How and Why to go Gluten-Free

wheatSo as more and more readers are starting to understand the rather shocking facts about gluten sensitivity, how can you safely go gluten-free? This is laid out below. First a summary of the major facts.

 

For a slightly expanded article on the subject see my article which reached the front cover of CAM Magazine here by clicking on the picture below:

 Cam Mag Sept 13

If you want to see all the scientific references to back all this up – see  you can read a the longer series of articles I wrote on Cort Johnson’s Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME advocacy blogsite. I also cover how this applies to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ ME in those series of articles.

 

 

 

 

The Facts About Gluten

It is now estimated as many as 1 out of 5 people in the industrialized world have a form of gluten sensitivity  – and if you are sensitive, you have a HIGHER MORTALITY RATE (39-72% more likely to die earlier than someone without sensitivity), you are probably TEN TIMES more likely to develop all kinds of diseases, the main one being autoimmune disorders.

Autoimmune diseases are the third leading cause of death in the industrialized world. Scientists also know autoimmune processes are at work in the two top killers: Heart disease and cancer, giving rise to a strong argument that autoimmunity is the NUMBER ONE cause of death.

If you ask the world-leading researchers who should be tested for gluten sensitivity they are saying: “Anyone who is sick.”

It is known that gluten sensitivity also increases risk of all of these diseases:

Illnesses associated with Coeliac Disease

Sensitivity to gluten as gone up 400% since the 1950s, this is probably due to a combination of genetic modification using old style hybridization of seeds used to grow wheat, and a general change in the Western diet to more processed and refined foods.

Another cause of sensitivity may be due to the “stone age man” argument as there is evidence to show many current chronic complex illnesses arose when the agricultural revolution took place and humans began eating more grains. For example, a recent study showed that more than 50% of the Australian population has the genetic propensity to develop Coeliac Disease!

For every person diagnosed with Coeliac Disease (CD), there are estimated to be a further EIGHT  that have full CD but because they have no gastrointestinal symptoms, they are never referred for the test.

Even if they have the test, it may be FALSE NEGATIVE  up to 50% of the time as the standard test only confirms CD where there is TOTAL VILLOUS ATROPHY. This is the “end stage” of the disease. If the disease is in the earlier stage -i.e. only partial villous atrophy or gut inflammation – the test accuracy plummets. These early stages of the illness are being called “Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity.

Why is this important? Because the largest study EVER on CD showed that the mortality rate is HIGHER in the NCGS group (72% higher rate) rather than the full CD group (39% higher rate). Researchers believe CD starts in childhood and takes DECADES to get to the end stage.

The second reason the standard test for CD is highly inaccurate, and misses the Non-Coeliac Guten Sensitive group is because the test only checks for antibodies against ONE TYPE of gluten peptide (gliadin), where as research clearly shows that many people react to a RANGE of peptides which can exclude gliadin. Around 12 gluten peptides in total have been identified by researchers.

Children diagnosed with CD had a THREE-FOLD increase in long-term mortality WHETHER THEY ARE ON A GLUTEN FREE DIET OR NOT.

How can this be? Similar findings are documented in adult CD where rates of osteoporosis and poor nutrient absorption are found even after 20 YEARS on a gluten-free diet. Most likely because it’s NOT ENOUGH just to take gluten out of the diet, patients must heal the leaky gut and put-out the self-perpetuating cascade of inflammation.

Two other reasons for a failure to improve on a gluten-free diet are:

First: lack of improvement on a gluten-free diet because the patient is not vigilant enough, still eats a “little bit” or decided to add more back later after taking time out from gluten. Researchers are finding that 1/90th of a piece of bread can cause symptoms for 6-8 weeks and gluten sensitivity is PERMANENT.

Second is the issue of certain foods have have been found to  cross-react with gluten, which means that if you are on a gluten-free diet but still eating these, your body still thinks you are eating gluten! The main ones are: all kinds of dairy (sheep, cow, goat, buffalo), coffee and milk chocolate. Other foods including all grains and potatoes may also be cross-reacting.

TestingSo How Do I Get Testing?

If you have Total Villous Atrophy, the standard test for CD with your doctor is highly accurate. To test for NCGS, state-of-the-art testing is available from http://www.Cyrexlabs.com for US citizens.  Their Test Array 3 includes testing antibodies for all 12 gluten peptides. Test array 4 covers up to 20 commonly cross-sensitized foods.

This testing is expected to become available within the year in the UK, watch this space for further announcements.

BreadHow to Go Gluten-Free

Researchers have found an increased risk of mortality in the first year on a gluten-free diet. Why? It is likely to be due to a shock to the system when the body goes through the withdrawal stages from excluding gluten. Gluten is acting as a stressor or toxin on the body while it is being ingested by sensitive people, this leads to a possible chronic stress response which actually provides false energy through the adrenal system.

Gluten can also act like an opiate-type drug such as cocaine and heroin, hence withdrawal symptoms for some can include depression, brain fog, mood swings and so on. Suddenly when this source of false energy is withdrawn – there has to be an adjustment process, it is therefore vital to transition correctly and eat a blood sugar/adrenal balancing diet, which is described below. We are aiming to avoid blood sugar crashes (hypoglycaemia) in the transition phase.

Note it IS possible to eat beautifully well, feel fully satiated and satisfied on this diet. It is easy to follow because meats, fish, nuts, seeds, vegetables, salads, fruit and gluten-free legumes and grains are widely available/easy to get hold of even when eating out or on the run.

Tips on the Diet and How to Transition off Gluten

      • Remember researchers found that 1/90th of a piece of bread can cause symptoms for 6-8 weeks so, even that crouton on a salad is undesirable. A list of gluten containing and gluten-free foods can be found below.
      • Critical is to have protein at each meal—especially at breakfast as this will satisfy the appetite and balance blood sugar for the rest of the day. A grilled breakfast, omelette, kippers (occasionally), eggs or a protein power smoothie are perfect ideas (See breakfast shake)
      • To avoid hypoglycaemia, transition off gluten-containing foods GRADUALLY if needed, and eat regular meals with protein—e.g. if necessary 3 meals per day and 2-3 snacks. We want to avoid your body feeling it is going into starvation mode which can trigger adrenal responses, food cravings (which will make you less likely to stick to the diet) and blood sugar drops
      • Due to cross-sensitivity issues, if you think you are sensitive to gluten it may also be prudent to avoid instant coffee (fresh ground organic is ok), milk chocolate and all dairy. Help with living dairy-free is posted here.
      • Avoid sugar, white refined carbohydrates and foods containing sugar such as honey, alcohol, dried fruit and 100% fruit juice. Learn to read labels on packaged foods: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon. These all cause fast blood sugar rises (then crashes up to 2 hours later).
      • Always eat some vegetables and salad at each meal – ideally organic, and ensure a portion per day is RAW or uncooked. See about Vegetable Juicing
      • Avoid foods containing preservatives and processed convenience foods.  They are almost certain to contain refined carbohydrates and various harmful chemicals such as trans and hydrogenated fats. See the General Guidelines on Foods for Optimum Energy
      • An organic diet is ideal — if you cannot afford a 100% organic diet, prioritise getting organic meat (game is already organic) and eggs. Toxins are fat soluble — so tend to accumulate more in these non-organic food groups than the others

Bear in mind you may well expect to feel worse before you feel better on this diet due to the withdrawal symptoms from foods you were addicted to (gluten/sugar) and temporarily a worsening of hypoglycaemia symptoms and low energy due to the fact the body is learning to switch to burning more of its energy for fuel from protein and fats rather than sugar and starchy carbohydrates.

The below grains and foods definitely contain gluten:

Gluten-Containing Food

Foods which are gluten-free:

Gluten Free Food TableFoods which are questionable/to watch out for:

Questionable foods

Further Resources

All the recipes based on a completely grain-free diet from the “Paleo” or Stone Age diet are useful/relevant as are recipes from the many raw food sites online. Many of these are listed at the end of the post about going lectin-free on this site here.

In addition to these there are plenty of support sites for Coeliac patients, this one alone has plenty of information and links to many other Coeliac support sites online http://www.celiaccentral.org.

3 Comments on How and Why to go Gluten-Free

  1. Lorna
    September 17, 2013 at 1:28 pm (216 days ago)

    Niki,

    Thank you for this. It is such a confusing and complicated area and all light shone on this is really helpful.

    I had the EnteroLab testing done back in 2009 and we talked about it when I got my results through (to be clear to other readers I booked this test before speaking to Niki – she did not recommend it to me).

    I have one gene that pre-disposes to gluten sensitivity and none of the coeliac genes. (they get this done through American Red Cross, so should be accurate)

    I had a level that was above the cut off for both Anti-gliadin IgA and Anti-tissue transglutaminase IgA suggesting I was had both an immune response to both a gluten type contained in wheat and to an enzyme in my stomach suggesting intestine damage.

    However, internet critisisms I have read of EnteroLabs testing suggest that they are over sensitive and quite non-specific so get a high degree of false negatives (and also not peer reviewed), and when I had the testing done at Barts, my reading for the Anti-tissue transglutaminase was only 2, which the consultant said was normal.

    However, I had been gluten free for some time and had eaten wheat for a week just for the the sake of the test.

    I don’t know how important it is for me to be really, really strict. The consultant said carry on avoiding wheat despite not being coeliac as my PTSD gives me digestion problems.

    I took that to mean, avoid it where I can but don’t be as careful as I would have to be with coeliac disease. So, to be honest, I have started to sneak gluten containing foods into my diet: occassional half pint of beer, rice syrup with some barley malt in, barley in my soya free miso, not asking too many questions in restaurants and maybe a piece of bread or pizza every six months or so.

    So, finally, my questions: do you think I need to be as strict with my diet as I would if I had Coeliac disease? I have now chucked out my few offenders, but eat out quite a bit and it would be useful to know if I have to be ‘paranoid’ careful.

    And also, the EnteroLab report said I have raised IgA levels for Soya. Assuming that is correct, would I also have to be ‘paranoid’ about that, or would a general avoidance be OK? Oddly enough I realised that I had ‘chosen’ to forget about this result until your article promted me to go back and look at the lab results again, so out went my soya sauce, natto, etc…

    I am very interesting in doing the Array 4 test in Dec when it becomes available. I’m not really sure whether to trust the EnteroLab results or not and also my IgA to dairy was borderline so it would be good to double check that.

    For now, I am going to try strict avoidance of gluten and soya as there is no reason not to.

    Thank you so much this timely reminder and for all your help over the years.

    Lorna

  2. Niki
    September 17, 2013 at 6:48 pm (216 days ago)

    Hi Lorna

    Thank you for your message. If you think you are gluten sensitive, I would be very strict about it. If you’re still not that sure if you are sensitive or not to justify being strict, complete Assay 3 Wheat/Gluten Proteome when it becomes available in the UK at Regenerus Labs. If it comes back positive, then also request the lab does Array4 as well – for cross sensitized foods (they will use the same blood sample), then you will be clearer about soy as well…I think given the related mortality rates for non-coeliac gluten sensitivity which may appear to have, it’s worth the investment to be more certain.
    Hope this helps!
    Best
    Niki

  3. Lorna
    September 17, 2013 at 10:03 pm (215 days ago)

    Very helpful, thank you! I have no doubt that I react to wheat, so I will be strict with that now. And I will look into the Assay4 when it’s available.

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