Why Eating Gluten Free is Not a Fad!
Gluten free diets have become more and more popular, and this diet is certainly more than just a “fad.” In fact, a gluten-free diet is more beneficial to your health than you may think as gluten can cause problems for those who don’t suffer from any type of gluten intolerance.
When dealing with autoimmune conditions, digestive distress and thyroid disease, avoiding gluten is even more important.
Let’s take a look at what gluten does to the body and why it’s best to be avoided.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
While going gluten free may have seemed like the “it thing to do” a few years back, gluten free eating is still going strong, and more research is backing up this diet. While Celiac disease used to be the only medically recognized reason for completely avoiding gluten, studies and researchers have found that gluten intolerance exists among those without clinically diagnosed Celiac disease and can come with a large range of symptoms including:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Skin Conditions
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Insulin Resistance & Inflammation
As you can see non-celiac gluten sensitivity can come with a wide range of symptoms and is often misdiagnosed. However, with more people being more in tune to what they are feeding their body, gluten sensitivity is starting to become a more common diagnosis.
However, this condition can still easily be overlooked. The problem is that many modern-day tests only screen for antibodies to a very specific fraction of the protein alpha-gliadin found in gluten. (1) However, we now know that people can react to many other components of wheat and gluten such as glutenin, WGA which are not as commonly tested.
If you suffer from one or more autoimmune disease, chronic digestive upset, skin conditions or even anxiety or depression, it’s likely that gluten could be an issue and something worth investigating.
Gluten & The Autoimmune Connection
A phenomenon called molecular mimicry can pose serious issues for those with autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s.
What happens is when your body is exposed to some type of invader such as gluten, your immune system goes to work memorizing its structure. This allows the immune system to develop a defense next time you ingest this pathogen. While this is an amazing process, the immune system can get pathogens confused with non-pathogens, and this immune response is not always perfect.
If a substance mimics a potential pathogen, your immune system may react. This is where things become problematic with ingesting gluten. Gluten happens to be structurally similar to many of our body tissues and in particular the thyroid. With autoimmune thyroid disease, each time gluten is ingested, the immune system will send out antibodies to attack the gluten while also attacking the thyroid. (2) This occurs because gluten and thyroid tissues closely resemble one another and remember that the immune system isn’t perfect. While it’s trying to attack the foreign invader, it attacks your own tissue instead.
To make matters worse, if you suffer from an autoimmune disease, you likely have leaky gut. The leaky gut allows even larger proteins to get into the bloodstream causing the immune system to be even more reactive.
Gluten & Leaky Gut
It’s quite possible for someone to react to gluten without being diagnosed with Celiac disease or even a gluten intolerance because gluten increases zonulin which can increase intestinal permeability. This permeability not only leads to leaky gut but autoimmune conditions and food sensitivities as well. With an increase in zonulin, it’s my professional opinion among many other Functional Medicine Practitioners that everyone should avoid gluten. Avoiding gluten can help protect the lining in the gut and thus decrease the risk of other conditions.
So, what is zonulin?
Zonulin is an inflammatory protein which opens and closes the junctions between the cells in the digestive tract lining. (3) This inflammatory protein is triggered by harmful bacteria and does have an important role in the body. For example, if you consume a food contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, zonulin would trigger the body to flush out the toxins through excretion via diarrhea.
The problem comes in when there is too much zonulin at the wrong times. In the food poisoning example, once the bacteria is flushed from the body, the zonulin levels drop, and then those tight junctions would close. With gluten consumption, the zonulin never gets the opportunity to drop causing those tight junctions to become permeable. This is where leaky gut comes in.
With leaky gut, food sensitivities can occur as can autoimmune conditions. It’s a vicious cycle that’s all triggered by gluten consumption.
Healing a Damaged Gut
If you’ve been consuming gluten, chances are your gut is going to need some TLC. The first step to doing so is to ditch gluten and avoid it completely. This will help heal those tight junctions in the gut while also reducing inflammation and even giving an overactive immune system time to relax.
There are other things you can do to begin healing your gut as well, and it all starts with the 4R Protocol:
- Remove: Remove the gluten & other food sensitivities from the diet.
- Replace: Add in things like digestive enzymes and high-quality, nourishing foods.
- Reinoculate: Restore the healthy bacteria in the gut with a high-quality probiotic supplement.
- Repair: Repairing the gut with necessary supplements and further dietary changes.
If you are suffering from weight gain, fatigue, hair loss and more, click here to schedule a phone call with me, so I can find out where you’ve been, where you want to get to, and how I can help you get there.
I know exactly where you are because I’ve been there myself…I remember being so tired that I could barely function. I gained 30 pounds out of nowhere and had a severe case of brain fog. I also started to get severe anxiety and panic attacks. I was driven and motivated…until I wasn’t. I didn’t know what was happening to me. All I wanted was to get my life back…
Finally, I learned about functional medicine and found a practitioner that I hoped could help me. They ran specialized tests that were far different than I had ever had before. When I got the results back, it turned out I had candida, parasites, high cortisol, the Epstein Bar Virus and many food intolerances. I also had an issue with my thyroid that no one found before because they were using the conventional medicine lab ranges which are way too broad….which I now know is one of the leading causes of hypothyroid misdiagnosis.
I went through treatment of all of these things and it completely changed my life. I immediately lost the 30 pounds I had gained plus more, I had a lot more energy, and my brain fog was gone. I felt amazing and knew that I wanted to help people find the underlying causes of their symptoms and disease.
NPR.Org (2015 A Protein In The Gut May Explain Why Some Can’t Stomach Gluten.
Chris Kresser. 2015. When Gluten-Free Is Not a Fad.
Amy Myers M.D. (2017) 3 Important Reasons to Give Up Gluten If You Have an Autoimmune Disease.