Does maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle measure up to the promised hype of feeling better? That’s the million dollar question. Let’s take a look at this more closely and recap what we already know about gluten.
Gluten is a composite of storage proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and oat. It gives elasticity to dough, helps it rise, keeps its shape and gives food a chewy texture. But here are a few reasons why gluten has earned a bad rap:
Gut Inflammation. The proteins in wheat are gut irritants which dig into the lining of the gut wall, causing amylase trypsin inhibitors to provoke an inflammatory immune response.
Increased Intestinal Permeability. The gut is a patrol system that regulates which nutrients may enter and which may not. Inflammation in the gut caused by gluten halts that process of control. It loosens the junctions between cells in the gut wall so too much stuff can pass through. Hence the name of “leaky gut.” This leak is thought to be the number one contributing factor to developing autoimmune disease.
Vulnerability to Gut Autoimmunity. Gliadin is a component of gluten and once it enters the system, the problems begin. The exposure to gliadin causes one’s body to form antibodies against its own tissue, thereby creating an avalanche of toxins. Gluten-related inflammation may also be a factor in the development of Crohn’s Disease.
Autoimmune Reactions. Studies have found wheat exposure might be causing autoimmune issues even without evidence of celiac disease. With the abundance of GMO’s, there have been an exponential surge of autoimmune disorders thought in part due to the toxic effects of gluten.
Symptoms of gluten sensitivity can vary. Some common ones include:
- Mood changes
- GI issues
- Poor sleep
- Rash (Dermatitis Herpatiformis is specific to gluten)
- Hormone dysregulation
- Hair loss
- Weight changes
- Joint/muscle pain/swelling
If these are reasons enough to make you want to consider cutting back on gluten, here are steps you can take to make the process a little easier.
- Get educated. There is nothing more empowering than understanding exactly why you are choosing this path. When I first began my gluten free journey it was not by choice, but out of necessity. I was one of the few that experienced all 10 of the above symptoms. It was daunting and overwhelming. I simplified the process by reading. A great way to start is with the book “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis. Dr. Davis takes you through the history of how gluten has become toxic to our system. Sit with the information and absorb the rationale of why maintaining a gluten-free diet can be life-saving.
- Make a list of the foods your currently eat. Rather than trying to figure out which foods do or do not have gluten, start by streamlining and looking at your own diet. Make a list of all the foods and ingredients you eat on a regular basis. Then begin researching that specific food. Remember – gluten is not listed as an ingredient. It is a protein! You won’t find it on the label. You will learn over time how gluten is disguised in various forms.
- Start slowly. Don’t expect yourself to change overnight. It is not safe for the body, nor is it healthy. Start by decreasing a certain percentage of what you are currently eating. For example, eat only one slice of bread with your sandwich rather than two. This small change can make a significant impact. Remember, gluten is inflammatory. As you decrease your intake of gluten, body inflammation also diminishes. This will result in decreased cravings and an overall decrease in inflammation.
- Limit the gluten-free foods. While reaching for gluten-free cookies is nice when you need that sugar fix, gluten-free products are filled with other ingredients and chemicals that are not good for us. In August 2013, the FDA issued a final rule, effective August 2014, that defined the term “gluten-free” for voluntary use in the labeling of foods as meaning that the amount of gluten contained in the food is below 20 parts per million. This means only a small portion of the food needs to be gluten-free to earn that label. It very well could be that the other portion in the food is not. If you wouldn’t eat a regular cookie, then you shouldn’t be eating a gluten-free one. Indulgences are ok as long as they remain on that special occasion.
- Clear out expectations. Lose the idea that going gluten-free will be the “IT” weight loss miracle. Because it is not! If you lose weight from removing gluten, it is because you are caliberating your metabolism. While weight loss may be an added benefit, the real reward is overall health. When the body is balanced and brought to its natural homeostasis, everything will be in perfect working order, including the weight. Don’t chase the weight loss. Allow it to present itself to you along with all of the other great benefits!
Gluten-free eating is truly not the next fad. There are many, and more to come, unfolding studies and evidence of benefits to living gluten free. It is not a quick fix. We didn’t get here overnight. So stay the path. Stay focused. Stay determined and above all STAY COMMITTED!
CHANGE IS COMING!
To be or not to be……gluten-free? Ahhhhh…….that’s the million dollar question. Does being gluten free really offer the extended health benefits that science claims to offer or is it just another peg on the board of healthy eating?
I have written previously about peeling back the layers of understanding leaky gut syndrome. While this concept is still in its infancy, the research appears to have solid validity. Let’s go one step further and isolate specific microscopic causes that contribute to forming the hole in the ozone of our gut.
First, we must understand what gluten is. Many of the references here are from the research of Dr. William Davis, one of my favorite writers and author of Wheat Belly.
What is gluten?
“Gluten is a complex two-part protein found in wheat with virtually identical structures and amino acid sequences of the protein also found in rye and barley. Each gluten molecule comes in two parts: a larger, polymeric glutenin molecule that confers the stretchiness, or viscoelasticity, of wheat dough, and gliadin, a smaller protein. Both glutenin and gliadin share overlapping sequences also, but it’s the gliadin that is the source of most of the health issues associated with wheat, and thereby rye and barley. Note that the gliadin protein of wheat also resembles the zein protein of corn and, to a lesser degree, the avenin protein of oats, which therefore share some of the same effects, including activation of the immune system. While there is no gluten or gliadin in corn and oats, they have related proteins that have similar effects.” –Dr.William Davis
Although gluten is primarily in wheat, similar chemical properties are seen in oat, barley, rye and most recently discovered in corn. Remember the days of our grandmother’s homemade biscuits, pies, cookies? We devoured them without even giving it a second thought.
Why is gluten now being linked to a host of symptoms and diseases?
Remember, gluten is a PROTEIN, not an actual ingredient. It serves as a binder that prolongs shelf life and helps maintain the product’s shape. With the genetic modification of gluten, the human system is unable to process and breakdown the products as nature intended. This results in an explosion of inflammation within the cell walls. These inflammatory markers then leak into other areas causing cellular and hormonal disruption. It is this disruption that causes our symptoms.
What are symptoms of gluten sensitivity?
- Weight gain
- Worsening PMS
- GI issues
- Muscle/Joint pain
- Hair loss
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mental confusion/Depression/Decreased concentration
This is only a partial list of potential symptoms. Inflammation is not discretionary. It hits in all corners of the human body.
What can gluten consumption cause?
- Leaky gut. The gap between the intestinal cell junctions allows foreign proteins to spill into the bloodstream. The body looks at this debris as foreign and begins to attack. This is how autoimmune conditions begin. This is why wheat, rye, barley and corn are associated with Type 1 Diabetes, Hashimoto’s and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Mood changes. The unique amino acid sequences of these peptides act asopiates on the human brain. Opioids activate hunger, increase calorie intake, cause mental fogginess, anxiety, anger, food obsessions, mania and decreases attention span.
- Allergies. Just as pollen, grass, mold triggers a histamine response, the allergen component of gluten and its by-products triggers the same histamine release leading to itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, congestion, rash.
- Increased risk for Celiac Disease. “There is a 33-amino acid long sequence within gliadin that is most powerfully associated with triggering celiac disease. One gene, in particular, coding for this amino acid sequence, Glia-alpha9, was uncommon in the wheat of 1950, but is common in modern semidwarf strains of wheat, explaining why there has been a 400% increase in celiac disease over the last 50 years.” –Dr.William Davis
The science is unarguable! The manipulation and modification of our crops since the 1950’s correlates directly to the increasing symptoms and health ailments entering our lives. It is imperative to understand gluten is only ONE such contributor. Researchers continue to isolate others causes.
Until then, what do we do? Do we go completely gluten free? Is gluten free better than not? Will I lose weight if I am gluten free?
Ideally, is it better to be fully gluten free? Yes. Is it practical? No. So where to start? Begin by cutting down the most obvious sources of gluten, (ie. bread, pastas, baked goods etc.) Gluten is hidden under many different titles. Labels will not list gluten as an ingredient because it is not an ingredient, it is a protein. It is important to learn what ingredients do contain gluten. (I highly recommend reading Wheat Belly.)
Be sure to keep a detailed food journal and make note of any subtle changes you may be feeling. Your body takes a minimum of two months to begin responding to any changes made. Don’t expect to lose weight right away or burst through the doors with untapped energy. Or for that matter, you may not see any difference at all. Don’t lose hope and don’t under estimate what is happening on a cellular level.
Eating “gluten free” products is NOT any better than the real stuff. A gluten free cookie is STILL a cookie. If you wouldn’t eat it before, then you shouldn’t eat it just because it is gluten free.
Keep expectations out of the equation. No matter what you see or don’t see on the surface, below ground, you are doing your body good! Above all, be gentle with yourself. It has taken us six decades to create this mess. We have to begin to dig ourselves out with the shovel of knowledge and a bucket of patience.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Eating out is fun, and with a little planing, you can still be eating healthy while eating out. And why wouldn’t you? Gathering around for a meal has long brought families together for hours of conversation over endless bowls of our favorite dishes. Once in a while it is nice to shut down the kitchen and give Mom and Dad a break from chopping, stirring and cleaning.
Trying out great new restaurants or visiting your old favorites is no doubt exciting, relaxing and rejuvenating. However, what we don’t often realize is how excited our palates become when these tasty treats in their most perfect presentation are brought out in front of us. Before we know it, we have devoured the last bite consuming more calories than imagined.
Enjoying good food is a must. Enjoying new food is a necessity.
So if you are one that loves restaurant hopping, keep at it!! Life is too short not to enjoy the simple pleasures! To avoid spiraling down an unhealthy lifestyle, plan ahead!
The following may seem like simple suggestions, but I assure you simplicity will bring about longevity!
- Decide the restaurant early. Knowing what type of food will be ordered will help you be aware of the amount of carb, protein, and fat in that item. If you anticipate a great Italian Bistro where carbs are in very selection, plan to decrease carb intake couple days prior to the outing. Most restaurants offer apps that allow you to search the menu as well as nutritional values. Making good choices comes from being educated.
- Hydrate.This should be your staple even when you don’t plan to go out. 90 oz of water /day helps keep cellular function performing at optimal levels. Avoid any water substitutes and go for the plain H2O.
- Eat a small protein snack one-two hours before anticipated meal time. Protein intake helps keep the balance of insulin and glucose. This results in longer satiety and decreased cravings. Good examples are almonds, string cheese, fruit, slice of meat, peanut butter, hummus etc.
- Check out the menu beforehand. If you know you will not be leaving that table until you have had that favorite 1000 calorie dessert, then scale back on appetizers and entrée. Yes you can have your cake and eat it too, but only in moderation. You don’t want to wake up the next morning with a sugar laden hangover.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the server. Ask the server how the food is being prepared. Ask them if they use butter, cream or any other high fat substitutes to give it that rich mouthwatering flavor. Ask to speak to the chef if you are not satisfied with the answer. Even if they think you are one of “those” customers, it doesn’t matter because ultimately, you are only accountable to yourself. So take ownership and be ok asking!
- Avoid “low carb” options and high carb temptations. Anything that claims “free or low carb,” STAY AWAY! To take something out and still have it taste so good, means something else has to be put in. That something else is likely to be highly processed ingredients that do you no good. Better to go for the real stuff in smaller quantities. Also skip the bread basket. It’s not worth it!
- Double the veggies. Just because it doesn’t say it on the menu, doesn’t mean you can’t ask. Ask for double quantity of veggies-steamed or broiled, NOT FRIED. Even if it costs a few pennies more, it is well worth it.
- Watch out for the salad temptation. Of course the vegetables in the salad are healthy, but the croutons, cheese, dressing, not so much. Salad toppings may seem insignificant, but what we may not realize is that these innocent munchies turn out to be the biggest culprits of our weight gain. Have you seen how many grams of fat are in ONE tablespoon of dressing? A LOT! You know they don’t stop at one tablespoon. So is it really worth ruining all of your hard work with something that is not even the main meal? Ask for dressing on the side.
- Skip the alcohol. Alcohol consumption causes an increase appetite and not to mention increase in empty calories. If you absolutely must have a drink with your meal, choose red or white wine limited to 1x glass. For every one sip of wine, take 3-5 large gulps of water. Chances are you won’t even be able to finish that one glass. Avoid the fruity cocktails. Choose your calories wisely.
- Dress up nicely. Who would have thought right? Research has shown when you take the time and effort to dress nicely and are happy with what you see in the mirror, you will be less likely to make poor dietary choices. If dressing up is a time consuming process for you, you may not be keen to put in the effort just for going out. And in the long run, less eating out means less consumption of unwanted calories.
- Walk off the guilt. If your willpower happened to get the best of you, don’t sweat it. We are all human. We all have cravings. It’s ok! If you still can’t shake the guilt, take a brisk walk outside and breathe knowing you can start over with the next meal. We ALL go through these times when we know better, but we choose otherwise. Following the 80-20 rule can help with any feelings of guilt. Focus on mindful eating 80% of the time and look forward to the other 20% when you know you’ve earned it!
Indulgences are part of life’s greatest joys. Don’t deprive yourself of a little happiness. Eating out is more than just about watching calories. It is the opportunity to kindle relationships and foster new ones.
Food is nourishment. It is our greatest ally, not our worst enemy. Savor each bite because you know you have earned it. And when you have taken that last bite, set yourself back on that right path until you can look forward to it again!
While the media was recently heaping attention on the few people in the United States who had been exposed to or infected by the Ebola virus, a condition which is approaching true epidemic proportions continues to affect more than 20 million Americans. Type 2 diabetes currently affects nearly 8% of the U.S. population and new cases are diagnosed every day. Obesity, which the Centers for Disease Control have identified as an actual epidemic in this country, increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. To make matters worse, type 2 diabetes can lead to additional health complications including congestive heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.
A System Out of Balance
Diabetes occurs when the hormone insulin is out of balance. Many factors can affect insulin imbalance, including perimenopause, stress and poor nutrition. Diabetes is almost always preceded by pre-diabetes, which is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not as high as those that result in a diagnosis of diabetes. If steps are taken to balance hormones at the pre-diabetes stage or even earlier, it’s possible that diabetes may never be a threat.
Hormonal balance plays an important role in treating diabetes. Each hormone in your body affects the other hormones. When insulin is out of balance, there’s a ripple effect on all your hormones, resulting in a confusing array of health problems. One treatment that can directly address hormone imbalance is bioidentical hormone therapy. In addition to the benefits it has on a variety of health issues, in some cases, bioidentical hormone therapy has been shown to reverse type 2 diabetes. Thyroid dis
Diabetes and Thyroid Disease
Thyroid disease is also commonly correlated with diabetes, as evident in the table below:
Treatment for hypothyroidism and other thyroid dysfunctions has been found to effectively treat and prevent diabetes. If you haven’t had your thyroid checked, but you’re experiencing symptoms such as:
- Fatigue and low energy
- Depressed, down, or sad
- Skin that becomes dry, scaly, rough, and cold
- Hair that is coarse, brittle, and grows slowly
- Excessive unexplained hair loss
- Sensitivity to cold in a room when others are warm
- Difficulty sweating despite hot weather
- Constipation that is resistant to magnesium supplementation
- Difficulty losing weight
- Unexplained weight gain
- High cholesterol resistant to cholesterol-lowering drugs
You should talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Controlling thyroid disease is essential for living a healthy, balanced life.
The Impact of Nutrition and Weight Management
The direct link between obesity and type 2 diabetes means that weight management also plays an important role in treating and managing diabetes. If you are pre-diabetic, weight management is also the most natural way to prevent the transition to becoming diabetic. When nutritional imbalances are addressed, weight management is much easier. When foods that negatively affect nutritional balance are removed from the diet, foods that have a strong positive effect can do their work, which is to keep you healthy.
Better health is within reach for everyone, but many people are resistant to making the lifestyle changes that are required. Chronic health conditions like diabetes can only be fully managed with comprehensive medical care, a nutritionally balanced diet, and consistent moderate exercise. Caring support as you take steps toward good health is often all the help you need in order to succeed.
Prevent and Control Diabetes by Finding a Path That Leads to Balance
I practice holistic care and promote staying well and maintaining good health instead of treating patients only after they become ill. My concierge medical practice in St. Louis offers Bioidentical Hormone Therapy, Thyroid Hormone Therapy and I am launching a new Medically Supervised Weight Management program.
If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or if you are concerned that you may be at risk, contact our office to learn more about how our personalized care programs can get you on a path that leads to balance.