A Gluten-Free Diet and Weight Lossby Laura J Hieb, ND on June 22, 2022
More and more people are following a gluten-free diet
If you are not following one yourself, you may be wondering "Why are people following a gluten-free diet? " "Should I be following a gluten-free diet?" "Do gluten-free diets help with weight loss?" and "What the heck is gluten anyway?"
Gluten, and gliadin (GLEE-uh-din), a component of gluten which is a type of prolamine, is found in some gluten-free grains such as millet and buckwheat as well as in gluten grains. FYI, buckwheat products often contain wheat. Always read labels!
Gluten grains are wheat (also couscous, farina and wheat berries), barley, rye, oats--yes, even gluten-free oats-- spelt, tritcale, farro and kamut .
Gliadin is what triggers celiac (SEE-lee-ak) disease, the most severe type of gluten intolerance/sensitivity. Celiac disease is now known to be an auto-immune disease, with a genetic disposition. It used to be thought that celiac disease was rare and something a person was born with. But now we know it can be triggered at any age.
Up until recently it was thought that if a person did not have celiac disease, that they could not be sensitive to gluten. Now we know that that is false, and there is a diagnosis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)--which is something Naturopaths knew all along.
A person with celiac disease must avoid gluten 100% because it can trigger a very severe reaction. And they must even have their own cutting boards and toasters, etc, if they live in a household with others who consume gluten grains. This is because there is the risk of cross-contamination, which can also trigger a severe reaction.
If you have friends or family members with celiac disease, please be100% upfront about all your kitchen habits and food ingredients, because it really, really, really is a very big deal for them to be exposed to gluten.
People who do not have celiac disease, but are gluten sensitive, can still have severe reactions, but they don't necessarily need to worry about cross-contamination. Although beware deep-fried foods. If french fries, etc, are cooked in a deep fryer that is used for breaded foods (read wheat), you could have a reaction. Also, FYI, many french fries are coated in (wheat) flour.
Gluten affects the cell junctions in the gut, which can cause spaces between the cells, which can cause intestinal permeability, AKA leaky gut. When there are gaps between the cells in the gut, things that should stay in the gut, can get out of it and into the blood stream. Because these things aren't supposed to be there, they trigger the immune system which causes inflammation. Inflammation can lead to weight gain in at least 2 ways.
First, inflammation causes water weight gain that results in puffiness and bloating.
Secondly, inflammation causes insulin resistance which leads to weight gain in the abdomen, which is very unhealthy fat.
Inflammation can also lead to auto-immune diseases.
The main foods correlated with auto-immune diseases are gluten containing grains.
How do you know if you have a gluten sensitivity--or celiac disease?
If you have an auto-immune disease, if you have IBS or IBD (ie, Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis), chronic diarrhea or constipation, arthritis, migraines, PCOS, chronic pain or other chronic conditions, there is a chance you could have an issue with gluten.
Then there is testing.
There are blood tests for celiac disease, although these are not always accurate. The gold standard for a celiac disease diagnosis is intestinal biopsy, which is, admittedly, a little invasive.
There are blood allergy tests for wheat and other gluten grains, but an allergy is not the same as a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten. This means you could test negative for a wheat allergy and still have celiac disease or NCGS.
There is genetic testing for celiac disease. This is particularly beneficial if you have stopped eating gluten, but want to know if you have celiac disease, rather than an allergy, or a sensitivity to gluten. Typically you have to have been eating gluten for at least 3 months for allergy and sensitivity tests to be accurate.
There are also food sensitivity blood tests. These are often very helpful, but not covered by insurance.
The best way to know if you are sensitive to gluten is to stop eating all gluten grains 100% for 3 consecutive weeks. Then add them back in and see how you feel.
Reintroduce gluten grains in their simplest forms, 3 days apart. For example, for wheat, try plain cream of wheat cereal, or organic whole wheat bread with very few other ingredients, or a whole wheat pita or wrap. Do not eat other foods at the same time. For oats, try plain oatmeal. For barley, cook some barley grain and eat it plain. For rye, eat german rye bread that contains only rye, water and salt. (Other rye breads often contain wheat.) You can do the same with kamut, spelt and triticale.
If you react to any of these foods, be sure to wait until the reaction has finished before reintroducing the next food.
If you react to any of these gluten-containing grains, it would be best to avoid them, but that is up to you.
A word of caution: if you react to gluten containing grains, and you occasionally eat them, you trigger the inflammation every time you eat them. I don't want to take bread out of anyone's mouth ;) but I believe knowledge is power.
Also, when you stop eating any food(s) you are sensitive to, you will lose that water weight, which can result in a 3-10 pound or more weight loss. Not bad!