Is a Gluten Free Diet bad for You?
With the release of another research study done to denounce gluten and the gluten free dieters I felt I needed to chime in about this topic.
I’m actually humored by the types of propaganda being promoted such as:
Really? Can we be any more dramatic about this topic? Honestly, I don’t want to go into the science of what gluten is and how it effects the body because this is about giving you relevant information and reading beyond the headlines.
These articles reference either statements found on PubMed or research that doesn’t tell you the whole story. Am I saying the research is wrong? No, the research performed revealed exactly what the researchers wanted. What happened is that media ran with a half-ass statement based on their own interpretations.
Let’s use the most recent study published. “Long Term Gluten Consumption in Adults without Celiac Disease and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: prospective cohort study”. I’ll spare you the over-scientific details and get to the point. This study was done over 26 years using almost 110,000 subjects, male and female. Good so far! Incredible actually. The researchers gathered their data from estimated, self-reported questionnaires that were mailed to the subjects. There’s quality control issue number one. Speaking of controls, there were none. Yeah, no controls!
If you remember anything from high school science, you need a control and a test subject for research to be validated. This is just a standard. The Journal of the American Medical Association and its readers usually boo-hoo any study that isn’t a double blind placebo, the gold standard. The FDA doesn’t pass a pharmaceutical through unless it is a double-blind placebo. And even then…well that’s a whole different topic of discussion.
Back to the study. After tallying these so-called results, here is the exact verbiage from the study:
Conclusion: Long term dietary intake of gluten was not associated with risk of coronary heart disease. However, the avoidance of gluten may result in reduced consumption of beneficial whole grains, which may affect cardiovascular risk. The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.
Great, so gluten is not associated with heart disease. I’m not sure anyone was disputing that fact. However, they continue to state that avoiding gluten or grains may result in beneficial whole grains, which may affect cardiovascular risk. This may be true, but isn’t proven. Then they continue to state this assumption as fact. Here’s where it feels like the Wild West and anyone can just start making assumptions.
If you choose to read the entire study, you will find that the correlation they are talking about with whole grains being detrimental to heart health has to do with fiber intake. So, are the authors stating that the only way to get fiber is through whole grains? What about vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc? Is there no fiber in these foods and no nutrient density?
You see, these claims are empty and without support. It is lazy media or whatever classification you want to put it in that are not telling you the whole story. According to them, a burger bun has more beneficial nutrients to your diet than eating unprocessed, real, whole foods.
There is a reason why almost everyone feels better on a gluten free diet. That is because gluten has been linked to autoimmune disease, leaky gut, inflammation and more. I’m not going to re-write the wheel on this one since Dr. Amy Myers did a great job explaining it all here. http://www.amymyersmd.com/2017/02/3-important-reasons-give-gluten-autoimmune-disease/
Please, do yourself a favor and don’t get manipulated by empty claims. Click on the links that they are basing their articles on and read the actual content! The actual studies are very specific and media blows it out of proportion.
I usually don’t write articles like this, but this topic is a hot button and I’m tired of seeing good people trying to be healthy only to be further confused by falsified reports. You know reports such as: eggs were bad for you, and beef, and saturated fat, and butter. Everything that was bad is now good. Just eat real foods and you can ignore the chatter.
Having a healthy gut is a mainstream phenomenon. We hear the term “gut health” thrown around on social media, on cable TV, and of course from functional medicine practitioners. It has been linked to everything from weight loss to cancer prevention. But do you really know the true benefits of gut health? Before I delve into everything that can go wrong with the gut and how to heal your gut, I would first like to highlight its function in our bodies, and how it affects every aspect of our health.
Our Second Brain
The gut is often referred to as the second brain. This collection of our digestive organs is responsible for the breakdown and metabolism of everything we consume. When it functions properly, we absorb all of the nutrients we need and eliminate everything we don’t. Contained within the gut is an entire microbiome of 10-100 trillion beneficial bacteria. Our bodies actually contain more bacteria than anything else! This is why functional medicine practitioners like myself discourage the use of antibiotics, which kill off all bacteria indiscriminately. Gut health is one of the first things we target in functional medicine because when the gut is imbalanced, everything else in the body will follow suit.
The term “gut feeling” refers to an instinctive, split-second judgment call. The gut is closely tied to our mental health. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of ease and happiness, is dependent on a healthy microbiome for production. Even conventional medicine is beginning to recognize the connection between gut issues and mental health concerns like anxiety and depression.
One of the best and easiest ways to support a healthy gut is to consume probiotics regularly. These are available in food and supplement forms. These beneficial bacteria replenish strains that may have been wiped out by conventional medication, illness, or living a toxic lifestyle. The following are a few of my favorite sources of these beneficial bacteria:
Fermented foods are not only packed with beneficial bacteria but are easy to make and delicious! Kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir are a few of the most popular. These foods encourage the growth of probiotics.
It can be difficult to choose the best probiotic supplement. Many companies have jumped on the bandwagon. You can even find a sugar-laden, gummy version available in most stores! For the most effective probiotic, choose a supplement with multiple strains. It should be stabilized to survive the stomach’s hydrochloric acid. Refrigerated, carefully shipped brands are often high-quality. Remember, these are live bacteria, and we want them to survive the process! Once in the small intestine, the colony will start to multiply and thrive.
Diets That Support Gut Health
A healthy gut requires more than a high-quality supplement, however. A low-stress lifestyle with plenty of rest, stress-relieving techniques to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and a healthy diet are all necessary pieces of the puzzle. Unfortunately, many of us are led to believe that we have achieved our best health if we master even one of these. If you have a thriving yoga practice but indulge in a donut after class, you’re setting your system up for failure.
Grain-free, whole food diets are one of the best options for ensuring gut health. Not only do most of these diets encourage stepping away from processed, sugar-laden foods (Paleo, AIP, Whole 30), but they eliminate common allergens as well.
If you suffer from a sensitivity to scented perfumes, you likely avoid the department store perfume counter. However, many of us have underlying sensitivities to common foods like gluten and dairy but still consume them on a daily basis! By eliminating these foods from the diet, we give our bodies the chance to shift out of attack mode (which is what is truly happening during an allergic response) and instead allow our bodies to digest completely.
The Right Tests to Discover Your Underlying Health Concerns
Many of my patients have found immediate relief with making these small, yet significant changes. But for some, underlying conditions like small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can complicate the process. As a trained functional medicine practitioner, I will order the right tests to uncover the underlying conditions that are keeping you from optimal health. Together, we will address these issues and create a plan to help you achieve your health goals!
The Benefits to Heal Your Gut
By making small lifestyle shifts like incorporating probiotics and eliminating common allergens, we can start to support one of the most important systems in our bodies. When we digest our food properly, we feel nourished, hydrated, energized, and relaxed after a meal. Digestive complaints like irritable bowel syndrome disappear, as the connection between our brain and gut is functioning properly. Mental health thrives because the neurotransmitters responsible for positive responses are in balance. Hormones are produced in the right amounts at the right times because our bodies are no longer in fight-or-flight mode.
While our modern lifestyles may neglect gut health, this doesn’t have to be the case! I can help you uncover the root cause of your deepest health concerns, in order to achieve optimal health. If you’re ready to heal your gut and ditch your health problems for good, contact me today for a FREE consultation!
How is your digestion? I ask this simple question multiple times each day, sometimes pausing for several minutes to give my patient the time to formulate a response. In a country plagued with obesity, food allergies, emotional eating, and ads selling us the biggest, best new fast food followed by skinny underwear models, it’s no wonder we have a skewed relationship with nutrition and body image. Add in a few highly caffeinated energy drinks and handfuls of sugar with each meal, and healthy gut function goes out the window. Are you ready to revolutionize the way you feel in your skin? Follow these five steps to bid farewell to digestive distress forever!
1. Re-evaluate Your Relationship with Food
Do you eat for pleasure? Snack when you’re anxious? Binge when you’re stressed? For many of us, food has become a comfort in times of displeasure, or a reward for a job well done. As with any addiction, sugar and highly processed junk food causes a huge surge of dopamine, followed by a down-regulation. This means that we experience a temporary burst of pleasure the first time we eat a handful of candy, but consume much more to replicate the same release a second time. One of the best ways to break this addiction is to replace these indulgences with a healthier behavior.
Instead of running to your favorite coffee shop at the beginning of your day, fill up on protein-rich scrambled eggs with a handful of kale and spinach. Soothe your frayed nerves with a cup of chamomile tea instead of sinking into that pint of ice cream in the back of the freezer. Swap that salty snack for a stress-relieving sprint around the block. By addressing your emotional needs with action instead of food, you’re creating positive habits and also supporting the health of your gut.
2. Assess Your Allergies
People with hay fever rarely choose to bale hay for a living. However, I see many patients who suspect they have food allergies but continue to expose themselves to these problematic foods! The difficulty often lies in our perception of what’s normal. A mother with a gluten sensitivity may worry that her son is missing out if he doesn’t have a normal birthday cake. However, she is not only putting herself in danger by encountering a known problematic substance, but she is also perpetuating a cycle of dependence on these unhealthy foods.
The solution is to definitively test for these allergies, and to eliminate them from your life permanently. A functional medicine practitioner can help you choose which tests are right for you. With your practitioner’s support, you can make healthy choices the new normal in your household.
3. Make Mealtime Count
In many cultures, the family meal is sacred. Instead of gathering around the television and eating as quickly as possible, the meal becomes the focal point. This positive attitude towards eating helps prepare the body for digestion. Consuming a meal while stressed, hurried, or upset significantly affects digestion. Stress can affect your level of stomach acid, can trigger inflammation, and can lead to increased intestinal permeability, or leaky gut.
4. Befriend Good Bacteria
Probiotics are a booming industry these days, and with good reason. Many people have an imbalance of microorganisms in their digestive tracts. Antibiotic usage in meats, dairy, and eggs, and an overly medicated society can wipe out the beneficial bacteria that makes healthy digestion possible.
One of the best ways to replace these bacteria is through the consumption of fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir. Probiotic supplements are also available. Be sure to choose one from a highly reputable source to ensure that the bacteria survive in transport to you.
5. Find Herbs that Help
Functional medicine seeks to uncover the cause of your digestive distress. Herbs can help you manage your discomfort in the process. Be sure to check with your practitioner to find the right herbal regimen for you. The following are a few of my favorites for soothing stomach ailments:
· Ginger: This tangy, bright-tasting herb helps with nausea and increases circulation to aid digestion.
· Peppermint: Peppermint tea can help ease indigestion and gas.
· Chamomile: This comforting herb helps with digestion and prevents constipation.
· Turmeric: A spicy herb celebrated for its many properties, turmeric can help prevent cancer, and eliminate h. pylori, a type of bacteria found in stomach ulcers.
· Fennel: This tasty herb can help relieve stomach cramps, gas, and heartburn.
If you’re ready to ditch your digestive distress for good, take advantage of my free consultation! Together, we’ll assess your overall health and begin to uncover the root cause of your chronic issues. Learn to love your body again. Support your entire system with beneficial food. Learn to identify which supplements are essential for you, and also build healthy habits for yourself and your family.