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Gluten-Fad Friend or Foe (expanded)

It seems like being gluten free is the latest diet fad.  Most diets are just for losing weight, but people on this diet are claiming more than just weight loss.


The number of people on medication for mood, memory, ADD, migraines, pain, thyroid issues, autoimmune diseases, diarrhea, constipation, Irritable Bowel Disease, crohn’s, colitis, autism, arthritis, psoriasis, dermatitis, down syndrome, schizophrenia, etc has risen dramatically over the years.  What about all the people being diagnosed with chronic fatigue? Why all the sudden are people of all ages having such issues?  A magnifying glass is now being placed over food sensitivities/intolerance as the key culprit or the accomplice to these conditions and many others.  Indeed, the research has connected these conditions to gluten intolerance (1-6).


In many cases, gluten triggers inflammation which is a significant contributing factor to these conditions.  In cases where gluten is the culprit, a person will feel a major difference just removing gluten from their diet.  In cases where gluten is an accomplice, additional anti-inflammatory, immune-balancing, and gut healing support is needed to reach an individual’s goals toward optimal health.


Those with Celiac disease use to be the only known population to be gluten intolerant.  It was only in 2011 at the 14th annual Celiac disease conference they finally started talking about gluten sensitivity outside of celiac disease.  It is now just starting to be recognized by the mainstream population as a real issue.  However, integrative and holistic practitioners have been putting their patients on gluten free diets for years and seen great results.  Patients typically have more energy and disease symptoms significantly decreased or go into remission.  The most comprehensive test for gluten is done by Cyrex labs.  It is the only conclusive test that I am aware of to determine if someone is intolerant to gluten.


Most people don’t believe they are gluten intolerant. I hear it all the time, “but I feel fine when I eat wheat”.  People think if they don’t feel a reaction right away, they can tolerate the food and are not sensitive to it.  Most reactions to food sensitivities do not occur this way!  The majority of those who are intolerant are having an inflammatory response that they are unaware is connected to the food they are eating.  Remember, inflammation is the root of disease.  If you have any of the symptoms mentioned in bold, or have inflammation, the cheapest way to see if you are gluten intolerant is to try it yourself.  Just like you cannot be “mostly” pregnant, you cannot be “mostly” gluten free.  You must be strict with the diet in order to feel results and see if it helps.  Plan on doing it very strictly for 3 months to test it.  If you are serious about getting better, you need to eliminate dairy as well since gluten and casein (protein in dairy) have a similar molecular structure (epitope) that can trigger inflammation (7).  For this reason most people who need to be off gluten also need to eliminate dairy.  Some people show sensitivity to other foods as well.  In order to get results, all food sensitivities need to be eliminated.


What is causing this rise in gluten sensitivity?

Is it possible that the “breadbasket of the world” could be producing wheat products that are bad for us?  Research indicates that the way we process wheat in the United States (deamidation) actually triggers an immune response in the body thus increasing inflammation (8-11).  For this reason some people tolerate wheat products abroad, but not in the USA.  Other theories, include the integration of genetically modified food into our food supply, hybridization of grains over the years, grain storage in bins for long periods of time causing aflotoxin growth, leaky gut, chronic stress effecting immune tolerance, poor nutrition, and enzyme insufficiency.



More Research

New research shows that there are much more parts of the gluten protein that effect the immune system and are not being tested for in labs (12-13).  For this reason you may have your labs come up normal and still have a gluten intolerance.


Sound hard to believe that gluten could affect your brain?

In 2002 a published study revealed that most people with diagnosed neurological symptoms caused by gluten sensitivity had no digestive issues at all (1).  Today a lot of people are on anti-anxiety meds, take caffeine to concentrate, and other medications to relax.  While gluten may not be the “cure all” for these conditions, it can be a significant contributing factor in some individuals.


Other research has shown how transglutaminase (byproduct of gluten digestion) is involved in processes responsible for diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and other polyglutamine diseases (2).  A study published in 1995 showed elevated antigliadin antibodies in 37% of all rheumatoid arthritis patients (14).  That is huge!  What is even more alarming is that the gliadin antibodies are just a few of many different parts of the gluten that can be tested.  For example, one person might test negative for gliadin antibodies, but may test positive for antibodies against glutenin, transglutaminase, or any of the other byproducts of gluten digestion.  So the number of people with rheumatoid arthritis who are sensitive to gluten is likely much higher.  The most through test for gluten intolerance is though Cyrex labs.  To date, it is the most conclusive blood panel to see if someone has a gluten sensitivity.  The cheapest way to see if you are intolerant is just to get off gluten and dairy very strictly for 3 months and see how you feel .  In rare cases some individuals feel worse on a gluten free/dairy free diet AT FIRST, these individuals ARE gluten intolerant.  This is because you are likely in the category of people who are going through withdrawal due to one of the gluten byproducts (gluteomorphin) acting like an opiod (similar to opiod withdrawl).  This may last a few days or a few weeks.  Just stick it out.    Autoimmune conditions and/or digestive issues may need extra support in healing/repairing the damage and brining down inflammation.  There are 2 other reasons why a gluten free/dairy free diet may not give you the results you are looking for: 1. Hidden exposure, you may accidentally eat something with gluten without realizing it.  2. Peptide Cross-Reactivity- you may still be eating something in your diet that you are sensitive to.


Since non-celiac gluten sensitivity has only recently been acknowledged by the medical community, most research in this area has only been done on patients with celiac disease.  A connection has been found showing that many of those with celiac disease (an autoimmune condition), and their relatives, also have antibodies for other autoimmune conditions (3).  Conversely, it has been found that 9.71% of those with type one diabetes (autoimmune disease) also had celiac disease (4).  Again, celiac disease is just one manifestation on gluten sensitivity.  There are very good odds that a type 1 diabetic might come up positive for other antibodies associated with gluten.  Thus the number of Type 1 diabetics with an actual gluten sensitivity is likely much higher.  A documentary called “Diabetes free in 30 days” put 2 individuals on a raw vegan diet (which happens to also be gluten and dairy free).  At the end of the documentary, the newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetic was totally asymptomatic and off of insulin, the other Type 1 Diabetic went from 75 units of insulin a day down to 4 units a day.  This is unheard of in the medical field!


For more information, research, and tips for getting started go to www.thepaindiet.com blog.



1. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2002 May;72(5):560-563

2. CNS Neurol Disard Drug Targets. 2008 Oct;7(4):370-375

3. Autoimmun Rev. 2007 Sep:6(8):559-565

4. Przegl Lek. 2009;66(4):170-175

5. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 1995 Sep-Oct;13(5):603-607

6. GreenMedInfo PDF- Topic: Wheat, Category: Diseases and Adverse Pharmacological Action (listing of all the links to the pubmed research on topic)  THIS DOCUMENT WAS TOO LARGE TO POST ON BLOG. REQUEST THE 173 PAGE (OVER 200 STUDIES LISTED) PDF FREE BY EMAILING NUTRITION@THEPAINDIET.COM

7.  J Mol Biol. 1998;281:183-201

8. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Apr;111(4):897-899

9. European Journal of Inflammation. 2008 Jan-Apr;6(1):1721-1727

10. Clin Chem. 2001 Nov;47(11):2023-2028

11. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Apr;6(4):426-432

12. Gastroenterology. 2002;122:1729-1737

13. Eur J Immunol. 1999;29:3133-3139

14. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 1995 Sep-Oct;13(5):603-607



Tips to get started:

  1. 1.    Eliminate gluten, dairy, soy, and all known food allergies

-Spelt, Wheat, Rye, Barley, and Oats (unless it says gluten free Oats) all have gluten

-Hidden sources of gluten include many soy sauces, food starches, food emulsifiers, food stabilizerss, artificial food coloring, malt extract/flavor/syrup, dextrin, etc.

-The easy way to avoid this is to limit your processed food products to ones that say Gluten Free on them.

-gluten free soy sauce and miso is fine since it is fermented and better digested

-Make sure you ask at restaurants if there is any flour, wheat, or dairy in the food you order.  Often the waiter or chef may think they know what is in the food and be wrong, so take digestive enzymes specific for gluten and diary with you when you eat out.

  1. 2.    Heal and balance digestive system

Removing Gluten and cross-reactants is not always enough.  If something is going on in the digestive tract you may have to do more than just take out the irritant for it to heal properly.

70% of your immune system is in your gut, you may have “leaky gut” and not even know it.  At Integrated Pain Solutions we use herbs and nutrients to heal, repair and bring balance to the digestive system.

  1. 3.    Bring down inflammation and support cellular healing

–       For those with autoimmune issues or other diseases, diet alone is likely not enough.  Initially, you may need extra support to control the inflammation and heal on a cellular level.

  1. 4.    Anti-inflammatory diet

–       Check out www.thepaindiet.com and go to Patient Resources.  Then click on Nutrition Tips for Pain

–       The basics are: increase fruits and non-starchy vegetables to be 50% or more of what you eat, eliminate/limit processed foods and sugar, eliminate foods you are sensitive to, use coconut oil instead of bad fats for cooking, watch portion sizes for starches and animal protein, and avoid artificial sweetener and MSG.


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