What is all the fuss about gluten?

Gluten in wheat can cause stomach pain or bad gas pain.

My patient reluctantly gave up gluten – at my request – and her symptoms were gone in 3 months. She recovered, and I have the before and after bloodwork to prove it.

I will let her speak for herself…

“Wow! In May 2020, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Liz listened to my body and put together a simple plan….to heal my gut. In August 2020 (yes, three months later), the blood work came back that I was HEALED, and all my levels were back to normal. I went from heart palpitations and exhaustion to feeling calm and having energy again! Liz is a true healer.”
GG, Delray Beach, FL 2020

Eliminating gluten helps with autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease. And a gluten-free diet has helped many people who are UNDIAGNOSED yet suffering from severe gastrointestinal pain. (1)

If you have unexplained symptoms,
I highly suggest seriously considering a gluten-free diet for 4-6 weeks.
That is the best way to find out if gluten is a problem for you.

What is gluten?

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It is what makes bread chewy. Gluten develops when we add water to grain flour such as wheat and rye. (There is no gluten in flour made from nuts.) Gluten has several components that can cause digestive and other health problems.

There are a few known ways that gluten can cause unwanted digestive symptoms. It could be through an autoimmune response such as celiac disease, an immune response such as an allergy, and inflammation.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease whereby the body thinks that gluten is a toxic substance or foreign invader and attacks itself, causing damage to the small intestines and severe symptoms including gas and bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue.
Wheat allergy is when the immune system overreacts to either gluten or another compound in wheat; the science is not clear about this. An allergic immune reaction happens in a different part of the immune system than celiac disease, an autoimmune disease. The symptoms are like celiac disease and can include itching, congestion, and headaches, along with cramps and diarrhea. (2)
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is when intestinal or other physical or mental symptoms respond well to gluten elimination without evidence of celiac disease or wheat allergy. The symptoms are like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and can include other symptoms such as brain fog, joint pain, and fatigue. (3)
Give up gluten to see if it is the cause of your bad gas and stomach pain.

I have personally had great success by giving up gluten. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2009. After significantly cutting out sugar and gluten, I completely recovered.

If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, you know you cannot eat gluten at all. If you have tested positive for a wheat allergy, it is probably ok to eat a little gluten now and then. With non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it is also possible for you to manage the symptoms while having a little bit of gluten. However, there are cases where one little bit of gluten can cause a bad reaction.

“Without you, I would probably be bouncing from one gastroenterologist to another doing useless tests and taking harmful pharmaceuticals. You diagnosed my condition and set me on the path to good health. I cannot thank you enough.”
JC, Delray Beach, FL  11/7/2019

First, find out if you have celiac disease or a wheat allergy.

Many people with celiac disease are not aware that they have it. If you experience a noticeable effect after eating bread or pasta, then I recommend you get tested. Your gastroenterologist will use a blood test to look for celiac disease. If the blood test indicates you have celiac disease, then the next step is an endoscopy to see how much damage it has caused to your intestines.

There are also various tests for wheat allergies. My patients have had success with all kinds of allergy tests. I will not go into all of them now, yet I am happy to answer any email questions. Feel free to contact me through my website.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a condition that has similar symptoms to celiac disease (CD) and wheat allergy (WA), yet there is not a test for it.

Do you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)?

To diagnosis NCGS, we must rule out celiac disease and wheat allergy first. After ruling out those conditions through testing, follow a gluten-free diet for 4-6 weeks. If you are significantly better after that time, then you may have a gluten sensitivity. The last step is to reintroduce gluten into your diet. If your symptoms recur, you probably have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

The onset of symptoms in patients with NCGS can occur within hours or days of gluten ingestion, so do not rush to a conclusion. I highly suggest working with a nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner (that’s me) to make a diagnosis and begin treatment.

Do not stop eating gluten before a celiac disease test or a wheat allergy test.
Your results could appear normal if you have not eaten gluten for a few weeks.

After eating gluten, what happens?

No matter what form of gluten you eat – whether it be a piece of white bread, a bowl of pasta, or 12-grain whole wheat bread – the digestion of gluten is the same. Gluten breaks down into its protein building blocks. If you are gluten-sensitive, these proteins activate your gut’s immune system, which looks for toxins or anything potentially harmful.

The process is slightly different for people with celiac disease than for people with a wheat allergy or NCGS. If you are not sensitive to gluten in any way, then the proteins are digested normally and absorbed through your intestines as nutrients.

If you are sensitive to gluten, your body will produce antibodies to attack the foreign invader.  Your immune system will get to work protecting you. Where antibodies go, inflammation follows.

Inflammation is the body’s normal response to infection or perceived threat, such as a food allergy. Chronic inflammation in the gut that lasts months to years can lead to inflammatory bowel diseases such as colitis, Crohn’s disease, and IBS.

Gluten can cause gas and inflammation which is often the cause of stomach or gastrointestinal pain

One major cause of chronic inflammation (the source of pain) is the daily or regular consumption of foods that your body cannot digest well, for any reason.

Another process occurs in the digestion of gluten that involves a newly discovered protein called zonulin. Zonulin is created in intestinal cells and regulates the connections between the digestive tract wall’s cell lining.

The digestive tract is a barrier between the outside world and our bloodstream. Its cell wall should be tight and only allow nutrients through. If the cell wall becomes weak and loose, then toxins from food can leak into our bloodstream. Commonly known as leaky gut, the consequences can be harmful to your health and cause painful symptoms.

Natural whole foods that we eat often contain toxins. Plants produce toxins as a defense mechanism, and some of those toxins can cause harmful reactions when eaten. I will write an in-depth article about food toxins soon.

The gluten from wheat is a toxin if you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease and is treated as one by your body. Some studies suggest that gluten is not tolerated well by most people, yet they are not aware of it.

Are you gluten-sensitive?

It is worth finding out by doing a 30-day gluten-free challenge.

Do you have unexplained physical or mental symptoms? It could be from gluten.
Even just a little bit of gluten can cause symptoms such as brain fog, digestive upset, anxiety, joint pain, and migraines.

Science has not concluded that gluten’s health effects are detrimental to someone without celiac disease. There is evidence of a correlation, which indicates the need for more studies.  I am convinced that gluten’s effects can be harmful to people without celiac disease due to the results I have seen in my practice.

I have worked with many patients whose health and quality of life have improved significantly after eliminating gluten from their diet. It cannot hurt to try a gluten-free diet if you have bothersome unexplained symptoms.

Seven signs of gluten sensitivity:

Gas + Bloating
Abdominal pain
Brain fog
Joint pain

Bloating is one of the most common signs of gluten sensitivity.

A brief history of celiac disease.

Humans have been eating wheat for about 20,000 years. Celiac disease and related conditions likely started that far back yet were not identified until the first century AD. At that time, the Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia described patients whose food passed through them without being digested. Yet, the cause was unknown, and there was no name given to the disease. Many people died of malnutrition.

Before and after World War II, a series of events led to the discovery that fewer people were reporting digestive symptoms. During the Dutch famine of 1944, bread and wheat were not available. After the war ended and food supplies came, the celiac symptoms returned. Dutch pediatrician Willem-Karel Dicke had been aware of celiac and noticed this trend of people who got better then worse again after having no bread for some time. He then started to experiment with diet to help his patients. Over the next five years, he discovered that wheat and related grains were to blame. Dr. Dicke noticed that inflammation was causing the symptoms of celiac. Most patients recovered on a wheat-free diet.

An intolerance to a food is different than a food allergy. An Intolerance does not involve the immune system, as do allergies. (1) Food intolerance usually causes uncomfortable digestive symptoms when an allergy can be life-threatening. (2)

Someone with a food intolerance could get away with eating a bit of a particular food, whereas, with an allergy, the food should be avoided altogether.

More people are reacting to gluten than ever before. Why?

  1. The diagnostic techniques have improved, so more people are diagnosed with celiac disease or wheat allergy.
  2. Modern wheat hybrids contain more gluten increasing the chances of an allergic or autoimmune reaction.
  3. More people are eating more wheat than ever.
  4. Scientists found more toxins in wheat than in the past. Between the mycotoxins from fungi and weed killers with glyphosate, wheat is more contaminated now. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6163171/)

The only solution is (at least temporary) abstinence.

The only way to avoid painful symptoms and the possibility of causing an autoimmune disease is to stop eating gluten. In all gluten-related conditions, abstinence is the only thing that relieves symptoms.

After one to two months of a gluten-free diet, many people can occasionally go back to having a little bit of gluten.

If you have celiac disease, you cannot eat gluten at all without causing a relapse.

Gluten-free foods are not the answer; whole foods are.

How to avoid the stuff.

Avoiding gluten is the tricky part. I am not a fan of gluten-free foods. They generally contain other harmful additives. If you regularly buy gluten-free cookies, cake, and crackers, you do not necessarily do yourself a favor.

Gluten-free foods are often highly processed and full of sugar, unhealthy oil such as vegetable oil, and additives. I will address this in more depth in a future article.

Whole foods (except whole-wheat, rye, barley, and oats) do not contain gluten. I recommend a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, dairy, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, legumes, and animal protein, depending on your food preferences.

If you do not eat animal protein, be aware of what you add to your diet instead. Some vegans eat a lot of seitan – also called wheat meat. Seitan is made from wheat and has lots of gluten. Vegetarian products such as Tofurky and other meatless meat contain seitan. Make sure that your vegetarian protein does not contain gluten. Read all labels and do the research.

Some non-gluten foods also cause gas and stomach pain.

Foods that can be contaminated by gluten in the field or factory:
Rye, Barley, Spelt, Polish Wheat • Oats and flavored coffee

Oatmeal can be a source of gluten and can cause gas and stomach pain.

Foods that contain gliadin (a protein in gluten) can also cause symptoms.
These are: Yeast • Oats • Millet • Rice • Corn

Newly Introduced and over-consumed foods on a gluten-free diet can also cause symptoms:
Buckwheat • Sorghum • Hemp • Sesame • Amaranth • Quinoa • Tapioca • Teff • Potato

If you are eating any of the above foods, make sure that the package says gluten-free. FDA guidelines require that foods labeled gluten-free contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

What can you eat?

I suggest a diet of 90% whole foods. Whole foods are unprocessed or packaged foods.
The other 10% could be things such as crackers and snacks made from healthful ingredients and say “gluten-free” on the package.

A few of my favorite healthful non-gluten snacks:

Mary’s Gone Crackers made from seeds
Beanitos chips made from beans
Moose cheese snacks are pure cheese
Seaweed Snacks
Flackers crackers are made from flax seeds

Use a journal to keep track of symptoms.

It is beneficial to keep track of your symptoms before eliminating gluten and after. Most people forget their symptoms when they are gone. A journal is vital to do a good self-test for gluten sensitivity.

Very simply, take note of how you feel before and after eliminating gluten. It does not need to be complicated. Please keep it simple.

Functional medicine is root-cause medicine.
Our goal is to find the original cause of the problem so that there is more long term healing.

It is helpful to work with an integrative or functional medicine practitioner to get to your pain’s root cause.

No drug will fix the problem at the root. Medications stop the symptoms yet do not eliminate the underlying cause.

I hope that I have convinced you to investigate gluten as a possible cause of your painful digestive problems. It is a no-cost, no-risk solution with great health rewards. If you do the no gluten challenge and all your symptoms go away, you have just found the cause.

Healing your gut and digestive problems takes some time, effort, and consistency. It is well worth the effort.

YOU are well worth your time and effort. 
Stay focused. 
Your results will be a great reward.

I am available if you need additional help. Just send me an email, text or call.


(1). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002505/
(2). https://med.stanford.edu/allergyandasthma/news/news-from-our-center/wheat-hypersensitivities.html
(3). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630947/

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"I've been transformed into a new, happier and healthier me. Liz, you have helped me through a myriad of emotional and health issues over the past five years but this latest health issue that baffled all of my traditional medical specialists has been the clincher."
MaAn 2019
Delray Beach

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