As you know, diet plays a huge role in your health. I’ve seen firsthand, in myself and my patients, the power of food to reverse chronic illness such as autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto’s, Graves’, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s, and others. I’ve also seen thousands of patients achieve their ideal weight, banish everyday annoyances such as headaches and bloating, and regain their energy and vitality simply through dietary changes. 

Did you know there are two foods you should never eat if you want to overcome your symptoms and achieve optimal health?

Gluten and dairy are two of the biggest culprits behind the skyrocketing rates of chronic illness and autoimmune disease we are facing today, and removing them from your diet is the single best step you can take to restore your health.

Optimizing your diet is a major component of all of The Myers Way® programs. This program is designed to address the root cause of chronic illness in order to enjoy lifelong wellness. In my two New York Times bestselling books, The Autoimmune Solution and The Thyroid Connection, I lay out a complete plan for optimizing your diet.

If you’re just starting out and are looking to make small changes that will have a big impact on your health, then without a doubt the very first step you want to take is to ditch gluten and dairy for good!

Read on to find out how they wreak havoc on your health, why it’s so important to ditch them for good, and how to repair the damage they have caused (in just 30 days).

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The Problem with Gluten

Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in certain grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. It’s important to mention though, that the gluten we eat today is not the same as the gluten our ancestors ate. Over 100 years ago, scientists began to develop new, hybridized forms of wheat with higher proportions of gluten protein to produce bigger, fluffier breads and pastries. They also figured out a way to deaminate gluten, which allows it to be dissolved into liquids and other products that didn’t previously contain gluten. This is why nowadays everything from meat substitutes to medications, supplements, and even toothpaste contains gluten.

As a result, we are not only eating a very different kind of gluten than our ancestors ate, we are eating and being exposed to way more of it. And it’s no coincidence the change in our gluten consumption aligns with a dramatic increase in chronic disease. In fact, gluten has been linked with more than 55 diseases.1

So how exactly does gluten lead to chronic illness? Let’s take a deeper look at why gluten is so harmful to your health.

Systemic Inflammation

The new proteins that are present in our modern hybridized wheat and were not found in our ancestors’ wheat are highly inflammatory, especially in the large quantities that we eat today. Our bodies simply have not had time to evolve properly to digest these gluten-dense forms of wheat and the result is a state of chronic ongoing inflammation. This chronic inflammation can affect your skin, your sleep, your mood, and set you on the path to autoimmunity.

That’s because your immune system becomes overly stressed as the inflammation just keeps on coming with each bite of bagel, pretzel, or even whole wheat pasta. It can begin to malfunction! The result is that your immune system begins to misfire. It begins attacking your body’s own tissues as it tries desperately to combat the sources of inflammation.

However, gluten doesn’t just cause inflammation from its own proteins, it adds fuel to the fire by opening the door for other inflammatory agents to wreck your health as well. Allow me to explain.

Leaky Gut

When you eat gluten, it travels to your small intestine where it triggers the release of zonulin. Zonulin is a chemical that signals the tight junctions of your intestinal wall to open up, creating intestinal permeability—otherwise known as leaky gut.2

Once your gut becomes leaky, larger proteins (such as gluten), as well as toxins, microbes, and partially digested food particles, are able to escape through your intestinal wall. Your immune system reacts to fight off these “invaders.” This leads to a chronic inflammatory state as your gut remains leaky and the invaders keep on coming. Then your body is left open to a whole host of other issues, from gastrointestinal distress to seasonal allergies, to autoimmune disease, as we just discussed.

Molecular Mimicry

On top of causing leaky gut, which itself contributes to autoimmunity, gluten is particularly dangerous because of a phenomenon known as molecular mimicry. This is when a foreign antigen (such as the gluten proteins now flooding your bloodstream due to leaky gut) shares sequence or structural similarities with your body’s own tissues. Your immune system memorizes the structure of invading pathogens. Then it develops the perfect defense and recognizes it in the future.3

However, your immune system is not always perfect. If the invader looks enough like your own cells, your immune system ends up attacking your own tissues along with the invader by mistake, in an autoimmune reaction. Gluten happens to be structurally similar to a number of your body’s tissues, particularly the thyroid gland. This is why gluten is one of the leading causes of autoimmunity, especially in those with a thyroid condition.

Molecular Mimicry - Gluten & Dairy: 2 Foods To Avoid - Infographic - Amy Myers MD®

The Dangers of Dairy

Dairy causes inflammation in a huge percentage of the population, either due to lactose intolerance or casein and whey sensitivities. Not to mention, it’s typically full of hormones and antibiotics.

Lactose Intolerance and Casein and Whey Sensitivities

Lactose intolerance occurs in people who do not produce the lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose. Milk produces the sugar known as lactose. Around 70% of the population worldwide stops producing lactase once they have finished breastfeeding.4

People who do produce the lactase enzyme but still experience dairy sensitivity may be reacting to one or both of the proteins found in milk. These proteins are known as casein and whey. Food sensitivities are a type of delayed inflammatory response triggered by your immune system’s IgG antibodies. A food allergy is caused by IgE antibodies that create a severe and immediate reaction. It could take up to 72 hours for food sensitivity symptoms to appear and they can vary widely. 

You may not realize it’s dairy causing your bloating, gas, headaches, fatigue, eczema, or other symptoms. As a result, your system can become chronically inflamed as you continue to snack on cheese, add milk to your coffee, and slather butter on vegetables, damaging your gut lining with each exposure.

Casein Vs. Whey

While some people are sensitive to both casein and whey, casein protein is much more difficult to digest than whey. That is why casein sensitivities tend to be more common.5 The casein protein is also very structurally similar to gluten, so the same molecular mimicry that triggers an attack when you eat gluten can also occur when you eat casein from dairy, initiating an autoimmune response. In fact, roughly 50% of those with gluten intolerance are casein intolerant as well.6 If you’re still experiencing symptoms of gluten sensitivity even after eliminating gluten completely, dairy could be to blame.

Hormones and Antibiotics

Food sensitivities, inflammation, and molecular mimicry aren’t the only issues we have to worry about when consuming dairy products. American dairy farmers inject their cows with the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone rBGH to increase milk production.

This artificial increase in milk production puts a strain on the cows’ udders, and often leads to an infection known as mastitis. This common infection is then treated with antibiotics. All of those added hormones and antibiotics make their way into the dairy products you eat. The additives contribute to acne, mood swings, and antibiotic resistance. In turn, it could lead to serious illness caused by antibiotic-resistant infections.7,8

I’m often asked, “Don’t we need the calcium from dairy for bone health?” It may surprise you to learn that The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed over 72,000 women for 18 years, found no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk.9 And, if you are concerned about osteoporosis, there are many non-dairy sources of calcium that don’t come with all the harmful side effects of milk.

Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium

Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium - Infographic - Amy Myers MD

1. Kale
2. Oranges
3. Collard Greens
4. Broccoli
5. Figs
6. Spinach

Along with incorporating these foods into your diet, you can always add in a calcium supplement. The one I carry in my store is a particularly complete form of calcium. It contains trace minerals, collagenous proteins and peptides, and other micronutrients that support bone growth and structure. I recommend pairing your calcium supplement with Vitamin D3/K2 Liquid, as this helps your bones absorb the calcium you are getting in your diet or through supplementation.

How to Repair Damage Caused by Gluten and Dairy

Today’s food isn’t what it used to be. The wheat and grains our ancestors ate are very different from the bread, pasta, and rice we eat today. That’s because the gluten protein has been altered to create bigger, fluffier foods.

Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, if you you look closely at the ingredient labels at the store, other food and non-food items contain some amount of gluten in them too.

Because gluten is everywhere these days, we’re seeing a rise in gluten intolerance, sensitivities, and Celiac disease. It’s estimated that nearly 15% of the population fall under one of these categories, and most of them are never diagnosed. You might think a small amount won’t hurt, but trust me when I say that even a little gluten can have a sizeable impact on your health…and not in a good way!

Since we’re talking about foods that aren’t what they used to be, it’s important to mention that dairy is also a cause for concern. For decades, health experts thought dairy was a vital source of vitamins, minerals like calcium, and in some cases protein. The truth is most dairy products can be highly inflammatory and filled with hormones and antibiotics. Pasteurization also kills beneficial enzymes, making it harder for your body to digest and leading to all sorts of health problems. 

Going gluten and dairy free is essential for stopping the assault on your gut. However, you’ll want to repair the damage caused by these two inflammatory foods over the years. That way, you can fully restore your gut and your health. Fortunately, because individual gut cells turn over quickly (roughly every 48 hours), you can repair your gut in as little as 30 days.

The 4R Approach

You’ll need a proven method to help you heal your gut, and my 4R Approach can help! I cover this in depth in my LEAKY GUT BREAKTHROUGH® PROGRAM, and the basics are as follows:

  • Remove the bad – In addition to removing gluten and dairy from your diet, eliminate inflammatory foods like corn, soy, and eggs. Sugar, caffeine, and alcohol must also be left out of your diet. You’ll also want to eliminate gut infections from yeast overgrowth, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), and parasites. As you remove these harmful foods, you’ll want to support your bowel’s natural elimination processes with Colon Comfort®, a proprietary blend of magnesium citrate and botanical extracts. This facilitates healthy bowel movements, which should be happening between one to three times per day. 
  • Replace what’s missing – Replace the good by adding back in digestive enzymes. Too little or too much stomach acid can also contribute to digestion problems, which can thow off a health stomach pH. Gut Restore with Betaine & HCL enhances your gut’s natural lining and encourages maximum nutrient absorption, a powerful combination that assists your body’s intestinal repair and inflammation responses.
  • Reinoculate with healthy bacteria- Restore a healthy gut environment by reintroducing beneficial bacteria through a high-quality, multi-strain, high-potency probiotic supplement.
  • Repair the gut – Provide the nutrients necessary to help restore your gut lining. My most comprehensive weapon against leaky gut is Leaky Gut Revive® powder, which contains powerful gut-repairing ingredients like l-glutamine, aloe vera, licorice, slippery elm and marshmallow root. These ingredient nourishes and soothes your gut cells and restores your gut’s natural mucosal lining. Drinking bone broth or collagen will also help to heal your gut, as will supplementing with omega-3s and zinc.

You know your gut is healed once your digestive troubles, food sensitivities, and skin issues begin to fade away. Your autoimmune labs also improve, and you start feeling like your optimal self! You can restore your body to its natural healthy state by eliminating toxic foods, introducing restorative ingredients, and identifying environmental toxins. All of this and more is outlined in my book, The Autoimmune Solution so that you can take back your health!