You’ve probably heard about “gluten free” and are wondering if it’s just the latest craze. There’s a lot of conflicting advice about whether to go gluten free or not, which I will talk about in this post. Unfortunately, a lot of the stuff you buy at the grocery store labeled “gluten free” is essentially junk food full of carbs.
The downsides of gluten and grains has come to our attention with the popularity of the Paleo diet, which advocates eating the way our ancient ancestors did—mostly meats, fruits, nuts and veggies; dairy and grains are excluded because our ancestors didn’t start eating them until they left behind their hunter–gatherer roots in favor of farming.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein molecule found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. Many people are sensitive to gluten and don’t have true gluten allergy, i.e. Celiac Disease, where people can be become violently ill after being exposed to the smallest amount of gluten. The problem is that gluten is hidden in so many things like salad dresses, sauces, processed foods, and even supplements.
Some of the Arguments Against Grains
- Some grains are genetically modified (GMO), especially corn, and are sprayed with pesticides.
- Grains raise insulin levels are contributing to America’s obesity and diabetes epidemic.
- The gluten in grains is one of the classes of foods that’s hard to digest and this can irritate the gut lining and lead to health issues, such as autoimmunity and joint pain.
- Grains have high levels of mold toxins because of the way they’re stored.
Grains, Gluten and Autoimmune Illness
Many experts recommend people who have autoimmune illnesses should quit eating all grains, as they cause inflammation, which is the cause of all illness. So it wasn’t a surprise that many of the speakers on the recent online Autoimmune Revolution Summit didn’t recommend grains. These speakers included Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. Tom O’Bryan, Dave Asprey, Dr. Mark Hyman, and many other well-known experts.
A simple explanation for the link between grains and autoimmunity is when someone keeps eating grains, their gut lining can become damaged, which can lead to a condition called “leaky gut.” Large food particles and toxins are then able get into the blood stream where they don’t belong and trigger an immune response. It’s more of a problem than in the past, because our immune systems are strained by all the toxins we’re exposed to.
You may be reading this and thinking that you don’t have an autoimmune disease and this doesn’t affect you, but 70 percent of the immune system is in the gut, and the damage occurs over time.
Researchers have known for some time now that the cornerstone of all degenerative conditions, including brain disorders, is inflammation. But what they didn’t have documented until now are the instigators of that inflammation—the first missteps that prompt this deadly reaction. And what they are finding is that gluten, and a high-carbohydrate diet for that matter, are among the most prominent stimulators of inflammatory pathways that reach the brain. — Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers.
Dr. Peter Osborne, the author of No Pain, No Grain, also argues that all grains can be problematic, even the so-called gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, corn, and rice. The the current gluten testing performed by conventional doctors don’t go far enough, because grains have other problematic properties besides gluten. His website has information about the tests he recommends.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan also makes a case against “toxic” gluten but thinks some of the gluten-free grains are OK, if they’re labeled as gluten-free. He also believes traditional gluten tests, such as the Cyrex test, don’t test for enough of the peptides in wheat—it’s usually just for alpha-gliadin. He recommends that people should get tested periodically if they choose to continue to eat grains and want to be safe; the same is true for people want to add gluten back after not eating it for a period of time, like a year. He recommends the Wheat Zoomer test, which looks at between 20 and 30 peptides of wheat. See his website for more information.
Of course, testing can be expensive. Instead you can try giving them up completely for a period of time, such as 30 days, and see if there’s an improvement.
A New Argument for Grains
However, there are some experts who feel grains are getting a bad rap. For example Dr. John Douilliard, who specializes in Ayurvedic medicine. In his new book, Eat Wheat: A Scientific and Clinically Proven Approach to Safely Bring Wheat and Dairy Back into Your Diet, he argues that our modern lifestyle has affected our ability to digest things like gluten; cutting out all the hard to digest foods is a temporary fix that just kicks the problem down the road and could actually be adversely affecting the microbial diversity of our guts. He also points to new research that our ancestors ate gluten grains much further back than currently believed, but they ate them seasonally, which is important because the gut microbiome changes seasonally too. Grains should only be eaten only if they’re the right kind and only by people aren’t dealing with blood sugar imbalances, who are burning fat instead of glucose, which most people aren’t.
If you want to investigate further, I encourage you to do your own research and decide for yourself—maybe start by comparing the alternative views of Dr. Douilliard versus Dr. Osborne and Dr. Perlmutter.
Why I’m Gluten Free
I’ve avoided gluten for the last five years and am doing great with it and don’t miss grains at all. When the Cyrex test results came back, the first thing I said to my doctor was, “What will I eat for breakfast?” He replied, “Bacon?” It turns out there’s lots of things you can substitute for grains in the morning. How about a smoothie, eggs with an avocado, or Bulletproof™ Coffee?
I admit it wasn’t easy making the switch at first, but I can usually find something to eat when I go out to restaurants, plus many offer gluten-free menus these days. However, I’m always the only person not eating bread or pasta at the table, though, and often get chastised by someone for not eating it: “Can’t you have just a little taste?” The problem is gluten can stay in your system for a long time, so there shouldn’t be any cheat days if you’re serious about avoiding it.
Tips on How to Go Grain Free
Grains are a huge part of the American diet, with many people eating them three times a day or more. We grew up eating bread and cereal find it hard to eat meals in restaurants without being tempted by bread and desserts.
My clients, family members and so many others often say they want to ditch the grains, but find it so difficult to actually do it. So I want to share with you some of my tips for going grain-free.
- Don’t go cold turkey and ditch the grains all at once. Some can do this, but most people will quit all at once and then sabotage their efforts a few days later with a binge. To gradually incorporate this new lifestyle, you can first begin by ditching the unhealthiest grains (sugary cereal, fruit bars, rice, etc.) and instead opt for healthier versions (quinoa, rice, etc.) Once you’ve done that, gradually cut done your portions of grains meal by meal until none exist in your diet.
- Fill up on proteins, veggies and healthy fats. If you eat plenty of these items, you’re not going to crave the grains as much because your nutrient needs will be satisfied, and you’ll feel fuller longer. For example, eat lots of fish, clean meats and veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, etc. Also, don’t forget to add the healthy fat to each meal – such as avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.
- Don’t keep the grains in your house. As they say – out of sight is out of mind. This holds true for the grains. If you don’t keep them in your house (after they’re gone for good), you’ll be more likely not to eat them.
- Prepare meals in advance. This tip has saved me so much time, patience, and sanity when I decided to change my lifestyle. I always write a meal plan at the beginning of each week and then shop, and prepare the food all in the same day. Prepping meals once a week prevents you from binging on grains when you’re hungry. Purchase glass containers and mason jars to store your food in the freezer after cooking. There will be no time to reach for the granola bars.
- Indulge in scrumptious grain-free recipes. Another nuisance that could prevent you from experiencing success with your new lifestyle choice is boredom. If you’re making the same chicken and broccoli every day, you’re going to get bored and revert back to your old lifestyle. Therefore, it’s so important to try out new recipes all the time.
Want to learn more about living grain free? My 14-day Clean Paleo program provides everything you need to adopt a Paleo lifestyle, including tasty recipes. Click here for more information.