The other day I was sitting eating my breakfast of 3 eggs fried in butter, sweet potato hash fried in lard, ground pork, and fermented sauerkraut, something like 1000 calories, and I heard a physician on the news talking about gluten, celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity. Basically, he was saying that individuals with “gluten sensitivity” have no known measurable negative reactions or markers to gluten intake, such as increased inflammatory/immune markers as those who are celiac do. At the end of the day, his suggestion was basically that if you cut out gluten and it makes you feel better, then you should likely stick with it, which is actually a wonderful suggestion and one that many people would agree with. However, at the same time when he broadcasts that there are no measurable negative reactions in people not diagnosed with celiac disease I think there is a mixed message that some people may get. For example, why would someone who either loves bread, or finds it too inconvenient to eliminate, stop consuming it for the simple reason that they may feel better. I guess the thinking would go like this “if there is no negative physiological reason that would cause me to get sick or live a shorter life, than who cares”.
It is unfortunate that the real impacts of gluten consumption, or wheat consumption for that matter, are not communicated to the vast majority of individuals who don’t care about their health, or don’t bother researching anywhere but TV and through their physician. I can’t wait for the mainstream medical community and media to jump on board with this stuff. Everyone and their grandmother have it ingrained in their head that saturated fat causes heart disease and obesity (this is absolutely 100% baloney by the way), and if we can get a whole population of people to believe such an untruth, why can’t we get everyone to understand the negative impact of wheat and gluten. I know education about this topic has come along way, but I don’t think people even come close to understanding the level of negative impact gluten can actually have on someone’s health.
Celiac Vs Gluten Sensitive
I don’t profess to be an expert in nutrition; however, it is very easy to find out just how bad gluten can be for us, and the numerous conditions it is linked to. Just jump on Google or pubmed, or read some respectable blogs out there. Everything from objective clinical studies to subjective reports on individual cases can be found providing large amounts of evidence on how gluten can influence our health negatively.
Regarding the TV physician’s comments about there being no know objective measure of gluten sensitivity, this is in fact incorrect. Aside from the subjective symptom reports (which I will get to shortly), there are plenty of objectively measurable markers of sensitivity, the confusion simply lies in the fat that such measures differ from individual to individual and there is no consensus in the medical community on what exactly qualifies as a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity. Immune antibodies to gliadin (found in wheat) have been shown to be elevated in non celiac patients (1), and numerous blood and intestinal antibodies are present in individuals with gluten sensitivity (2, 3). These studies seem to express the difference between the 2 conditions basically as the level in which the above noted markers are present. Meaning, the immune response in celiac disease patients is larger than that seen in people with gluten sensitivity. Another suggestion is that there are many other components of wheat, and gluten containing grains, that could also trigger symptoms seen in gluten sensitivity; thus, there may be other markers present that do not relate to gluten specifically.
Gluten and Other Medical Conditions
Not even talking about the subjective symptoms that people with gluten sensitivity say they experience (IBS like symptoms, brain fog, headaches, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, rash, muscle pains, etc, etc.), there is tons of information linking gluten to many chronic health conditions: schizophrenia (1, 2), peripheral neuropathy (1, 2), cerebral ataxia (1, 2), autism (1, 2), epilepsy (2), multiple skin conditions (4), arthritis (5), Multiple Sclerosis (6), and multiple GI issues (1). This is not even close to an exhaustive list. We could probably add almost any other autoimmune condition to the list, I just didn’t have time to spend a whole month pulling every study I could find. I should probably stop right here because honestly, with a food being related to all of these conditions, why would anyone want to eat it when there are so many other great food options out there that have more nutrients and little risk of causing medical issues. However, let’s talk about nutrient density
Bread and Nutrient Density
Basically, bread is nothing special in the nutrient density department, and given the fact the we know it can have negative impacts on our digestive system, the nutrients it does contain are likely not absorbed to their full extent. Regardless, I have included links below to the nutrient content of 100g of whole wheat bread, sweet potato, and beef liver. Obviously beef liver blows them both out of the water, and it is clear why this is considered a superfood, but the sweet potato is pretty much in line with the wheat bread, and has much less chance of causing medical conditions or digestive issues.
Wheat is Not Our Friend
While there are many more resources out there that may explain why wheat and gluten are so bad for us, I still hope the above has added a little more fuel to the fire of those who are thinking of eliminating gluten from their diets. There really doesn’t seem to be any real benefit from eating it since you can easily get all the nutrition you require elsewhere with much less of a chance of chronic health conditions.
The Barefoot Golfer