Gluten Free, Wheat Free, or Grain Free? Your Leaky, Sneaky Gut.

“Gluten free” has become such a buzz phrase these days.  Everyone and her sister is “going gluten free,” except many of those people have no idea what they are doing.  Some people claim the whole “wheat free” diet while others cut out grains altogether.  What’s the difference?  Why should we even care?Glutenfree

Let’s tackle the latter question.  We care because all three of these dietary choices can cause health problems via leaky gut.  I remember when I first heard the phrase, “leaky gut” years ago.  I didn’t really get what this meant, and it reminded me of diarrhea.  I don’t want any part of anything leaking from my gut, nor do I want my guts leaking anywhere.  Over the years, I have begun to understand the tremendous impact that leaky gut has on health and am convinced that gluten is just one of many dietary offenders at the heart of our leakiness.

Leaky Gut 101:  (Skip ahead to Leaky Gut 201 if you already understand the whole leaky gut thing)

Your gut lining is sort of like a large water balloon.  Imagine a water balloon that were placed in a tub filled with bath water.  If you were to prick some holes in that balloon with a needle, tiny droplets of water would begin to leak or shoot out into the bath water, right?  This is rough metaphor for leaky gut syndrome, the problem that happens when the body develops a sensitivity to gluten.  Or wheat.  Or grains.  Or any number of foods that cross react with gluten, wheat, or grains.  When the gut lining is repeatedly exposed to a food allergen in a person with sensitivities to these foods, it’s as if small holes are being punched in the gut lining.

The more often the offending food is eaten, the worse these little leaks get.  They get so bad that food particles begin to leak from your gut into the bloodstream, and those food particles are now free to attach themselves to any cell in your body.  Let’s say this happens to be a nerve cell.  Your body begins to recognizes the food particle AND the nerve cell as foreign invaders now.  Congratulations, your body is now attacking your own nerve cells.  This is the beginning of an autoimmune disease process, and an autoimmune problem is a downhill slide.  Think Celiacs, MS, lupus, and even allergies.

Leaky Gut 201

Back to the confusion surrounding wheat, gluten, and grains.  What’s the difference?  Gluten is a member of the wheat family.  Wheat is a member of the grain family.  In other words, gluten is like the egg in a chicken factory which exists in a large aviary.  You need to take a look at the entire aviary, which includes rice, quinoa, and corn to name a few.  Folks, corn is not a vegetable.  Corn is a grain, and it is THE most common GMO that exists.  

To complicate things even more, food sensitivities can cross react with many common foods like coffee, dairy, and chocolate.  This means that every time you ingest gluten or any other grain that causes an immune reaction, you will probably have that same reaction to other foods which seem completely unrelated.  Let me say this again: every time you ingest gluten or a gluten cousin, you may go on to have an immune reaction to other foods.  For a gluten sensitive person, ingesting gluten can be a lot like detonating an entire field of land mines.  

Case in point:  I remember having some serious breakouts in my mid 20s, which I attributed to coffee at the time (thank you, Dr. Perricone).  I painstakingly cut out coffee, took fish oil, and waited for the luminous skin I desired.  No dice.  The reason is because coffee wasn’t the inflammatory substance it was said to be.  I suspect that gliadin, the protein found in gluten, was cross reacting with coffee and causing breakouts for me.  When I cut the gliadin (the protein found in gluten), the problem disappeared.    Nowadays, the baristas know me by name at several different Starbucks locations.    

So here’s what you need to do.  You need to identify all of your food sensitivities via blood testing.  While I realize that the elimination diet and journaling your daily foods is probably the most cost effective route, I am not convinced that it is the most effective.  Why?  Because you can begin reacting to a food for up to 3 days after ingesting it.   Also, a reaction to gluten can last for up to 12 weeks or more after ingestion.  That delay makes the elimination diet and food journaling confusing, time consuming, and ineffective for some people because the offending food becomes unclear.  How can you identify the dietary culprit causing you to have headaches (or whatever the problem is) if it’s something you ate weeks ago?  This is my opinion only.  Do what works for you.

Blood testing for food sensitivities is relatively inexpensive and can be done quickly.  You can do this through your doctor, but I like Life Extension.  No physician needed.  If you live outside of South Florida, you can still go to lef.org and order the food sensitivity blood testing.  Take the order to the lab nearest you and get ‘er done.

When you know the families of foods which cause problems for you, you can eliminate those foods and the wide range of cross reactions you may be having, too.  Gone will be the “mystery” problems like headaches, eczema, achy joints, tendonitis, or fatigue.  Your immune system will be less taxed, and inflammation will decrease over time.  Less inflammation=lower risk for degenerative diseases and better longevity.  In other words, cutting out the right foods is a win-win-win.

Once you’ve tackled this one, it’ll be time to embark on some gut healing to help your body repair those tiny little leaks.  More on that next time.

That’s all from Lighthouse Point, FL today, folks.  Happy Gluten Nightmare Valentines Day!   Ironically, I was asked to bring Goldfish to my daughter’s Valentines party at school today.  Believe me, it’s tough not to grab a handful.  I love Goldfish, but they aren’t worth compromising how great I feel on most days.  Ciao for now.