Why I Stopped Eating Gluten:
Back in 2010, I was having consistent nausea. I wasn’t vomiting but it felt like a bad version of car sickness 80% of my waking hours. I was frustrated because the doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with me and my blood work came back “a picture of perfect health.” In the meantime, my sister was having similar issues but of a more serious nature. She also went to the doctors and had tests done including a test for celiac disease. It came back that she didn’t have celiac disease but she was gluten intolerant. She then changed her diet and was suddenly a much happier person. She then suggested I give the “no gluten” diet a try to see if that was it. At that point I was sick and tired of feeling nauseous. It was beginning to wear on me so I gave it a try.
What Happened When I Eliminated It From My Diet:
I went all out and eliminated gluten from my diet. I was not a die-hard pasta or bread fan so it wasn’t that big of a deal. However, I did have to learn what “gluten” was and make a new menu for my meals which many times differed from what my family was having. Within two days I felt great. I had no more nausea and I had other surprising and positive side effects that have continued to this day.
One of the most notable side effects was a huge increase in energy. I thought lacking energy was a normal thing for a career mother of two kids. I would go home from work every night feeling exhausted and have to slug my way through the evening routine of homework, baths and prepping for the next day. My nausea was gone and my energy had gone through the roof. I imagine I was a lot more pleasant to be around as well.
Within a couple weeks I had lost 5-7 pounds. I was not overweight but apparently my change in diet made enough of a difference. At that time, I was still a sugar addict so instead of having cake or cookies full of gluten, I would have a gluten free candy bar such as a snickers bar (yum!). I opted to stay away from the cakes, cookies and donuts which were always in abundance at my workplace. I would prefer not to be nauseous. It was well worth avoiding as long as I could get my sugar fix in elsewhere. This could be the reason for my weight loss (less cookies and cakes). Of course I quickly tested out various gluten free baked goods made with rice flour which often times I found to be tastier than the baked goods made with wheat flour.
Another great benefit was an improvement in my mood. I’ve always dealt with depression and continued to struggle with it but I seemed to have a lot less ups and downs. I also noticed my PMS wasn’t as bad. It’s possible my mood improvement had no relation to the gluten reduction but all in all I felt consistently better.
Why Was I Suddenly Gluten Intolerant?
The question then was why suddenly did I have a gluten intolerance? After doing some research and a bunch of reading, the only thing I could figure is that auto-immune disorders run in my family (Type 1 Diabetes, Sjogrens Disease) and I probably had an intolerance all along. I read that if you have a trauma to your body it can trigger more symptoms of autoimmune disorders. When I think back on it, I had started feeling the major nausea after I ran my second half marathon. It may have started gradually during my training but I most likely brushed it off and assumed it was due to over-training.
My Current Stance On Gluten:
Due to the way I feel when I eat gluten I have chosen never to eat it again. I’m not saying this should be everyone’s choice. On the other hand, I do believe if gluten is eliminated there is a great uptick in your health and the way you feel. I’m a believer in “everything in moderation” but I have found that some people who have health issues eat gluten way too much. I don’t believe in fad diets and unfortunately the GF diet has been labeled as one and has gotten a bad rap. However, I still hold strong to my belief that gluten should be eliminated due to my personal experience as well as a few other people I know. If you’re not convinced, you should read a book called Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health. You may also give going gluten-free a try for a few weeks and see how you feel. You may be surprised (or not).
Below is a great article cited from authoritynutrition.com
Here are 6 reasons why gluten is bad for some people:
1. Celiac Disease is on The Rise and Most People Remain Undiagnosed
Gluten is a protein composite found in several types of grains, including wheat, spelt, rye and barley. Gluten consists of two proteins… gliadin and glutenin. It is the gliadin part that people react negatively to.
When flour is mixed with water, gluten forms a sticky cross-linked network of proteins, giving elastic properties to dough and allowing bread to rise when baked. Actually, the name gluten is derived from these glue-like properties. When gluten reaches the digestive tract and is exposed to the cells of the immune system, they mistakenly believe that it is coming from some sort of foreign invader, like a bacteria. In certain people who are sensitive to gluten, this causes the immune system to mount an attack against it.
In celiac disease (the most severe form of gluten sensitivity), the immune system attacks the gluten proteins, but it also attacks an enzyme in the cells of the digestive tract called tissue transglutaminase. Therefore, gluten exposure in celiacs causes the immune system to attack both the gluten as well as the intestinal wall itself. For this reason, celiac disease is classified as an autoimmune disease. The immune reaction can cause degeneration of the intestinal wall, which leads to nutrient deficiencies, various digestive issues, anemia, fatigue, failure to thrive as well as an increased risk of many serious diseases.
Celiac disease is believed to afflict about 1% of people, but it may be more common (over 2%) in the elderly. There are also studies showing that the rate of celiac disease is increasing rapidly in the population.
Keep in mind that a large percentage of celiacs don’t even have abdominal symptoms, making diagnosis on clinical grounds very difficult. The symptoms might manifest themselves in different ways, like fatigue, anemia… or something much worse, like a doubled risk of death in several studies. According to one study, over 80% of people with celiac disease don’t even know that they have it.
2. Gluten Sensitivity is Much More Common and Can Also Have Serious Consequences
You don’t need to have full-blown celiac disease to have adverse reactions to gluten. There is another disorder called gluten sensitivity (or gluten intolerance), which is much more common.
Although there is no clear definition of gluten sensitivity, it basically means having some sort of adverse reaction to gluten and an improvement in symptoms on a gluten-free diet. If you have adverse reactions to gluten, but celiac disease is ruled out, then it is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
In non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there is no attack on the body’s own tissues. However, many of the symptoms are similar to those in celiac disease, including bloating, stomach pain, fatigue, diarrhea, as well as pain in the bones and joints.
Unfortunately… because there is no clear way of diagnosing gluten sensitivity, reliable numbers on how common it is are impossible to find. There are two sources showing that up to 6-8% people may have gluten sensitivity, based on anti-gliadin antibodies found in the blood. However, one gastroenterologist found that 11% of people had antibodies against gluten in their blood and 29% of people had antibodies against it in stool samples. About 40% of people carry the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes, which make people susceptible to gluten sensitivity.
Given that there is no clear definition of gluten sensitivity, or a good way to diagnose it, the only true way of knowing is by eliminating gluten temporarily from your diet, then reintroducing it to see if you have symptoms.
Bottom Line: Gluten sensitivity is much more common than celiac disease, also leading to multiple adverse effects. However, there is no clear way of diagnosing it yet.
3. Gluten May Cause Adverse Effects, Even in People Who Don’t Have Gluten Sensitivity
There are also studies showing that individuals with neither celiac disease nor diagnosed gluten sensitivity have adverse reactions to gluten.
In one of these studies, 34 individuals with irritable bowel syndrome were randomized to either a gluten-containing or a gluten-free diet. The group on the gluten-containing diet had more pain, bloating, stool inconsistency and fatigue compared to the other group.
There are also studies showing that gluten can cause inflammation in the intestine and a degenerated intestinal lining. Gluten may also have negative effects on the barrier function of the intestine, allowing unwanted substances to “leak” through into the bloodstream. However, according to one study, this “leakiness” of the gut only happens in celiac patients.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) involves various digestive issues with an unknown cause, afflicting about 14% of people in the U.S. According to the studies above, some cases of IBS may be either caused or exacerbated by gluten. Although this needs to be studied a lot more, it seems very clear that many more people than just celiac patients react negatively to gluten.
Bottom Line: Several studies show that individuals (especially IBS patients) who don’t have diagnosed gluten sensitivity can have adverse reactions to gluten.
4. Many Brain Disorders Are Associated With Gluten and Patients See Dramatic Improvements on a Gluten-Free Diet
Even though gluten primarily works its “magic” in the gut, it can also have severe effects on the brain. Many cases of neurological illness may be caused and/or exacerbated by gluten consumption. This is called gluten sensitive idiopathic neuropathy.
In a study of patients with neurological illness of an unknown cause, 30 of 53 patients (57%) had antibodies against gluten in the blood. The main neurological disorder believed to be at least partly caused by gluten is cerebellar ataxia, a serious disease of the brain that involves an inability to coordinate balance, movements, problems talking, etc. It is now known that many cases of ataxia are directly linked to gluten consumption. This is called gluten ataxia and involves irreversible damage to the cerebellum, a part of the brain that is important in motor control. Many studies show strong statistical associations between gluten consumption, gluten sensitivity and cerebellar ataxia. There is also a controlled trial showing that ataxia patients improve significantly on a gluten-free diet. There are several other brain disorders that respond well to a gluten-free diet:
- Schizophrenia: A subset of schizophrenia patients sees massive improvements by removing gluten.
- Autism: Several studies suggest that people with autism see improvements in symptoms on a gluten-free diet.
- Epilepsy: There are several reports of patients with epilepsy improving significantly when removing gluten.
If you have any neurological problems and your doctor doesn’t have a clue what is causing them… then it makes sense to try removing gluten from your diet.
Bottom Line: Several disorders of the brain respond well to a gluten-free diet, including autism, schizophrenia and a rare form of epilepsy.
5. Wheat Gluten May be Addictive
There are many people who believe that wheat may be addictive. Getting unnatural cravings for things like bread or donuts is very common. Even though this is far from being proven, there are some studies suggesting that gluten may have addictive properties.
When gluten is broken down in a test tube, the peptides that are formed can activate opioid receptors. These peptides (small proteins) are called gluten exorphins. Exorphin = peptide that is not formed in the body, that can activate opioid receptors in the brain. Given that gluten may cause increased permeability in the intestine (at least in celiac patients), some believe that these exorphins can find their way into the bloodstream, then reaching the brain and causing addiction. Gluten exorphins have been found in the blood of celiac patients.
There is also some evidence from animal studies that these opioid-like peptides derived from gluten can make it into the brain. It is well known in various food addiction circles that wheat is one of the most addictive foods there are (right after sugar). This doesn’t prove anything of course, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Bottom Line: Many people report getting unnatural cravings for wheat and there is some evidence of gluten having opioid-like effects. However, this is definitely not proven and is mostly speculation at this point.
6. Gluten is Associated With Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases are caused by the immune system attacking things that are found naturally in the body. There are many types of autoimmune diseases that affect various organ systems. All of them combined afflict about 3% of the population.
Celiac disease is one type of autoimmune disease and celiac patients are at a drastically increased risk of getting other autoimmune diseases as well. Many studies have found strong statistical associations between celiac disease and various other autoimmune diseases, including Hashimotos Thyroiditis, Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple sclerosis and various others. Additionally, celiac disease is associated with a ton of other serious diseases, many of which have nothing to do with digestion.