Gluten intolerance used to be synonymous with celiac disease, and celiac disease was synonymous with being underweight. Times have changed and being ‘locked in’ to the notion that unless someone is very underweight their chance of being gluten intolerant is next to nil, is obsolete.
Unfortunately, patients continue to be refused testing from ill informed doctors who simply observe their patients physique and from that decide that gluten sensitivity or celiac disease isn’t a likely diagnosis.While I must admit that I truly am tired of hearing stories of doctors refusing to test individuals because they don’t fit the classic celiac profile of extreme diarrhea, abdominal pain and underweight, today I wanted to address an association that isn’t typically looked at - gluten intolerance and overweight.
Those with the classic type of celiac disease tend to be underweight because they have been suffering with a small intestine that has been incapable of absorbing much in the way of nutrition. We now know that the ‘classic’ celiac disease is not the most common and therefore we see celiac and gluten sensitive patients who have weight to lose.
The human body is very intelligent. If it perceives that it’s under physiological stress, it will tend towards ‘holding on’ to everything it can. Much in the way squirrels store nuts for the cold winter, the human body will burn very few calories when under stress. While it’s ‘smart’ for the body to conserve, it also can result in weight gain.
Identifying the major stressor for the gluten intolerant patient, gluten, goes a long way towards resolving that stress, and often patients begin to see weight loss occur as a result of initiating a gluten-free diet.
For others the secondary effects of gluten intolerance must be addressed as well. These are such things as:
1. Hidden infections in the intestine
2. Nutritional deficiencies
3. Cross reactive foods
4. Hormonal imbalance
5. Enzyme deficiency
6. Probiotic imbalance
7. Toxins such as heavy metals
Lifestyle factors can also contribute to overweight in the gluten intolerant patient. Removing gluten from the diet is not an easy task, no argument there. But ‘being gluten-free’ is not the only important factor when adopting a healthy diet. A daily checklist of good, highly nutrition food consumption would include:
1. 8-10 glasses of purified water, depending on your weight (1/2 your weight in ounces of water is the formula)
2. 7 – 9 servings (or more) of fruits and vegetables, depending on your sex - men need 9
3. Whole non-gluten grains if they suit you – some people suffer cross reactive problems
4. Beans and legumes
5. A small amount of good oils such as olive, coconut oil and fresh nuts
6. A small amount of hormone-free animal protein, unless you’re vegetarian/vegan
7. No dairy products
8. Little to no sugar and no high fructose corn sweeteners
9. Little to no processed, pre-packaged foods10. Little to no caffeine
11. No fast food
12. No artificial sweeteners – they actually cause you to gain weight and are toxic
13. No soda
Does that sound like a lot of ‘don’ts’? I’m sorry, but I wanted to be thorough. You can concentrate more on the ‘dos’ to stay on the positive side of the equation, but at least look over the things you should avoid, so you are aware of what they are.
Some patients think they are eating a healthy diet but ‘live on’ artificial sweeteners and caffeine, as an example, because they don’t consider it a problem due to their low calorie count.
I am glad that there are so many gluten-free options available to us in our grocery stores. But the truth of the matter is that unless it’s naturally gluten-free, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc then it often falls into the category of a highly refined, pre-packaged food that you should only consume rarely. The gluten-free breads, cakes, cookies and the like are great for birthdays and holidays, but they should definitely not be part of your daily diet.
Please don’t let this advice overwhelm you. Take it in baby steps and make small changes to start. See how you feel and let me know of any questions you have.
Finally, I must advise you that some of gluten's secondary effects such as hidden infections, nutritional deficiencies and cross-reactive foods, to name a few, do require the help of a doctor to diagnose and treat. If you feel that you may be suffering from any of these issues or just don't feel good and don't know why, consider taking us up on the offer of a free health analysis. Just call us at 408-733-0400. Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally. You don't need to live local to us to receive assistance.