Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is Removing Gluten Enough to Create Health?

When patients initially come into the clinic they are invariably put on a hypoallergenic diet for about 10 days. Much discussion occurs regarding what is and is not allowed for this period of time and it follows with a scientific reintroduction of the not allowed foods with one being reintroduced approximately every 3 days.

Often it is during this initial 10 days that we get a glimmer of a gluten and or dairy reaction that is corroborated by laboratory testing and/or a negative response when the food is reintroduced. But other times another reaction occurs. The patient feels great on the diet but reintroduction doesn’t recreate any of the negative symptoms with which they arrived. Often it comes down to the fact that the modified elimination diet, as we refer to it, simply removed all the “junk” from the diet and the person’s body had a positive response to that. It wasn’t a single food reaction that was resulting in their symptoms but rather the combination of items making up their less than healthy diet.

My reason for bringing this up on my gluten-related blog is this: simply removing gluten from your diet may not be enough to ensure good health. I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t it ENOUGH to have to give up gluten without adding other restrictions? I do sympathize but read on a bit.

A healthy diet encourages consumption of complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables, legumes, beans, whole grains. It encourages healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, raw nuts and seeds. It encourages clean, lean sources of protein, be they animal or plant. It encourages 8 or more glasses of clean water and exercise.

A healthy diet does not include refined simple grains (flours), sugar, prepackaged foods, artificial sweeteners, colors, preservatives, trans fats and the like.

So when I hear gluten intolerant groups discussing the best place to find pizza, cupcakes, cookie mixes and gluten-free candy I become concerned. Our goal is not simply to find a replacement for all the refined wheat products we can no longer consume. Our goal, upon diagnosing our gluten intolerance, is to regain our health. While eliminating gluten is a wonderful first step, it’s usually insufficient. And while the dietary advice given above is beneficial for everyone, it’s especially important to any body that has suffered malabsorption such as those with gluten intolerance.

There was a recent research article from Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry May 20, 2009 titled “Immunomodulation by food: promising concept for mitigating allergic disease?”. The research team from The Netherlands noted the well documented shift from infectious disease to degenerative or immune-related diseases that has occurred roughly since World War II. They further noted the while increased hygienic practices likely account for less infections, our high chemical diet and overuse of antibacterial products likely accounts for the abundance of allergies from which we see today’s population suffering.

They reviewed such products as pre- and probiotics, beta-glucans (found in such places as the cellulose in plants, the bran of cereal grains and certain mushrooms) and found such products beneficial in mitigating allergic reactions via their ability to strengthen and restore the part of the immune system that creates allergic responses.

Prebiotics are found in such foods as fruits, legumes, and whole grains. They come from carbohydrate fibers called oligosaccharides. The body doesn’t digest them, so the oligosaccharides remain in the digestive tract and stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria.

I quoted this particular study for a couple of reasons. Firstly it pointed out the dramatic change from infectious to degenerative disease which is something that we’re still coming to grips with as a population. We continue to be imbedded with the concept that if we feel sick we just need to “take something”. That is the infectious model. It doesn’t work with the degenerative disease model which exposes that food is information and each and every time you ingest something you are giving your body information, good or bad. Hopefully if you cogitate on that concept for a few moments it will give you some pause before eating any junk food.

The second reason I wanted to review this study was that the substances they isolated that acted as “good information” all came from the foods that we don’t consume in adequate quantities in this country: fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains (gluten-free if you please).

We encourage our patients to ingest the majority of their calories from very high quality complex carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables), proteins (beans, nuts and lean animal protein) and fats. And while it’s always nice to have a treat, try to keep it to a minimum.

I hope this was helpful. If your health is not to the level you'd like it to be, consider giving us a call for a free health analysis - call 408-733-0400. Our destination clinic treats people from across the country and internationally. We are here to help!

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic 
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect


Anne said...

On my journey to better health first I dropped gluten 6 yrs ago. The change was amazing to say the least. I had been given good advice to start with simple whole foods and then add in the processed stuff slowly. Every time I added in GF yeast bread, I would get sick. I was beginning to think that all breads were gluten contaminated and then it dawned on me. It was the yeast!

Getting yeast and yeasty foods out of my diet made gluten free seem easy. No GF beer, wine, pizza.

I then noticed that I felt better if I did not eat any processed grains. No noticeable problem with whole grains such as corn or rice or quinoa.

Next was an enterolab test - oh no, high antibodies to soy and casein! I already knew soy was iffy for me.

Last year I got a glucometer and found that after eating, my blood sugar could soar into the 200's. This had been ignored by my doctors as my fasting levels were always "normal". I started eliminating foods that caused spikes in blood sugars. Good bye to sugars, much fruit and more than one bite of potatoes, rice, quinoa, beans and corn. Now I can keep my blood glucose under 120 all the time by keeping my carbs low.

Each step I have taken over the past 6 years has made improvements in my overall health. Yes, some of the steps are tough, but my good health is worth it. You may ask what is left for me to eat - don't worry, I never go hungry. I eat all the meat, fish, good fats, low carb veggies, eggs and nuts I want. Fruit is limited to small amounts.

By listening to my body, I have found my path to a paleo-like diet. Low carb and no processed foods. My next step is to buy more pastured raised meat and organic veggies. Yes, I agree that simply removing gluten may not be enough for optimal health.

Carla Spacher said...

What a great article! I have been promoting this diet on my blog. Now I can point everyone to this article. Thanks for writing it! I appreciate Dr. Vikki Petersen being on my online radio show. She gave us all so much great information. Anyone can listen to it at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/carlascooking/2010/03/02/fix-the-root-cause-dont-just-treat-the-symptoms

Kari said...

Excellent and informative article. I am 31, have autoimmune thyroid disease and eliminated gluten 4 months ago. I have since lost 20 pounds and feel amazing. Antibody tests have come back negative for celiac, but I will not ever put gluten back in, based on how I feel. I have been eating lots of raw and mostly unprocessed foods for the past 2 years, so the switch was not too difficult for me. I was very turned off by all the processed GF offerings in the supermarket when I started my GF journey, knowing that was not the route I wanted to take. It is great to be given solid information on this blog that encourages me to stick with it. I just found it tonight thanks to the better homes and gardens article. Thank you!

baby eczema said...

Keep a bowl of fresh fruits and veggies on the kitchen counter.

Shannon said...

I have been learning over the last year or so that I may not have IBS like I thought (I was diagnosed @16yrs old, I am 40 now)and your article opened my eyes quite a bit...Anytime I eat bread, cereal cakes etc...I get a stomach ache, gas, diarrhea, cramps also happens when I drink milk in particular...So I am on a journey to remove as much gluten and milk from my diet, thanks for helping me with this article...blessings to you