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Gluten: Friend or Foe?

 | 31 Comments  | Articles, Health, Nutrition


Gluten talk is everywhere! Gluten has been quite the buzz word in nutrition over these past few years. Some people regard it as poison, where others dismiss being gluten-free as just another diet fad.
I recently read a fascinating article in the New York Times about a new way to test gluten sensitivity in athletes. This study was so interesting because it was the first ever study where the participants were unable to tell if they were ingesting gluten or not. Before we go into the specifics, let’s talk gluten for a minute.

What the heck is gluten, anyway? The website for the Celiac Disease Foundation tells us that, “Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.” Bread, cereals, baked goods, and wraps are all common foods that usually contain gluten.
Many people believe that eating gluten causes inflammation of bodily tissues and intestinal distress. They call it gluten sensitivity. Some people also have what’s called Celiac Disease. And there’s a big difference between gluten sensitivity and Celiac Disease. The CDF also tells us that, “Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.” When the small intestine gets damaged, it makes it hard for the body to absorb nutrients. This can cause chronic diarrhea, vomiting, delayed growth in children, dental defects, bone loss, joint problems, etc. If you think you might have Celiac Disease, it’s important to talk to your doctor so that you can be tested for it. Autoimmune disorders are very serious.
It’s because of gluten’s possibly serious effects on our bodies that researchers were eager to test how ingestion of the proteins affected performance and inflammation levels in athletes. It’s very common in the fitness world for athletes to adopt a gluten-free diet, believing that it makes them feel better and perform at higher levels.
For the duration of the study, which was published in December of 2015 in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers asked 13 cyclists (each of which tested negative for Celiac Disease) to eat a gluten-free diets. For two weeks, all of the cyclists trained similarly and in addition to their gluten-free diets, ate protein bars given to them by the researchers.
For one of the weeks, the protein bars given to the cyclists were gluten-free. For the other week, the bars contained a pretty hefty dose of gluten in each bar. The cyclists were unable to tell the difference in taste between the gluten bars and the non-gluten bars.
Amazingly, whether they were eating gluten or not, there was no difference in the athletes performances, or in the way they felt, or in digestion, or in their inflammation levels. This led the researches to believe that the intake of gluten in non-celiac athletes doesn’t really matter one way or the other.
I think this study raises a lot of questions. I’d personally like to see more research on the subject. What about you?
And I’d love to hear your thoughts on this hot-button topic. What do you think about gluten? Have you had any experience with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity? Do you think this study proves anything?

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31 comments on “Gluten: Friend or Foe?”

  1. private avatar image

    Private  |  Seattle, Washington

    Kimmel kill it. Amazing how few people who are gluten “free” have a clue that they are proteins. Interestly most poisons have some connection to proteins. Either they are proteins themselves or block them.

  2. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    I think there is another dimension to this story that most people are not aware of. Bread used to be made with sourdough, so basically by fermentation of the used grains. Nowadays, industrial bread an such are not properly fermented because it would take too long in the industrial production and instead are treated with various chemicals to rise it quickly and make it “fluffy”. It takes quite long to make proper homemade sourdough-bread.
    I often think that the problems that are called “Gluten sensitivity” are maybe caused by not preparing grains properly like we used to. There are other foods that are much more easily digestible when we ferment them, like sourkraut or kimchi, so I think it wouldn’t be far fetched. But I have never seen a study about this or even a scientific discussion.

  3. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    To me, gluten intolerance is a real thing.

    For as long a I remember, I had diarrhea every 3-4 weeks, sometimes more often, bloating, and gaz all the time. Here’s thought it was normal.

    St first my doctor suggested I stop consuming dairies. I did, and I was less gazy.

    I want low carb in 2013, hen cutting out gluten. For almost a year, except for the time I was traveling and got sick, I did not have any problems anymore. Even my slight interface to dairies went away. Nowadays, I don’t go too crazy about avoiding gluten but definitely stay away from the obvious ones: bread, pasta etc. An I no longer have problems 🙂 I know gluten or grains are the problem because when I do have a few bites of pasta or bread, I’m bloated and gazy for the rest of the day.

  4. private avatar image

    Private  |  Switzerland

    Dear all,

    I am not going to comment about the pros and cons of a gluten-free diet as the subject is very individual and every one can have a completely different reaction to gluten intake. However, I warmly suggest to all of you who want to understand more about this subject, how and above all why gluten can have negative effects on our health, to read “Wheat belly” by Dr. William Davis.

  5. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    This sounds like a useless study to me. The only way to know if you are sensitive to gluten is to completely eliminate it from the diet for 3-4 weeks then reintroduce and see how the body reacts. I have endometriosis and gluten gives me cramps so bad I’m throwing up from the pain. Many women with endometriosis have seen an improvement after eliminating gluten. Unfortunately the inflammatory response also occurs when gluten is in contact with my skin. I found out the hard way that gluten was in my shampoo in the form of ‘Hydrolyzed vegetable protein’. I tried a new shampoo and a few days later when my cycle started I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk and was seeing white the entire day. I do think that many people can tolerate gluten just fine but the only way to know for sure is to completely eliminate it in all forms. You never know how it will change your life.

  6. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    Gluten is fine if you don’t eat too much of it, like once a week. More and more people eat lots of wheat products, which means a lot of gluten. Too much gluten will clog up the villi in your intestines and this causes a lot of health problems.
    Candida can form in the villi and eating a lot of sugar can even worsen it (candida thrives on sugar).
    99% of the western civilization has some form of candida, some notice it and others don’t.

    Second thing about eating wheat products is the phytic acid. Phytic acid blocks the minerals in your food from entering your body. This means at a longer period of time you will get a mineral deficiency.
    Especially zinc will be missed which is needed for the islets of Langerhans (which regulate insulin levels).
    A deficiency of zinc means that these organs will have a problem functioning properly, which can cause diabetes for example. So there is enough reasons not to eat wheat products (or as little as possible).

  7. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    Gluten intolerance is a real thing. I didn’t want to believe that for a long time because I thaght I was healthy. I have always been active since a little girl. Following Zuzka’s exercises on a daily basis since 2010 for almost 2 years, cocking all the time different recepies from her blog and similar nutritionists, running 6 km 5 days a week, and I had the body I wanted except the flat stomach. Series of injuries after that, a surgery, and a pregnancy. A year and a half after I gave birth I was still at the doctor twice a month. At the end I decided to try this eliminating diet which takes months but I didn’t have the time so instead I made blood tests. I was shocked – at least 6 months I had to avoid gluten, dairy product from cow and goat, eggs, all kind of nuts except sunflower, no fruits except apple, banana and orange, no avocado, no coconut, in fact allowed foods were meat, fish and all vegies. I was strict in my food intake and in result no headaches, no dizziness, no fatigue all the time, no stomach bloating, no joint pains, no acne, the Bartholinitis is still there but no pain and sweling. I tried reintroduction of some of the foods but only 2h after eating small quantity some of the symptoms returns.

  8. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    This study seems to prove or disprove very little – so few test subjects, such a short period of time, and who monitored if the athletes were really not eating gluten at home? Did they get some training that told them gluten is in all sorts of foods, even the ones where you wouldn’t expect?

    I’ve always thought gluten-free was a fad, and not relevant for those who don’t have celiac’s disease, but since I keep hearing from people who have noticed a world of difference once they stopped eating gluten, I’ve actually decided to give it a try. I plan to go a month without it soon, to see if I notice a difference for myself.

  9. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    Dobry den,

    If you read “Toxic Staple” How gluten may be wrecking your health and what you can do about it, by Anne Sarkisian and available on Amazon. (I’m not advertising, just recommending)

    I stopped eating gluten a year ago as an experiment and lost weight, internally, found my focus to last longer, had more energy and endurance and no more joint pain when I ran. I was not considered to be over weight, out of shape at 49 years old, 6’3″ with a 4 day exorcise routine. As I began to feel better, within two weeks, I was amazed, so I had a food allergy test done by and ND through a blood draw and low and behold, I was allergic to all kinds of foods I never had an issue with when I was younger and gluten in breads and other food groups was something for me to stay away from, and I have and now feel MUCH better everywhere. Hope this post is helpful,


    I lived in Ottrokovice for a year. A little rusty with my Czech 😉

  10. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    It’s very difficult for me to read gluten free being a fad. I have a life shortening autoimmune disease and other things going on. I’m not celiac but if I consume gluten I’m in hospital throwing up and passing blood! I’d suggest folk read robb wolf’s book on the subject especially those who are sciency 🙂

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