3 Reasons to Give Up Gluten (That You’d Never Suspect)

July 7th, 2014

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3 Reasons to Give Up Gluten (That You’d Never Suspect)

Maybe you’ve toyed with the idea of giving up gluten, or at least limiting it somewhat, but you haven’t made the leap just yet. After all, you haven’t been diagnosed as gluten sensitive or celiac. Well, you probably didn’t know that an estimated 99% of the people who have either gluten intolerance or celiac disease are never diagnosed.

So put down that whole-grain bagel and read up! Here are three of the biggest reasons to go gluten-free:


1. More than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten.

It’s estimated that as many as 1 in 30 people are sensitive to gluten. If you are one of those people, your immune system sends antibodies to attack the inflammatory gluten particles. Unfortunately, the protein in gluten, gliadin, resembles on a molecular level some of the body’s own tissues. The gliadin antibodies often mistakenly attack other organs and systems, from the skin to the thyroid to the brain. This process, called molecular mimicry, is why many people who are sensitive to gluten are also sensitive to other foods, like the proteins in dairy, that resemble gluten.

Gluten is causing your body to attack itself, sometimes on multiple fronts. The fact that something you eat is causing an issue for you outside of your digestive system, such as rheumatoid arthritis or autoimmune thyroid, is why many people go so long without realizing they have a problem with gluten. If you have an autoimmune disease you should get tested for gluten sensitivity, and if you’re gluten intolerant you should get screened for autoimmunity.


2. Eating gluten can give you bad skin.

The widespread inflammation that gluten causes shows up in several different bodily systems, including your biggest organ: your skin.

Among the causes of acne are hormonal fluctuations. When you eat gluten, your body responds to the constant irritation by upping its production of the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can cause weight gain, poor sleep, and, you guessed it: acne.


3. Gluten messes with your brain.

A healthy gut is crucial for a healthy brain.  This is because 90-95% of our serotonin, the key neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, is made in our gut. A deficiency in serotonin causes depression and in some anxiety–in fact, the majority of antidepressants work by blocking the brain’s serotonin receptors, freeing up more of the chemical to remain present in the brain.

Gluten inhibits digestion because it damages the gut and because it is itself poorly digested. The undigested food particles that linger in our intestines serve as food for bacteria  and yeast. When the yeast grow too numerous, they create a layer over the intestines, suppressing the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Bacteria produce chemicals that actually mimic our own neurotransmitters, which travel from the gut to the brain and cause mood imbalances like irritability, depression, anxiety, and mood swings.


So how do you tell if you’re sensitive to gluten?

I have found the single best ways to determine if you have an issue with gluten is to go through an elimination diet and take it out of your diet for at least 2 -3 weeks and then reintroduce it. Please note that gluten is a very large protein, and it can take months and even years to clear from your system. The longer you can eliminate it from your diet before reintroducing it, the better. The best advice that I share with my patients is that if they feel significantly better off of gluten or feel worse when they reintroduce it, then gluten is likely a problem for them. In order to get accurate results from this testing method, you must eliminate 100% of the gluten from your diet.

Originally published on MindBodyGreen.

Photo credit: MindBodyGreen

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  • CDS

    Are there any links to gluten sensitivity and other GI problems (I.e. Diverticulitis, colitis)?

    • Definitely– Diverticulitis is a common complaint of patients with gluten sensitivity and celiac.

      • Joanna Lukaszewski

        what about spelt?

  • Cindy Santa Ana

    I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and have gotten the flares under control with super clean eating, removal of dairy, gluten and soy. I still experience fatigue and extreme sensitivity to cold, brain fog. I have IBS. I was tested for gluten sensitivity and Celiac. Both came back negative. Would a tiny bit of gluten on holidays be detrimental to my progress?

    • kathy-pa

      I also have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but my doctor NEVER gave me any ways to help my condition, or really even explained it that well. I am not being given any meds for it, and go once a year to have my TSH level checked. That’s it. So, when you talk about “super clean eating”, what do you mean? I need to do something to get my fatigue, brain fog, stomach issues under control.

      • Cindy Santa Ana

        I had to take it a step further and work on stress. Stress management (journaling, yoga) has helped my IBS. By clean eating, I mean all whole foods – nothing processed.

        • kathy-pa

          Oh, I definitely have stress as well that I need to get the energy to conquer somehow. It’s just so hard to know where to start and there’s never enough hours in the day when you’re working full-time and raising two kids. What are some of the foods that you’ve found helped you? I am going on a grocery trip to try to buy some healthier foods. Just wish it didn’t cost so much to eat healthy!!

          • Cindy Santa Ana

            I’m actually writing a book on the subject right now. How to transition your family from processed foods to whole foods and make it sustainable and affordable – while healing yourself. I like to eat greens like kale, spinach, romaine and collards whenever I can throughout the day. You can find more info on my website, http://www.UnlockBetterHealth.com.

          • Wendy Bolt

            Try doing it on a fixed income! Almost impossible but I am somehow doing it. When I go to the free food pantries, I ask for canned meats, fish, vegies and fruit instead of the gluten containing foods. They are getting used to me doing this now!

      • Wendy Bolt

        Get a new doctor! Per your symptoms, you need to be on
        replacement thyroid hormones, either T4, T3, Armour Thyroid (from
        pig thyroid hormones) or another form. These are the most common.

    • Yes, even a little bit of gluten would be detrimental. Gluten takes a very long time, sometimes several months, to clear from your system! I say there’s no “80/20” rule when it comes to gluten!

  • Cristina

    I also have Hashimoto’s and had (have?) SIBO, if you have IBS you really must request the the breath test for SIBO.

    • kathy-pa

      what is SIBO, and what type doctor would perform this test?

      • Cristina

        Small Intestine bacterial overgrowth, my GI doctor ordered the test for me but it was a bit of a challenge to convince her that my symptoms warranted it.

  • robin

    I had testings with my last Integrative Dr.- it showed bacterial overgrowth,high bile and candida(although I didn’t see presenting infections accept for IBS- and,bloated lower stomach)-he had me on spironolactine, progesterone and T3 T4- he didn’t want me on Armour(due to Hashimoto- confusing adrenals). The last Dr. put me on antibiotics for 1 month, meds to lower bile and anti fungal meds- My saliva test ,with my new dr.,showed Insulin resistent, Metabolic syndrome,PCOS, IBS and I have Hashimoto, EBarr, osteoprosis mod.,She changed me to Armour 30(trying it- for 2 months now- I have lower energy) ..I’ve been on vits and I eat well most of my life- I’m under a great deal of stress at work…I eat mostly clean and haven’t had Gluten for over a year(I don’t see a difference yet)…Years ago I was allergic to lettuce,mushrooms, chicken,dairy,wheat…plus others..Elimination diets exacerbate my situation. My last Dr. did not have me cleanse then rebuild my system- thats why I’m with a new Dr….She gave me food testings recently- I have no problem given up food- it’s frustrating to know healthy foods can bother me at this point..what is a good cleanse….I want to heal my gut- I’m thin with a bigger midsection…Lots of inflamation…Truly difficult to lose 15 – while already eating very little and having mostly organic non processed foods…Thank you for your help…

  • Jay Hicks

    It is being found that the causes of “gluten intolerance” may have more to do with the glyphosate ROUNDUP, in the food than the gluten in the wheat. Glyphosates or ROUNDUP are not needed for growing wheat but is sprayed on the wheat to kill it so it will dry in the field before harvesting which is a means of saving money!

  • Swimmer

    Dr. Myers. I’m presently reading your new book,”The Autoimmune Solution” – so far so great .. Learning a lot. Ques: Would Frozen Shoulder, Adhesive Capsulitis, be considered an autoimmune disorder? I’ve been diagnosed recently with FS- one shoulder, and just found out my identical twin sister has had it bilaterally for two year! It started in one shoulder, following year – the next. My mother also had it! I feel I’m doomed to get FS bilaterally. I’ve stopped processed sugar for 1 1/2 years and am now working on eliminating gluten and dairy. May I please have your thoughts. Many thanks

    • That could have several causes, one of which could be autoimmunity. I would definitely continue the protocol in my book and see if the symptoms lessen or disappear!

  • Anne Dierking

    HI, my name is Anne, I will be 47 next month. Approx. 10 years ago, I had a change in my work environment, became manager over nursing staff. I do feel i was very stressed and anxious at that time, and had hair loss, started dime size and grew to quarter size in three areas on my scalp. I had gone to a dermatologist and received steroid shots( keno log) in affected area for 4 months and hair stubble started and resumed to normal. Six months ago, I started with 3 more dime size bald spots discovered by my hair dresser (because in back of head) that has grown to numerous spots as large as the whole crown of my head. I started off with dermatologist again with the steroid shots, and after 4 months, no results. I have since then had several lab works down(thyroid, iron, chem profile, ANA, and CBC) all was normal. I have started Biotin 10,000, women vitamin, steroid solution to rub on bald spots, (which is now 60% of my head) and trying to eat more protein. No other symptoms, or problems I have noticed. Just now becoming very stressed about hair loss. Next step is wig. Any solutions?
    Can’t wait to hear from you,

    • Hi Anne, I definitely think you should come see me as a patient! Or you can set up a Wellness Coaching session with my registered dietitian who is very knowledgeable and can give you some more specific guidance.