Gluten free diet: is it right for you?

And I’m home! Four days with my family before I have to make my way back to where I live now :). The presentation to the high school kids went really well! I’ll be going back again next semester to give another talk :)… hopefully by the time I graduate I’ll be a pro at public speaking!

My grandpa is in the hospital and so my family and I are doing ‘project clean grandpas house’ before he’s released; hopefully it will be a nice surprise for him! Should be a very busy day!

Here’s a picture taken of me at my climbing gym :)


Anyways…This post will be on gluten, gluten sensitivity and gluten free diets! Hope you enjoy :)

Gluten consumption has increased over time and as a result has led to an increased awareness of coeliac disease (CD).CD is characterized by an increased immune response to gluten in genetically susceptible people. Today, CD is thought to affect 1% of all adults; it is more common in adults than in kids. People with CD have a higher risk for deficiencies, reduced bone density, cancer and death; treatment consists of strict adherence to a gluten-free diet (GFD) which is shown to help reduce symptoms and improve mortality rates. Until recently, gluten was only associated with a wheat allergy or CD; for this reason, typical CD individuals who had normal antibodies and histology were advised to keep eating gluten foods (because gluten was ‘determined’ to not be the cause of their problems). The majority of people who seek medical attention for GI symptoms from gluten don’t have CD or a wheat allergy. Evidence is growing though that these individuals will still benefit from a gluten free diet since their symptoms are, regardless, associated with their gluten consumption.

There are now three gluten induced conditions: CD, wheat allergy and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). These conditions have a wide range of symptoms which indicates that gliadin (from gluten) is handled in many ways by our immune systems and that the mechanisms are still largely unknown. In CD, the small intestinal permeability is much higher and allows harmful invaders to pass through. An activation of both our innate and adaptive immune response occurs; ultimately there will be small intestinal wall damage and a rise in certain antibodies. NCGS patients on the other hand have normal intestine permeability and only trigger innate immune responses. NCGS is thought to be associated with intestinal symptoms (e.g. bloating and diarrhoea) and other symptoms unrelated to the GI-tract (e.g. depression, fatigue, pain and rashes). Current findings suggest that NCGS may be the most common gluten disorder seen by healthcare professionals; its prevalence is still widely unknown. Something to add, there seems to be an increase in antigliadin antibodies in patients complaining about gluten related symptoms despite the rule-out of CD.

There is uncertainty as to if gluten reduction is the specific cause of gluten-free benefits or if another component of wheat is the cause. Fermentable fructans may provoke irritable bowel syndrome; a reduction of gluten may indirectly reduce these fructans. There may be some overlap with the reduction of IBS symptoms with gluten sensitivity. More research is needed to separate glutan and fructan sensitivity.

Many doctors still refuse to accept that gluten sensitivity exists, some going so far as to claiming that it’s ‘a myth’. A doctor interviewed with the Annals of Internal medicine claimed that gluten free diets can be dangerous. He then went on to list the dangers as; resulting in a misdiagnosis of CD, taking out gluten for the wrong reasons and spending more money on gluten free products. Ok, I can definitely agree with the first statement, but wouldn’t it be better to take out gluten earlier rather than later anyways to reduce risks associated with CD (e.g. cancer)? Why is it so important for us to incorporate gluten in our diets? We in no way require that protein. And as for the money, I’m not really sure how that can be lumped into a ‘danger’. He went on to list the symptoms of gluten sensitivity as e.g. stomach cramps, diarrhea, headaches, etc., but said that these symptoms could be a lot of other things and can be treated with something other than a gluten-free diet. Although, yes, research is still in its infancy in regards to gluten sensitivity, that’s not to say that it should be disregarded by doctors, ESPECIALLY when there is growing evidence for benefits associated with the reduction or elimination of gluten consumption. Why should people not pursue a diet, regardless if gluten is the culprit, which reduces their symptoms and makes them feel better?

So, some concluding thoughts… Although humans have existed in some ancestral form for about 2.5 million years, we weren’t exposed to wheat until about 10000 years ago, originally in south western Asia; wheat and therefore gluten (in the endosperm (in wheat, barley and rye)) were novel introductions to our diets. Today wheat has become a staple in modern diets; along with a rise in many chronic diseases. People have been getting benefits from a gluten free diet despite not having CD; this has led researchers to consider the concept of non-CD gluten sensitivity. Non-CD gluten sensitivity may affect 20% or more of our population, these individuals may have positive results from a gluten free diet. As you may have read, I am a big advocate for a gluten-free diet based on an evolutionary perspective (a perspective I think should be considered more often); regardless, hopefully this post has shed some light on the rise in gluten-free diets and gluten sensitivity.

Happy Holidays everyone!


Accomando S & Cataldo F (2004) The global village of coeliac disease. Dig Liv Dis 36, 492–498.

Ferch CC, Chey WD. (2012) Irritable bowel syndrome and gluten sensitivity without celiac disease: separating the wheat from the chaff. Gastroenterology 20;142:664-6.

Jones, R. (2009) Easily Missed? Coeliac disease. BMJ;338:a3058.

Sanders DS, Patel D, Stephenson TJ et al. (2003) A primary care cross-sectional study of undiagnosed adult coeliac disease. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 4, 407–413.

Sanders DS, Hopper AD, Azmy IAF et al. (2005) Association of adult coeliac disease with surgical abdominal pain: a case control study in patients referred to secondary care. Ann Surg 242, 201–207.

Sapone A, Lammers KM, Casolaro V et al. (2011) Divergence of gut permeability and mucosal immune gene expression in two gluten-associated conditions: celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. BMC Med 9, 23.

Zarkadas M, Cranney A, Case S et al. (2006) The impact of a gluten-free diet on adults with coeliac disease: results of a national survey. J Hum Nutr Diet 19, 41–49.

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40 comments on “Gluten free diet: is it right for you?

  1. Wild Juggler says:

    Generally speaking, I think the farther away you go from where agriculture first developed(the Middle East), the more common Celiac and gluten sensitivity becomes. For example, the Irish and Norwegians have higher rates of Celiac disease than Greeks or Italians. This is because Middle Easterners and southern Europeans had more time to adapt to wheat/grain based diets than northern Europeans. Great post and Happy Holidays!

  2. dobguy1 says:

    Wow. the glutten free diet must be really good. Your looking pretty contorted on that climber.. I need to change my diet. Does this diet help with triglicerides? Whats the difference between glutton free and low glycemic? Great post and nice picture…;

    • There’s not a lot of research linking gluten with triglycerides. Glycemic index is how fast blood sugar rises following a meal whereas gluten free doesn’t have gluten in it. Glad you liked it :D. Merry Christmas!!

  3. This is great! I am one of those people who is thought to have what you refer to as NCGS. I was diagnosed based on a nasal allergy I was suffering from and one of the real issues was the decrease in my immune system and the depletion of vitamin levels in my system. People often give me looks when I tell them I’m gluten free and not celiac, but honestly aside from not getting those terrible nasal allergies, my body feels better than it had in 10 years. Is it because if my diet, or just coincidence. Either way, I know I feel better and I wouldn’t change that no matter how good those croissants look. Thanks for writing, congrats with the kids and happy holidays!

  4. Well done! My friend suffers from this and will enjoy reading the article. I admire your passion in your beliefs, keep it up!

  5. Reblogged this on We Are 2Fit2 Quit and commented:
    A definite Read!

  6. An interesting read! There seems to be no doubt that gluten sensitivity is on the increase, I wonder though whether the other side of the coin is being overlooked in favour of diet. The other side of the coin being why the immune system is having this particular response, along with a lot of other responses that weren’t common in our ancestors and still aren’t common in less developed countries. Perhaps gluten sensitivity is more a by-product and not the cause? A few years back there was information coming out that there was an almost perfect inverse relationship between exposure to helminths (worms) and the incidence of CD. This exposure – or lack of – is thought to influence the production of certain types of t-cells, which in turn effect how the immune system behaves. Since there seem to be differences in countries with levels of CD diagnosis which doesn’t seem obviously linked to wheat in the diet, should we continue to look beyond gluten for the cause?

    • Food for thought, clearly nutrition is very complex and multifactorial. Although it definitely is a possibility that gluten sensitivity is a by-product of another problem, I don’t think we should cease research considering the lack of research already. If you haven’t already, you should read my gut microflora post… sounds like something that you may find interesting :). Anyways, thanks for the thought provoking comment. Merry Christmas!

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  8. Jenny says:

    For 27 years of my life I never once would have thought that I had intolerance to anything! Then I developed colitis… Before I knew what was going on I was trying to eat tons of fbre filled breads and my stomach was going crazy! I had no energy, bloated, cramps and nothing made me feel better. Once I finally gained to nerve to go see a doctor and got an answer! I did my own research and started eating mostly gluen free. There are still times I slip up, because its a hard habit to break but! I notice a huge difference right away in how I feel when I do eat gluten, same thing with sugar and dairy… My goal this coming year is to eat as clean as I can!!

    • A great new years goal for sure, keep trying to follow a diet that obviously is working for you. If you slip up, don’t be too hard on yourself though! We’re only human :). Merry Christmas!! Thanks for sharing your story :)

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  11. Trev says:

    I’ve concluded most doctors a morons when it comes to nutrition. Great post.

  12. paradepaper says:

    Your photos make me want to look for a climbing gym where Im from too! Looks like an amazing workout :)

  13. paixpheonix says:

    GLuten free. nice. My mother inlaw has CD and my brother-in-law and daughter are both NCGS. I have quite a group of recipes gathered for them. A word of warning though, A lot of Commercially made gluten-free products are high in sugars, something to keep in mind when going gluten free. :) love the blog.

  14. Ruby says:

    Your blog is beautiful along with your posts, thank you for stopping by my blog! Merry Christmas and keep inspiring people!

  15. Thanks for stopping by our blog. This is such a well-written post. Like us, so many people unfortunately don’t get diagnosed in a timely fashion by their doctors, even though they present all the correct symptoms. Thankfully, the gluten free community at large is gradually able to shed more light on this very timely and sensitive topic. Thanks for your post.

  16. Hi Jen,
    I will try to find it when I get back after the holidays, but I recently read an article which stated that, while not everyone has CD (that is, experiences symptoms as a result of gluten intolerance) no human can process gluten. This was an important enough statement that I’ll put it another way: even if eating gluten doesn’t cause you damage, it still supplies no benefit.
    Hard to imagine choosing to consume something which is guaranteed to provide no value, and may additionally cause harm. And besides, it’s not even tasty – and food is all about the taste!
    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  17. uberdish says:

    Wonderful article! We are a gluten-free family and have been for 5 years now since we discovered that gluten was making our youngest daughter sick. So many people have told us that we all should not follow this diet, as it is not “healthy”. From my own reading and research, I never understood this. I love how you addressed the “evolutionary perspective”! Great point.

    • Thanks for sharing! I also don’t understand why people are so adamant that gluten is needed in our diets. Thanks for your comment and I’m happy you liked my post :). Merry Christmas!

  18. Vinny Grette says:

    I’m all for balance. Unless you are lacking the gene to process wheat, as far as I’m concerned it’s fine to eat it, in moderation – Merry Christmas!

  19. Nice informative posting. I agree with your idea that those people with symptoms associated with gluten issues try eliminating it – even if they don’t have a CD diagnosis. If it helps them, then it’s great. I doubt if wheat or gluten is a major problem for most of us, however. I think the evolutionary concept that humans should eat only foods that we ate a million years ago is a bit unreasonable. One of the great things about humans is we have migrated to new areas and as omnivores we are able to adapt to foods in the new area. We’ve been eating things like tomatoes, potatoes, corn and squash for much shorter time than we have wheat!

    Wheat also has a lot of additional baggage as there are many types. Even William Davis, in Wheat Belly mentions that when he tested himself eating ancient einkorn wheat he did not have the problems caused by modern high yield dwarf wheat. And then there is the GMO issue. Difficult to sort out whether it is the gluten or as you mention, other things in wheat that may cause some of the problems.

    Keep up the good work.

  20. 7feetnorth says:

    Good job of presenting both sides of the”issue”. Gluten-free has become the diet Du jour. You make a number of good points.

  21. Steve says:

    Hey Jen, what do you think about food allergy testing? From my own experience, there’s no scientifically accurate way to test your body’s ability/inability to “handle” certain foods or food substances. I have been tested for food allergies. The blood test checked 96 food items, and, at the time, seemed fairly scientific. Unfortunately, when I got my results back, I noticed a trend. I seemed to be allergic to many foods I had been consuming on a regular basis…I did some reading and realized that the food allergy test is inherently flawed, seeing that the more you eat of a certain food, the more it’s components will be “floating” around your body. Also, The test was specific to my IgG antibody levels, which, upon further investigation, provide no insight as to potential food allergy. My conclusion: food allergy testing is unscientific and completely pointless. I’ve even talked with an allergist who had a test done on himself (undercover, of course) to see the results, and, what do you know, he was mostly allergic to soy products. Did I mention that he’s of Asian descent. That’s all he eats! Anyway, I could talk about this for hours. Needless to say, I went on an elimination diet, which I’m still following, and I don’t feel much better. So, the whole gluten-sensitivity issue, for me, has been anything but cut-and-dry.

  22. Michael says:

    Hi Jen

    Nice piece of researched information. I was mis-diagnosed as a hypochondriac when I was 13 years old when I should have been diagnosed with CD. If only the doctors new what they were doing at the time. But hey thats the past!

    Jen do you want to touch base with me as I like your style of writing and wondering if you wanted to do some collaborating for my site.


    • Hey Michael,

      Thanks a lot! Medicine, health and nutrition are continually growing fields; can you believe that nutrition is just starting to be on the radar for many people in regards to health?

      That would be lovely :), I’ll send out an email!


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