Is Gluten Really Unhealthy For Me?

Gluten Free Aisle
Gluten-free, so hot right now. Gluten-free.

Gluten has recently become a topic for discussion across the country as people attempt to get healthy (without having to actually make improvements to their diets or routines).

On top of that, more and more people are discovering they have some sort of gluten intolerance.  A recent discovery shows that gluten intolerance can be up to four times more prevalent today than fifty years ago!

As a result, food companies are scrambling to rebrand, redevelop, and repackage everything as “gluten-free” to catch up with the latest craze.

We’ve received tons of questions from Rebels: Are gluten-free products a healthy alternative to the gluten-full versions of our favorite foods?

Even movies like “This is the End” have something to say about gluten (warning: NSFW language):

This is the End: Gluten Scene

However, just like the characters in this scene, most people really have no idea what gluten actually is, if it’s really bad for you, and why you should eat or not eat it:

Jay: You have no idea what gluten is.

Seth: Gluten is a vague term.  It’s something that’s used to categorize things that are bad.  You know, calories, that’s a gluten.  Fat, that’s a gluten.

Jay: Somebody just probably told you that you shouldn’t eat gluten and you’re like “oh well gee I guess I shouldn’t eat gluten.”

Seth: Gluten means bad sh** man, and I’m not eating it.

Although Seth means well, he really has no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to gluten. So, if you’re one of the few confused souls out there wondering “WTF is a Gluten?” I got you covered.

In case you’re keeping track, that’s two comedy references already in an introduction about gluten.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even work some cat videos in this one.

Let’s learn about gluten!

Note: this article was typed on a locally sourced, organic, gluten-free computer.

What is HELL is Gluten?

wheat fields

Gluten, meet Nerd Fitness Rebel.

My dear Rebel friend, meet Gluten.  

Gluten is a type of protein found in foods processed from specific types of grain.  It’s kind of gummy, doughy, and provides the “rising” property to things like pizza dough (when it interacts with yeast).  You probably had no idea that it’s used as a thickener and filler in a LOT of products (don’t worry, I’ll let you know which ones below).

Think “glue” when you think “gluten.”

“Which grains specifically have gluten?” you ask!

Gluten is found in products made from wheat, barley, and rye.

Technically, some type of “gluten” can be found in all grains, but it’s really the specific type of gluten found in those first three (wheat, barely, rye) that cause a lot of issues; those will be the three that we’re going to focus on today.  Also, quite a few types of grains (like oats) are often processed in close proximity to gluten-filled grains, and are thus “cross-contaminated.” Suck!

Why is gluten a troublemaker?

star wars troublemaker

What makes gluten so bad?

Why are we trying to avoid it?

Why are companies making gluten-free alternatives?

So, if you happen to be a fan of anthropology and cavemen (including Fred Flintstone), here’s a simple explanation:

We developed as a species for hundreds of thousands of years, and only in the past 10,000 years did we learn about farming, agriculture, and thus begin the consumption of farmed grains like wheat, barley, rye, etc.

Because these types of foods are new to our bodies on the evolutionary timeline, many people never fully developed a tolerance for the consumption of gluten based foods, and thus they can cause all sorts of issues inside our body.

(Before you yell at me and say “but Steve this one dude found evidence that caveman ate grains that one time so you’re dumb. Long live gluten!” I cover all of that here.)

What happens to gluten intolerant people who eat gluten?  

Imagine your body is throwing a party, and gluten wasn’t on the guest list but they show up anyways.  Classic gluten. When your body says “Sorry Gluten, we don’t take kindly to your type around here. You can git out!”  Gluten gets all depressed and says “but…I’ve walked ALLLLL this way, can I stay PLEEEASE?”

You feel bad, and don’t want to send Gluten home, so you tell him to quietly sit in the corner.  Of course, Gluten is kind of a clutz, and can’t help but break the chair he sits in, knock things off the mantle, and spill a drink on your new carpet.

Go home Gluten, you’re drunk.

In biological terms, Gluten means well, but accidentally messes up your gastrointestinal tract, either inflaming it or actually damaging it.

If you’re intolerant, here are just SOME of the symptoms that gluten brings to the party: joint inflammation, bloating, irritability, dermatitis, skin rashes, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, unexplained iron deficiency, and more.  Sure…he means well.

Many people (knowingly or unknowingly) have an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten.  Doctor Fasano, director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, estimates that 6-7% of the population has a sensitivity with the digestion of gluten, though some small studies would suggest otherwise.

Some people (roughly 1% of the population) have a medical issue (autoimmune) with gluten – this is called celiac disease.

Celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.  Ultimately, your body turns on itself when dealing with gluten, and your white blood cells attack and can destroy the lining of your small intestine, leading to the lack of absorption of nutrients from your food.

Not cool, gluten. Not cool.

Because gluten is so pervasive in the typical American diet, many people have no idea that they are gluten intolerant, and simply put up with the side effects as the aren’t aware they’re not supposed to feel like crap all the time.

So, gluten free = healthy?

gluten free

“Okay Steve, but what if I don’t have a medical issue, should I still be going gluten-free?”

Not so fast there, partner.

Just because something is “gluten-free” DOES NOT make it healthy.  Going gluten-free might help you lose weight (as it did with rats in this study), but depending on HOW you go gluten-free, you might actually gain weight and get even unhealthier.

Just as there’s a wrong way to go Paleo (7,000 calories of bacon per day) and a wrong way to go vegetarian (donuts are vegetarian! Cookies are vegetarian!), there’s a wrong way to go gluten-free.

A lot of these new gluten-free products strip out the few healthy components of their regular versions.  On top of that, a gluten-free version of a certain type of food is oftentimes 20-200% more expensive.

If you go “gluten-free” by simply just switching your diet to “gluten-free bread, gluten-free pizza, gluten-free pasta, gluten-free bagels, gluten-free Rice Krispies, and gluten-free cookies, ” you have made no real dietary changes and are setting yourself up for nutritional deficiencies, weight gain, and a plethora of other issues.

This is why the emails I receive announcing: “but I’m eating healthy: paleo cupcakes and gluten-free pancakes!” drive me crazy.

If you are looking to eat a gluten-free lifestyle, focus on eating more REAL foods instead of finding fake substitutes for the crap you used to eat! 

By avoiding common gluten troublemakers, it just so happens you end up eating more real foods and less processed, sugary crap. That’s where your focus should be, not on any one indicator of a ‘health food.’ Whether you are looking for a “sugar-free,” “fat-free” or “gluten-free” label, there’s more to nutrition than a single marketing health slogan.  Focus on eating REAL food!

Here are some real foods that ARE gluten-free:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Fowl
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Nuts

Does that diet look familiar?  It should…it’s essentially the Paleo Diet!

Note: Everything that qualifies for the Paleo Diet is gluten-free, but not all gluten-free foods would qualify for the Paleo Diet. Also, foods like rice, dairy, oats (not cross-contaminated), and others can be part of a healthy, gluten-free diet if your stomach can handle them.

Now, the Paleo Diet works for some people, and it doesn’t work for others. THAT’S FINE.  We’re obviously supporters of this way of eating here at Nerd Fitness because it accomplishes our main goal – getting people to think actively about how they fuel their bodies, putting the focus on eating real foods.

Just remember, Steve says Relax.

What foods have Gluten in them?

gluten bagel

Let’s knock off a few of the obvious ones first: Gluten is present in wheat, which means gluten is present in flour.

It’s the gluten that allows flour to be turned into things like:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Bagels
  • Donuts
  • Pizza dough

“BUT STEVE, I love all of those thing!”  I know, pal.  Those things are all awesome and delicious. And not good for you.  It’s no surprise that those five things listed above are five of the most caloric, carbohydrate dense foods on the market.  If you’ve been reading Nerd Fitness long enough, then you know it’s these foods and sugar that are sabotaging our wastelines and body fat.

“Okay, so if I just cut back on the grains and carbs, I should be gluten-free, right?”

Nope.  Gluten is used in practically every processed food, believe it or not.  It’s present in beer (sad, I know), soy sauce (I’ll get to “soy” in another article), and even used as a stabilizing agent in ice cream and ketchup.

Gluten is also used in many imitation meats like mock chicken, beef, etc.  It’s the gluten that gives these foods their texture.

Believe it or not, gluten-free foods like oats are often processed in a factory where they are cross contaminated with grains that contain gluten, and thus are no longer gluten-free.

Heck, there’s even gluten in Play-doh!  So, if you considered making play-doh spaghetti and eating it, you’re not off to a good start.  Also, eating paste isn’t a solid plan either.

The FDA is finally getting in on standards for the labeling of foods that are gluten-free, but oftentimes a lot of foods that DO have gluten aren’t properly labeled as such.

Here’s a longer list of many known foods and ingredients that contain gluten

How do I know if I’m gluten intolerant?

gluten free question
So, right now you’re reading this, and you’re thinking “hey, I feel like crap all day, and my joints hurt, and I become Crankenstein more often than I’d like…am I gluten intolerant or do I have celiac disease, Steve?”

You may be gluten intolerant.  You might have celiac disease.

Statistically, it’s very unlikely, but it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility.  

If you have a close relative who has celiac disease, then your chances are definitely increased.

The tough part is that symptoms for gluten intolerance or celiac disease can often be a result of ANOTHER disease or issue:  irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, intestinal issues, lactose intolerance, depression, and more.

If you are concerned and have one or many of the symptoms associated with celiac disease above, consider taking the following steps.

Note: Again, just because you have SOME of the symptoms listed above doesn’t mean your body hates Gluten.

“Can I get tested for gluten intolerance?”

As of right now, there’s no true test for just gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance.  If you believe you might have a sensitivity to gluten, the only way to determine if the diagnosis is legitimate is to go completely gluten-free for 2-4 weeks and judge your symptoms. Because this isn’t a blood or medical test, you can mistakenly diagnose yourself. You can literally make yourself feel better because you expect to feel better (like a placebo).

However, if you think DO feel better and don’t mind following a gluten-free lifestyle, run with it.

Note: If you are going to follow through with the celiac disease test below, it’s important to NOT transition to a gluten-free diet before being tested.  Your body might have already started repairing itself and you could not get properly diagnosed. 

“Steve, I seriously think I might have celiac disease. What’s my next step?”:

Reach out to your primary doctor, discuss your symptoms, and work with him/her to determine if you should have your blood tested – this is the most accurate way of getting properly diagnosed.   

If you do get your blood tested, your doctor will be looking for “abnormally elevated levels of endomysial and anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies.”

If your blood has these characteristics, then your next step would be an endoscopy and/or intestinal biopsy.  Your doctors will be able to help you with this step.

(If you’re sad about cutting gluten out of your diet, try channeling a Boston accent and say things like “F*** GLOOTEN!” or “Hey GLOOTEN, youah a LOOSAH!”

I know this is what my friend Jodi Ettenberg (who has celiac disease) and my friend Dave Ursillo like to do.

So, should I go gluten-free?

wheat gluten

Long story short: if you are going to go gluten-free, do it the right way.  

Eat more real foods.  Just because something is gluten-free does NOT make it healthy.  Filling your diet with processed gluten-free foods is the wrong way to follow through with a gluten-free diet.

If you are not gluten intolerant, and you don’t have celiacs, and eating gluten causes no ill effects:  are you happy, healthy, and do you look good naked?  If you can say yes to those three things, by all means keep doing what you’re doing – it’s working for you.  Everybody is different and no one diet works for everybody.

However, if you can’t say YES to all three questions above, consider adjusting your diet – not necessarily cutting out gluten, but moving towards more real foods.

I don’t believe I have issues with gluten digestion, so I don’t mind eating foods with gluten occasionally.  I know foods with gluten come from grains and contain lots of carbohydrates, so I try to minimize the consumption of these foods whenever I can. When I DO eat them, I can do so without adverse affects on my health or waistline, because it’s only on occasion.

Note: I do cut out foods with Gluten (and almost all non-Paleo foods) when I’m trying to slim down and drop my body fat percentage as low as possible.

What are some of the best gluten/celiac resources on the net?

gluten books

So, if you are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease, where can you get more info?

Here’s a list of some relevant sites you can check out if you’re looking for more info:

  • A good primer on what you can eat and what you can’t eat from Gluten Free Living.  Including foods that are questionable and will require you to do some digging if you are aiming for 100% gluten-free.  It also does a good job of covering the basics.
  • A look at Gluten from Mark’s Daily Apple. Also, I found this article that compared two Gluten studies (one positive and one negative) fascinating.
  • Celiac Central – for an organization focused completely on a gluten-free lifestyle.  Celiac.com is also another resource if you’re looking for more information.
  • Recent FDA announcement regarding labeling, and their gluten home page to stay apprised of labeling updates.  This is a new industry, and the FDA is just now getting caught up with proper labeling practices.  If you need to eat 100% gluten-free, then relying on certain labels or just EXPECTING things to be gluten-free might not be the best course of action.  Get educated!
  • Gluten immunochemistry – in case you’re a science nerd and want to geek out about what happens to your body when you consume gluten. Note: this is super dense stuff and made my eyes go cross after reading a paragraph…so click at your own risk!
  • A roundup of a series of Gluten Free Blogs and Websites, from my friends over at Greatist.  This is quite the big list, and some of the resources focus on the wrong type of gluten-free, but it’s quite comprehensive, and you’re a big boy/girl, so I’ll let you decide for yourself 🙂
  • Gluten Free Beer! It exists, though this nerd has never had any.  This is the official Nerd Fitness stance on alcohol, by the way: take care of yourself as often as you can, but don’t forget to have some fun too.

What else do you want to know about gluten?

veggies

So, for those keeping track at home:

  • 2800 words about gluten
  • 4 comedy movie references
  • 2 south park references
  • 1 Bostonian swear
  • 0 1 video of a cat stuck in a box.

But enough about cats, let’s talk about gluten.  Have you been diagnosed with celiac disease? Have you had success or failure going gluten-free?  Do you have tips for people who are struggling with the same thing?

How did your life change after going gluten-free?

What are your favorite gluten resources online?

I’d love to add them to the resources section above.

Let’s get the discussion started!  

-Steve

PS: As stated everywhere on the site, I don’t consider myself an expert of anything, nor do I have a fancy piece of paper that declares I’m an expert.  I’m just a nerd who has dedicated the past decade to learning about health and fitness, trying to bring clarity to this chaotic world of diets and workouts.  Check with your physician or dietitian before making any changes to your diet.

###

photo source: gluten free sign, wheat field, star wars legosquestion, bagel, veggies, gluten free, wheat, gluten books

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103 thoughts on “Is Gluten Really Unhealthy For Me?

  1. I was diagnosed with Celiac 3 years ago and never would have guessed I had it. I didn’t have as many intestinal symptoms as many others I know, but suffered from daily, horrible migraines and fatigue. Going gluten free was difficult at first, but very easy the more you got used to it and realize how much you can still eat. It’s easy to get caught up in all the GF breads and cookies, but those aren’t as healthy as they seem. Gluten Free Living makes a great magazine with all kinds of recipes that make up for not eating normal wheat-based products.

    This problem is actually more prevalent among Americans than in other countries because of how grains are modified, and how we prefer “fluffy” bread.

    Another interesting development has been finding links between Celiac/gluten intolerance and epilepsy.

  2. Since I can remember, I have had this weird rash that looks like little blisters come and go on my elbows, forearms, and knees. It was always itchy and painful, but never bothered me enough to see a doctor about it. I thought it was a grass allergy or soap allergy and brushed it off. Fast forward to a few months ago…moving to Switzerland from the US correlated with a HUGE increase of pasta and bread in my diet. My rash came back, worse than ever. My palms, fingers, forearms, elbows, knees, thighs were covered in blisters. It hurt to move or get dressed. So…doctor time. Turns out this is my body’s reaction to gluten. When my inflammatory markers get past my threshold, my skin does weird crap with proteins and blahblah science. It’s called dermatitis herpetiformis, and it signaled a dermatologist to check my blood for celiac markers. Boom, celiac diagnosis.

    So I went gluten free, and after a few weeks the rash went away. I tried boiling pasta for my daughter, and the rash flared up again. Ouch. I don’t even have to EAT the stuff. I have to be really mindful of my contact with things containing gluten in my non-gluten-free household.

    Just this week, I’ve had (ingested) gluten for the first time in several months. I woke up the next morning with terrible gut pains and loads of trips to the bathroom. I never even KNEW I had gut-related symptoms until I eliminated gluten, gave my small intestine time to heal, and then tore it up again.

    Honestly, my biggest online resource for at least commiserating has been NF. In the past, I worked as a personal chef for people with elimination diets, and so I was already pretty educated on how to thoroughly eliminate gluten from my diet and the secret ways it’s hidden in food.

    I probably won’t stay 100% clean for the holidays. I mean, Swiss Christmas cookies are like ambrosia. But I really weigh the effects of my decision, and I try to space my “hits” out to keep my markers from getting high enough to trigger another rash outbreak. I’m still playing with this, so I’m sure I’ll end up paying for it in more than increased bathroom trips. But seriously, the cookies here are amazing.

  3. Hi — just to be clear, Celiac Disease is not an allergy to gluten. Allergy means an immediate reaction of some kind – hives, throat swelling, that sort of thing. It’s also not really an intolerance to gluten — you can be intolerant without having Celiac Diease — but it is more close to that. Celiac Disease in an autoimmune disorder whereby your body, thinking gluten is a foreign substance, goes into overdrive with the white blood cells and all of the other things that “attack” foreign items in your body. So much so that is starts to blunt the villi of the small intestine, actually breaking down the walls and letting gluten enter the blood stream. One can have Celiac Disease and have gastrointestinal issues, or you might have little to no symptoms.

    I was one who had little to no symptoms. The only thing I could call a “symptom” was being tired for 2-3 years and no one being able to tell me why. All of my blood tests came back normal. I ate well, I exercised, I was not overweight. I was just tired. I was told it was because I was a mom, or stressed, or needed more chiropractic adjustments. I heard a lot of reasons. No one ever thought of Celiac because I didn’t either. I got diagnosed as a fluke — we had two of my kids tested at an Endocrinologist for low growth, and Celiac Disease is one of the things they tested. One kid had it, the other did not. So, the whole family was tested (since Celiac is a genetic disease). Turns out I had it and one other kid did, too. Little to no symptoms from all of us.

    Now — 4 of 100 people are believed to have it. If you suspect you have it, or you have unexplained health issues, I would recommend testing for it. It is better to know than wonder about it.

    That’s my 2 cents.

    Oh — and what they say about substituting the gluten-free items like pizza, bread, cookies is true. You should eat more “real” food because the gluten-free substitutes have little to no nutritional value. That said, they can help make a transition to the gluten-free diet easier if you need to do things in baby steps. Just expect about 4-5 days of feeling terrible, like you have the flu, like you need to go to bed by 5 pm (at the latest), because your body actually goes through withdrawal. After that is done, though, you will feel great.

  4. My life changed dramatically after cutting gluten out (I have a gluten allergy…and the testing and info about allergies/sensitivities is slim to none). I had hives, mood swings, gas pain, bloating…some NASTY side effects. Went to my Dr and decided to try cutting out gluten. I’ve been 90% gf (I slip up sometimes…) for a month, and I’ve lost 5 pounds, no more hives, I’ve been a LOT happier, I have energy, no more joint pain…just all around happier and healthier. My favorite gf resources are http://glutenismybitch.wordpress.com/ and http://glutenfreehomemaker.com/

  5. Fatigue and migraines were big issues for me as well. After going gluten free, my energy levels have slowly increased, but my migraines seemed to vanish overnight. I don’t know who in my family has celiac, but when I think about my mom’s eating patterns and symptoms I now know can indicate celiac disease, I am pretty sure if she got tested she would come back positive. I watch my kids like a hawk for obvious signs, but they are both under 2 so their feedback is a bit tricky.

  6. I never used to have symptoms, but after eating semi-Paleo and having few wheat products, I realized that if I ate something made with normal flour my knuckles would hurt the next day. One time I was visiting a friend’s family, and they made pancakes, and I felt terrible turning them down so I ate about 10. Within hours my knuckles were so stiff that rock climbing was uncomfortable. I can’t say for sure that it’s gluten, but it is definitely tied to wheat. So even if you don’t qualify as having an allergy, intolerance, or Celiac, it’s worth the experiment to see if you feel better without wheat and related products.

  7. I get this as well! All over my arms! I always thought I’d just have rashes on my arms forever, and then I went paleo… and boom. No more rash.

    Cheat with (okay, so consciously make the decision to have) gluten = rash comes back.

    Not even a little bit worth it 🙂

  8. I’d lost 70 lbs over 3 years due to diet change and adding exercise, then last fall I started having terrible stomach pains & they quickly yanked out my gallbladder. It wasn’t until I started having major digestive complications after the surgery, that I finally went to see a gastroenterologist. He had me go gluten free & gave me some great probiotics – I started to finally see some small changes, my digestive track was ON TRACK! I got into NerdFitiness.com and went totally Paleo, that’s when I really started losing the weight I’d gained from the surgery and feeling REALLY good. When I went Gluten Free before Paleo, I was still eating the processed GF crap…when I eliminated ALL processed foods – my body really responded positively!

  9. I am gluten intolerant – but also it’s worth noting that other things also react in my body like gluten, which is common for people with auto immune disorders (like me!)

    If I even have corn or oats, I pay for it for days.

    The list of foods that can be “cross-reactive” are here:

    CROSS-REACTIVE FOODS

    Dairy (About 50% of gluten intolerant people have a reaction to casein, a protein found in milk. Other milk proteins can also cause cross-reactivity.), Oats, Yeast, Coffee, Grains and psuedocereals (buckwheat, sorghum, millet, amaranth, quinoa, teff, corn, rice), Tapioca, Sesame, Hemp, Soy, Egg, Potato

    http://theglutenminded.com/2013/03/14/gluten-cross-reactivity-when-gluten-free-isnt-enough/

  10. hey Michelle,

    Great catch. Apologies: although we talked about Celiac disease as an auto-immune disease, we incorrectly labeled it as an allergy in the article, which we’ve fixed. Brain fart on my part! Hey I just rhymed!

    It should be updated 🙂

  11. THANK YOU Steve! I have been gluten free since April 2013 and have never felt better. For years I suffered from unexplained bouts of severe stomach pain (resulting in multiple trips to the hospital), cramping, general lethargic feeling, bloating, etc. etc. I first tried going dairy free and while it helped, it didn’t solve the issues. I started reading a few articles on gluten and since I was living on my own, decided to take the plunge and try it. I haven’t been formally diagnosed, but 7 months later and I have yet to have any of the severe stomach pains or other symptoms.

    It’s refreshing to read a well researched, easy-to-read, and enjoyable article on this.

  12. I’ve been gluten free for 7 years (due to this stupid Celiac Disease). I have been overweight for 6 of them maxing out at a spry 275…..So listen up people this blog is true. Until I learned how to eat the right things and bust some beads liftin the iron gluten free doesn’t mean a thing I am now 220 and looking and feeling better everyday.

  13. I hear a lot of people talk about grains = bad in the paleo community but few ever seem to make the connection to genetically modified grains. As you mention in your article, many of the problems associated with gluten intolerance and other paleo anti-grain stuff all rose sharply in the current generation. Go back 50 or a 100 years ago and most of these problems were very rare.

    people have been eating grains as a staple for the last 6000 years with no significant problems. Suddenly in a period of about 50 years all of these problems crop up (no pun intended). There is a clear and very suggestive correlation to our use of genetically modified grains.

    It’s really a little crazy when you look at what we have done to our own food supply. Most of our food, from chicken to grains, are produced using a frankenstien cocktail of hormones, antiboitics, and genetic modifications. Then on top of that a high percentage of what most people eat is ‘more chemical now than food’. Surely this is the work of the Empire, infused with the power of the dark side!

  14. I decided to go gluten free in July and it’s the best thing that I’ve ever done! not only is my energy level increased, I feel so much better overall. I always had intestinal issues, and just learned how to deal with them…but then I just felt crummy all the time, and I figured trying gluten free couldn’t hurt! I have a very supportive family and I have the strength to pass on past favorite foods (hot cookies out of the oven!!) without a second thought because I feel that much better. I am happy to find more and more resources to help understand the GF lifestyle. It’s not always easy, but it’s a choice that made sense for me.

  15. Cool.

    And, yes, we recently saw This Is The End. Since we “know” gluten and the entire family eats gluten-free, we had to laugh at the car scene.

  16. I was diagnosed with Celiacs going into college, i’d been having stomach pains as well as stomach issues for about a year or two, my stomach (or what i thought was my stomach) was always upset and i always had to go to the restroom right after i ate and so one day i was speaking with my friends and told them about it (i’d never seen the doctor because it never really thought anything of it since it became a daily part of my life) and they said i should get it checked out and i did a month or so of testing later finding out it was basically my intestines were basically screaming at me that my white blood cells were attacking them which was why i was in pain i was diagnosed. since then i’ve gotta say i feel much better than i did back then and i have lost some weight since then but nothing to big. I was a very cranky person for the first few months and frustrated because i was so angry and confused as to why I had to be diagnosed with Celiacs and all that since then i’ve just accepted it as part of my life.

    as for the food I didn’t really look up very much gluten-free recipes i just sort of explored on my own because i found it more fun that way, sometimes i’d look up gluten-free recipes for specific things but mostly I just sort of brought home what i knew was gluten-free and began mix and matching and experimenting to see what i did and didn’t like

  17. Gluten free since March of this year, smartest decision I ever made. Highly recommend the book Wheat Belly for anyone interested in some of the research on this, that book changed my life.
    I didn’t switch to “gluten-free” products, I just quick eating those types of foods and tried to follow paleo lifestyle changes in my eating and exercising, about 6 months in I’d shed 40 pounds of fat, but probably more importantly the addition of fish oil to this change actually made me a new person.
    Depression, anxiety, difficultly thinking straight, attitude, etc., gone.
    Gluten and processed foods are completely life destroying.

  18. I was diagnosed with IBS when I was in elementary school. However, it was later when I started cutting out processed foods and quite a few carbs that I finally FELT better. I have no idea if it is a placebo effect, or if I was misdiagnosed with IBS. Or maybe I have a gluten intolerance and IBS combined. Either way, I feel much better when I avoid gluten and heavily-processed foods.

  19. Definitely an interesting topic; research on the effects of gluten is still going. I discovered recently that I may have been gluten intolerant without knowing it, for 24 years. How did I find out ?

    This happened after watching a YouTube video of Elliot Hulse (lots of interesting videos on his channel, even if a little biased sometimes). He says he’s been upset because he was farting all the time, making people around him – and himself – uncomfortable. Not to mention the smell. Anyway, after seeing a doctor, he started to cut gluten, and things went much better afterwards.

    So recently, I started to eliminate gluten from my diet: threw away all my cereal products, ate only meat and vegetables. Pure extremism. I did this for about 2 weeks. Then I got injured and couldn’t do any sport (I do intensive workouts everyday); I was stuck at home with a lot of work, felt excessively stressed, and at some point I decided to make a big sweet cake with white flour and eat all of it. Yeah, that’s how I am !

    Anyway, the day after, I was farting like a car factory, spreading fancy smells all over my house. The thing is, I have experienced this kind of thing before; I mean, some days you’re farting more than usual, but you think “it just happens” and you don’t think there’s a relationship with a particular thing that you eat, because you think you eat more or less the same stuff everyday when you don’t look out for your diet.

    Now that I’ve realised that, I don’t eat 100% gluten-free; I just don’t like extremism when it comes to food and I like to be free to eat whatever I want (as long as it’s healthy). But I keep it in mind and try to avoid wheat as much as I can. I eat rolled oats and wholemeal bread because I love them and found a way to integrate them into my diet. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go full Paleo. In my case, I just think I couldn’t because there are foods that I don’t want to stop eating. It’s good for me psychologically and I’m still eating very healthy (and I’m not polluting the planet with body chemical weapons !).

    The most important things that I learnt in my journey about eating right:

    1) Don’t let anyone else make your diet plan for you. Take the time you need but you have to do it yourself. It becomes like a part of yourself to which you can be strongly committed, which is one of the most powerful sources of self-motivation.

    2) The first thing you should think of when you’re making your diet plan is “what do I WANT to eat ?” Too many people tell you what you should or should not eat. The result is that when you follow their advice blindly, you end up feeling frustrated. Make the list of things you want to be part of your diet. Cheese, yoghurt, red meat, oats, chocolate… anything that you know you need every now and then to feel good, and is not plainly unhealthy (I trust you on this part, just be honest with yourself).

    3) Only then, complete your plan with healthy, well-balanced foods, according to your energy and nutrients needs.

    If you are interested in my complete diet plan for my intensive daily workout routine, I’d be glad if it can help you build your own. Just don’t forget the most important thing: do it yourself !

  20. You. Are. Hilarious! I have really been interested in this gluten free diet stuff for a while now since I found out my friend who I have known for a very long time just recently found out they were allergic to gluten. It seemed like a good diet to try out but I wasn’t about to dive into something that I really didn’t know anything about. This post really clears up a lot for me. Thanks for posting

  21. Hey Steve! I LOVE your website, and your articles!! But since it IS a “nerd” site, I am going to “nerd out” on you!! Food cannot be “healthy” as that is a state of being. Food is actually “healthful”. It’s one of those nerdy things… Let’s keep educating your followers correctly!! Keep up the amazing work!! This site rocks!!

  22. Kudos for the Maru video 🙂
    Single best piece of nutrition advice available anywhere: “focus on eating more REAL foods instead of finding fake substitutes for the crap you used to eat”.
    Duh.

  23. I started going gluten-free about four months ago hoping to help with some issues. The only direct change I noticed was I started dropping about a pound every five days, finally leveling off around 8% body fat. Being lighter, I can now run faster, do more pull-ups, etc.

    I handled the change mostly by switching to “real food.” (But not entirely! Try the Godiva Cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory). I am strict about avoiding gluten but fairly relaxed about my diet otherwise. I was surprised by how little I crave pastries, etc. (that I used to love). This is by far the most easily sustainable dietary change I have ever tried. I’m not sure of the explanation, but this one change was a magic bullet for me.

  24. A few years back my girlfriend was diagnosed with celiac’s disease and has a particularly sensitive case of it as well. She’s been fighting for the past 2 years to drop antibody levels to a point where the doctor is happy with it. This has even been a battle with a “gluten-free” diet unfortunately. Inevitably this means I have also cut back on my gluten consumption significantly. Which I’m certainly fine with. There are some delicious baked goods that I only seldom eat, but it’s also been good motivation to start eating more real food. Additionally, there are some good soy sauce replacements.

    As for beer, some of the Japanese and Chinese beers are gluten free using rice rather than wheat. Also there are spelt beers which are gluten free which I don’t know much about and some hard ciders which are good.

  25. Oats do not contain gluten naturally, they can be processed on machines that also process food with gluten. so be careful when buying oats.

    there are many gluten free beer, but be careful as some only brake down the gluten so it can’t be picked up in the test. this might be fine for some people but i think the verdict is still out on if people with celiacs can drink it safely. it would be best to stick to beer that does not use wheat barely or any other ingredients that naturally contain gluten.

  26. Steve, this is a great article! I am gluten-free, but I hear snarky comments from my colleagues (I’m a dietitian) everyday about gluten intolerance. Gluten probably is so confusing to people because people go gluten-free to lose weight or they read articles online claiming gluten is the cause of EVERYTHING. The way I see it is more research has to be done (& Fasano is working on it!), but there are plenty of people who feel so much better without gluten. Plus, if you focus on real, whole foods, you’ll be fine. There’s no nutrients found exclusively in gluten that you can’t find elsewhere!

  27. I just finished attending a food conference, and the basic summation was this: gluten causes inflammation, which leads to autoimmune diseases (there’s a list at this link; examples include celiac, Hashimoto’s, types of arthritis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimers : http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000816.htm). So even if you don’t have an “intolerance” you’re not setting yourself up for health in the long run if you keep gluten around. I’m not sure how my body is since I’m still in the whole30, but we’ll see!

    There’s a free conference on gluten running soon – I encourage all to check it out! http://theglutensummit.com/registration/

  28. I saw this title and immediately heard you say “Glooten!” from Habitat for Humanity trip. Thanks for the read!

  29. We decided to try going wheat free about 16 months ago after reading Wheatbelly – thinking some of our (hubby and me) issues with inflammation, hubby’s neuropathy, and my issues with hormones and depression might be related to wheat. We specifically did not replace wheat containing foods with GF foods, instead we focus on whole/real foods. Our thinking was that wheat is highly processed and the foods that contain it are highly processed. Most nutrients that are in those foods are probably re-added after be removed by processing, so if we just ate real food, we would be better off nutritionally.
    The difference for me was tremendous – far fewer aches, happy tummy/bowels, and most important, my psychological symptoms are dramatically reduced – I am a different, mentally stable, nicer person without wheat. Sometimes when we spend a week with family I give in to the relentless attack of crap food by my in-laws. Invariably a week or 2 later I have a bout of mentals and some scary depression.
    Hubby is less sensitive, but has less inflammation and less neuropathy (foot tingles and numbness) when wheat-free. He is also less committed to wheat-free.
    While Wheatbelly got me started, I highly recommend Grain Brain by Daniel Perlmutter, MD for updated and in some cases better referenced information.

  30. This is super fascinating. Few years ago, I was dealing with hives and out of desperation I ate raw food (mostly) for a week or so. Whaddya know, I cleared up. The above list corroborates my own experiences. I believe soy lecithin also exacerbates tue condition. am tired of breaking out. I guess I get kind of millitant about food, then when I mess up I give up on good habits for a while. I’m learning though 😛

  31. I totally second this! I’m reading it at the moment, and it is sooo informative – without boring you with it. Also gives you the explanation as to why more people are gluten-intolerant than 50 years ago 🙂

  32. I am so glad you posted this article! I was diagnosed with Celiac 7 years ago, before the “gluten-free” craze. I struggled with anemia, fatigue, joint issues and stress fractures before I was diagnosed. I had some intestinal issues, but just thought I had a sensitive stomach as my grandmother used to say(she did too, and probably had celiac and never new it)! I had no clue what my doctor was talking about when he told me he thought I had gluten enteropathy or celiac sprue 🙁 I did some research, but in the mean time, pretty much went on a paleo diet (although I didn’t know that at the time). Within 3 days, I felt better and 100% better within 3 weeks. Within 6 months, my hemoglobin went from a 8.7 to a 13.1! Can you imagine what this did for my overall outlook on work, home & exercise. After a while, when they became much easier to find in my local grocery stores, I started adding some of the “gluten-free” substitutes like cookies, breads & pastas back into my diet and not only did my grocery bill double, so did my waist!
    I have learned that I have to be very careful where I eat out and what kinds of things I order in a restaurant. Just because a restaurant has a “gluten-free” pizza, doesn’t mean all the idiots cooking in the kitchen know how to avoid all the cross contamination and although french fries are gluten free, they are still fried in the same grease as everything else. I try to stick to grilled meats, baked sweet potatoes and salads when eating out. I do have to say, I am generally o.k. when I splurge at a Mexican restaurant, because they primarily use corn ingredients (I know it’s not paleo, but I said splurge!). Like Steve said, I have found that I generally feel and look better when I stick to the paleo whole food diet and occasionally I am able cheat with a gluten free or paleo treat!

  33. My girlfriend and I found out she had Celiac disease about three years ago because of Nerd Fitness and the Paleo diet. I decided I wanted to give the diet a shot and she soon followed. We both started to get leaner, have less skin issues, not as tired anymore, and just started feeling better in general.

    We started to notice that something was wrong when we would try to have an occasional gluten-containing product (pizza, beer, etc). I would mostly be fine, but she had very bad stomach pain for days. She went to the doctor and got diagnosed.

    Now we both are on a gluten free diet and we have never felt better. I highly recommend trying out what steve says on this article and find out if all those issues you might be having are caused by gluten!

  34. I found out my freshman year of college that I was gluten intolerant. Was a huge challenge to try and eat healthy on a college campus, in fact I ate horribly and always felt awful. I recently switched to a paleo lifestyle and I now feel better than I EVER have. My family and friends are super happy they don’t have to put up with grumpy Steph. Best decision I ever made was to say no to the gluten substitutes, making the conscious shift to thinking that I no longer ate products like pizza or waffles or bread because I choose not to, not because I can’t eat them (which had me turning to things like GF bread, and GF frozen waffles). I am so much happier as a person and with how I look. I would never go back and choose to continue eating GF options.

  35. Gluten is a bad mamma jamma. At least it is for me. I hate the feeling I get after eating anything with Gluten in it. Ties my stomach in knots and can last for hours. I love the site! Dropped off reading it for a while but am looking forward to sifting through all of the missed content.

  36. Hi, thanks for the gluten blog – I’m coeliac, with a gauntlet of symptoms when I get cross-contaminated, and it only took about 20 years of symptoms to get diagnosed! I’m still amazed at how amazing I can feel when I’m eating close to a whole 30 diet rather than having been accidentally cross-contaminated. Gluten free food is not necessarily any healthier but if you are somewhere on the intolerance-autoimmune spectrum then completely avoiding gluten is amazing. Some of the processed gluten free food? Too processed for me to stomach (oh yes, I found this out the hard way). One of my favourite gf websites is : http://glutendude.com/ – he rants, he gets grouchy, he admits to not always getting it right, but they also have some very very good advice.

  37. Oh damn gluten.
    I run and I used to have HORRIBLE eczema on my legs. I attributed it to “windburn” and all sorts of silly stuff.
    This january I did the world disney marathon and my eczema patches blistered and bled through! It was gruesome and very painful!! So I went full paleo… It was like a miracle. Everything healed up!! I’ve had this since I was 16, I couldn’t believe it!! Eventually I incorporated a bit of dairy back in for protein and that is going ok.
    I’m guessing the “pasta party” was responsible for why it got so bad on race day. On my last birthday my chicken had breading… I thoght “oh it looks like so little” and ate it …. BAM rash patch. Going gluten-free was the best thing I’ve done for myself. Not to mention the weight loss that came with it.

    Now I started a little recipe blog for gluten-free cooking (www.ihavenosecretingredient.blogspot.ca/ ). I don’t have too many recipes yet but it’s been my motivation to get cooking!!

    What I really hate though is some of the gluten-free bashing I’ve been hearing these days because so many people think it’s “just a fad”… or people who tried it and “didn’t lose weight”. It’s not a “miracle solution”. if you eat gluten-free cookies… you’re still eating cookies…

  38. I have autoimmune problems and my doctor recommended I go gluten free since gluten intolerance or celiac is often co-morbid with my condition. Going gluten free has made a world of difference for me and how I feel. I also dropped 15 pounds almost immediately, probably just because I was forced to eat less unhealthy carbs. I would recommend gluten free to anyone, but especially if you have any autoimmune problems. There is also a version of Paleo called the Autoimmune Protocol but that is an even stricter diet which doesn’t allow eggs, legumes, nuts, coffee, or alcohol. I’m thinking about doing it but it would be very difficult.

  39. “Wheat Belly” literally changed my life. I lost 7 inches in 2 months off my waist and hips after reading this book and cutting all wheat from my diet. I’ve never felt better, and as far as it is possible, I will never eat modern dwarf wheat again.

  40. Crazy, you wrote this article the day before I went and got an EGD done. My doctor is pretty sure I have celiac disease. I find out in a couple weeks for sure after they do some tests on the biopsies they took. I have been suffering from abdominal pain, depression, fatigue, and headaches for the last four months.
    Thanks for the resources. They are going to be really useful for me and cutting out gluten. I am definitely thinking about trying the paleo diet now.

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