Gluten Free Diet

A gluten free diet is one in which all products containing certain proteins called glutens are avoided. Gluten proteins are found in all forms of wheat (including durum, semolina) and close relatives such as spelt, kamut, einkorn and faro. Other gluten grains such as rye, barley and triticale are also restricted. Oats and millet may also be restricted, as they cause symptoms in many people.

The mainstream advice to eat 6-11 servings of grain based foods each day has seriously detrimental health effects for many people.

Gluten consumption is the main cause of Celiac disease, a digestive disorder characterized by villous atrophy, a change in the form and function of the intestinal wall, and other health issues including joint and bone pain, neurological problems and serious autoimmune reactions in the body.

It has been estimated that at least 10% of the American population is gluten intolerant. That's 130 million Americans who are basically sick from eating grains.

Worse, they may not even know why they are sick. On average, it takes 10 years of suffering to finally uncover a diagnosis of gluten intolerance.

Patients suffer not only from gut problems such as gas, bloating and diarrhea, but also from a wide variety of other, seemingly disconnected health issues, such as migraines, nerve pain, osteoporosis, skin disorders or even simple chronic heartburn or GERD.

In addition, gluten intolerance or sensitivity exists in a range of degrees, but very little research has been done. Some people may not even have discernable symptoms, but the damage from grain may cause the development of a "leaky gut" and autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Most doctors only know about celiac disease in relation to a gluten intolerance, and it is in relation to a celiac diagnosis that most people are advised to follow a diet free of gluten.

Grains and Cancer

After doing a lot of research in this area, I've come to believe that most people would benefit from following a gluten free diet, and in general, if people avoided whole grains completely, we would spend a lot less time at home or the hospital sick, and a lot less money on health care and health research, especially cancer and autoimmune disease research.

You may be surprised to read that grain consumption is closely tied to the rates of cancer in a population. But consider this: in 1843, a physician name Stanislas Tanchou spoke at the Paris Medical Society conference. He claimed that he could predict the exact cancer rates in every major European city over the next 50 years. He based his predictions on the percentage of grain being consumed in each city.

His predictions were recorded, and in time, they were shown to be correct. In those cities where grain consumption was higher, cancer rates were higher. And in populations where grains were not consumed, cancer did not exist. This may be why some term cancer as a "disease of civilization".

What to Eat and Not Eat on a Gluten Free Diet

Foods to Avoid

The foods that those with gluten intolerance should avoid include all products which commonly contain any grain based gluten. Grains which have high amounts of gluten include:

  • Wheat, all forms (durum, semolina)
  • Rye
  • Kamut
  • Spelt
  • Einkorn
  • Barley
  • Oats (for some)

A gluten free diet means the avoidance of any starch based products made with the flours from the above grains as well. This rules out:

  • all types of wheat and rye bread
  • the breading and batters used in fried foods
  • beers made with malt grain
  • cereals made from grain products
  • flour based baking mixes
  • pastas
  • crackers
  • cookies
  • cakes and pies
  • thickening ingredients used in gravies and sauces
  • graham or matso flour, which are made from wheat
  • blue cheese, which gets its mold from wheat bread sources
  • fiber products which use wheat germ

Processed foods are the worst products for those with gluten sensitivities. They contain unanticipated sources of gluten because they usually have thickeners, fillers, and stabilizing agents. Read ingredient labels and avoid products such as:

  • ingredient acronyms such as HPP, HVP, MSG, TPP or TVP (this would include most flavoring agents such as bouillon cubes
  • candy bars and energy bars
  • canned foods, especially soups and chilis
  • canned meats, processed meats and deli style lunch meats
  • ketchup and sauces
  • ice cream and frozen yogurt
  • instant coffee
  • mustards
  • sausages
  • sweetened yogurts
  • most "low fat" products

In addition, gluten is also commonly found in many vitamins and cosmetics, such as lipstick, and in the production of many medicinal capsules and tablets, where starch is a commonly used binding agent.

Safe Foods for the Gluten Sensitive

The good news is that people on a gluten free diet can eat most whole foods including:

  • fresh meats, fish, shellfish
  • fresh chicken, turkey and other poultry products
  • fresh eggs
  • vegetables and fruit
  • whole diary products, although some people are also sensitive to dairy products

There are also some grain and starch sources which are acceptable for those on a gluten free diet. The most frequently used starch sources include:

  • corn and corn products such as corn starch, chips and polenta
  • sorghum flour
  • potatoes
  • rice and rice flour products
  • tapioca flours (derived from cassava)
  • amaranth
  • arrowroot
  • Other lesser known grains such as montina, lupin, quinoa, taro, teff, chia seed, and yam
  • Bean, soybean, and nut flours can also be used in place of gluten containing products

Resources for Further Reading

Recommended Gluten Free Cookbooks

Done with Gluten Free Diet, back to Celiac Disease

More on the Dangers of Wheat and Gluten