms that accompany the condition
Australian physician Dr. Chris Reading had a list of over one hundred individuals, who had all the symptoms plus positive blood tests for systemic lupus. After placing them on a gluten and dairy free diet, every person on the list had been symptom free with negative blood tests for five years or more! Here’s the kicker. This was in the late 1980s.
In another single case study a 5 year old boy with Type 1 diabetes mellitus went into remission after beginning a gluten free diet. This child did not have celiac disease, which categorizes him as a non-celiac gluten intolerant, where previously the medical community only linked celiac disease to type one diabetes. The child was still in remission 20 months after being placed on gluten free diet meaning he was no longer type 1 diabetic and no longer required insulin. Here is the link for further reading- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22729336
The Nutrient Desert
Lets compare the vital mineral content of wheat pasta with an acceptable gluten free substitute, Rice pasta. The reason I am using vital minerals, is that they are amongst the largest deficiencies in western diet with serious ramifications.
|Nutrient||100g Rice pasta||100g Whole Wheat pasta|
As you can see, neither are setting the world on fire with their nutritional content, but the wheat pasta is actually more nutritious (though barely) than rice noodles.
You see it’s not just gluten in the diet that’s problematic, but the fact that our high processed food diets are low in vital nutrients, high in calories, overly processed and have other inflammatory factors within them. Unfortunately basic “gluten free” substitutes tend to be almost identical high calorie, nutrient devoid, overly processed doppelgangers of the their gluten containing brethren.
Lets take a quick look at the nutrition in 100 calories of spinach:
|Nutrient||100 Calories spinach|
48% RDI64% RDI96% RDI
Looking at the nutrient pay load for calorie content of a highly nutrient dense foods like spinach gives you a good indication of the most logical strategy in removing gluten foods from your diet and what to replace them with.
All grains and legumes (gluten or no gluten) contain compounds that can cause slow degradation of our digestive system and strip our bodies of vital nutrients. We call these anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors. There are legumes and grains taht don’t contain gluten (Rice, Corn, Quinoa) but they contain equivalent “Lectins” which although are not as damaging as gluten, still negatively impact the body with regular consumption. Often these alternative legumes or grains are used in gluten free substitutes like gluten free pasta, bread etc. When ground into flours they still present problems associated from grinding them into faster absorbing carbohydrates and also the enzyme inhibitors and anti-nutrients they still contain.
Even gluten/grain/legume free substitutes like almond flour or potato flour have very little nutrition left after they have been cooked, beaten to a pulp (flour), shelved for a while, cooked again. Not to say that if you MUST have a naughty treat using these products isn’t a better option that gluten grain/legume products, it absolutely is, I’m merely pointing out that in the end we must avoid consumption of processed foods to achieve real vitality.
The fact of the matter is gluten is absolutely part of the issue, but is only part of the issue. It’s the fact that the vast majority of Westerners are malnourished because gluten free or not, we consume far to many over cooked, over processed, nutrient dead foods. The fact we are “malnourished” is ironic (and baffling to some) considering the rates of obesity we see in western nations now. However calories are not nutrition (write that one down). Eating a diet high in nutritionally irrelevant processed foods, gluten or no gluten, we are operating day in day out in nutrient deficit. There’s a reason we have an RDA on all vital nutrients, vitamins A through zinc, your body MUST have these to function optimally. If you fail to consume these nutrients in an absorbable fashion your body will most likely malfunction.
Some Points of Note
- Many people complain that once they come off gluten whenever they eat it again it upsets them. When you eliminate a food for 3-6 months and consumption then upsets you it is a strong sign you are intolerant to that food. A functional healthy body rejects that which is incompatible with it.
- Gluten free products are usually as nutrient dead as the gluten containing products available. The point of gluten free is again to consume a nutrient dense diet of whole foods, 100% non processed foods.
- All grains and legumes contain enzyme inhibitors and anti nutrients, and also tend to be high in carbohydrate relative to their nutrient pay load. Avoiding only gluten grains is only half the battle, you need to work towards eliminating all grains and legumes for the most part, and absolutely eliminate all processed foods.
Gluten Free for Dummies Smart People
Avoid processed foods and you avoid gluten, or at least you avoid it enough to not have any major draw backs from consuming it. Oatmeal contains gluten but a less irritating form of it (doesn’t actually contain gliadin, the most irritating form of gluten). Oats, Barley and Millet etc. have some nutrient value, but no unique nutrients to make them essential for long-term consumption (as is the case with all grains and legumes)
Eliminate all grains except quinoa, organic rice, and organic corn. These grains do not contain gluten and tend to be less irritating. They still contain enzyme inhibitors and anti-nutrients such as phytic acid (strips the body of minerals) but consumed in moderation will not cause too much disruption.
Eliminate all grains and legumes. This would essentially put you into the paleo category. Just like gluten free being “paleo” is often a bastardization of the true objective of paleo. The true objective of paleo is to eradicate potential digestive irritants, eat a low carbohydrate diet (unless a high level athlete) and eat nutrient sense foods. Again eating mountains of paleo friendly carbs every day may still leave you short on your goals. This will be covered thoroughly in a separate article.
Side note/Vegans/Vegetarians: If you consume grains and legumes on your endeavor to achieve gluten free status, be sure to soak them for 24-48 hours before preparation. This will help deactivate enzyme inhibitors and shed anti-nutrients such as phytic acid.
HDX Fit Gluten Free Action Plan in Bullets
- Go gluten free! Replace gluten foods with ore fresh fruits and vegetables, Pastured eggs and meats, fish, seafoods, nuts, seeds,
- Going gluten free isn’t enough. Eliminate processed foods.
- Replace processed foods with high nutrient foods. 3oz of Organic kale has your daily requirement of vitamin A as an example and about 15 calories. See what 15 calories worth of grains gets you.
- Eliminate other irritants that you may be sensitive to. Other grains, legumes, peanuts, casein and lactose may also disagree with you. Eliminate all suspected irritants for 3-6 months and slowly introduce foods back one at a time to see what works for your body.
Be wary of semantics. For example “gluten free” soda isn’t helping anyone except the person selling the soda increase his or her sales to the unfortunately susceptible.