There was a time when I experienced brain fog, fatigue and anxiety, along with other symptoms. What I discovered is that I had some real imbalances in my gut. One of the first things I did to start to recover was change my diet.
I cut out gluten, dairy and sugar, among other inflammatory foods TEMPORARILY.
People think that because they don’t have GI symptoms or they don’t have Celiac Disease, that they don’t have an issue with food or their gut.
Let me tell what I have learned about Gluten and maybe it will make sense why you hear so much about gluten these days.
After taking gluten out of my diet, I immediately felt better. I was not out of the woods in terms of true gut healing, but at least my energy started to come back and my brain fog lifted after only a few weeks. That was shocking to me that it could have such an impact.
What I learned though, is that it’s not just as simple as substituting wheat for gluten free grains and certainly not a good option to substitute for gluten free versions of processed products. We actually thrive on a variety of grains that offer nutrients and fermentable fibers, both of which we need to keep our gut thriving.
Did you know that our hunter/gatherer ancestors ate 100 grams of fiber per day? That’s as much as 5-6x more than we eat in a standard american diet. When we go gluten free, we are at risk for decreasing the amount of fermentable fibers in our diet and having an adverse affect on our gut microbiome.
So what are the options to focus on? Let’s look to our ancestors who ate diets rich in non-starchy vegetables, starchy tubers, fruits, nuts & seeds, meat and fish. All these foods have been shown in studies to support our body with the macro and micro-nutrients we need and the fibers we need to keep our gut happy and healthy.
So why are we hearing about gluten intolerance and that it is a widespread issue?
The fact is, we are eating significantly more gluten than our ancestors. And the proteins themselves have changed. Wheat is one of the three main GMO crops in the US now. The protein are larger than what our ancestors ate.
The proteins have the capability of damaging our gut lining and when we end up with gut permeability, holes in our gut lining from damage, those proteins can leak into our bloodstream and cause an inflammatory cascade. In addition, those proteins can mimic tissues of our own body, including our thyroid, which mistakenly gets attacked by our immune system, potentially leading to Hashimoto’s, IBD and other chronic conditions. This is a case of molecular mimicry.
The other problem is, we may not have the microbes or enzymes to appropriately break down the gluten. Like any food, we need bacteria and enzymes to break it down. You may notice sensitivities to many foods are on the rise, this is one reason why.
Testing for intolerances is not reliable either. Unfortunately, there’s really no consensus on the definition of gluten intolerance like there is with Celiac.
We have known about Celiac disease since it was first described by a Greek Physician, Aretaeus of Cappodocia, in the 1st century A.D. It wasn’t until 1950, that Dr. Williem Dicke, a Dutch Pediatrician, proved that Celiac Disease was caused by an autoimmune reaction to gliadin, the protein in wheat.
Our testing really hasn’t evolved much since then. The test is only testing for antibodies to one protein and one enzyme, IgA anti-transglutaminase or anti-endomysial antibodies, but there are others that people react to that are not tested. These are the proteins that are definitive in Celiac Disease, but not intolerance, and the test is not always accurate even in Celiac cases. And these other proteins can mimic proteins in foods like corn, oats and rice, all of which have similar proteins. Even casein, the protein in dairy has been associated with gluten protein and as many as 50% of Celiac patients are also intolerant to casein.
Remember symptoms are broad and can range from mood changes, autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and Diabetes, GI distress, brain fog and fatigue and even skin conditions. So can you see why there is no clear answers.
So what is the “Gold Standard” for testing?
Eliminating inflammatory foods for at least 30 days to allow the proteins to move out of your body is the first thing. After 30 days, if all your symptoms have cleared, or you at least feel better, add it back in and see if your symptoms return. If they do, this is a sure sign that you have an intolerance or sensitivity.
If you determine that you may have an intolerance or sensitivity, best to remove or cut back on gluten and gluten substitute products. And remember, even dairy, corn, soy, oats, rice and certain other grains can have cross reactivity so be aware how you feel when you eat those as well.
I have something for you to try also if you want to be extra on guard with gluten, because, studies show that even food that says it is gluten free, isn’t actually gluten free. Be extra careful when you go to restaurants. Here something to carry with you if you are sensitive or intolerant of gluten. It’s called “Wheat Rescue” and you can take it with a meal that has or may have gluten to help you break it down.
Here are some grains that will be great sources of fermentable fiber that will feed the beneficial probiotics that protect your gut lining. These are also referred to as prebiotics, high in inulin and other prebiotic fibers. We should be including as many of these in our diet as possible everyday to keep our keystone species and other probiotics happy and thriving.
Rice, Quinoa, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Gluten free oats, Teff, Ancient blue corn, Millet, Sorghum, Flax seeds
ROOTS & BULBS
Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, onions, Garlic, Jicama
OTHER FIBER/PREBIOTIC FOODS
Asparagus, Leafy greens, Bananas, Apples, Seaweed, Dandelion greens, Bitter greens
I hope this offered more insight into the gluten confusion and I dare you to do the 30 day challenge. If you determine you have an issue with gluten, I would recommend you deeper work on your gut to build up the lining with the help of a practitioner.