Whaddya Think of Gluten?

hI’ve had some very strange looks at times when I’ve recommended to my patients to go gluten-free. The looks range in severity from mild (“Oh no … I am not sure I can do that”) to full-fledged panic (“What?! Are you crazy lady??”)

I am not one to talk the talk, without walking the walk. My diet is virtually gluten-free, except for the odd slip-up (and enjoyment) of an occasional hamburger when I am dining out. It has taken me a long time to become 95% gluten-free, but slowly and steadily I have learned to enjoy the taste of healthier food choices and not miss the comfort foods of my youth (pizza, pasta, sandwiches).

The reason I made the switch is simple: I learned what gluten does to my body. I want to share some of this knowledge with you in the hopes that you too may find yourself a tad more motivated to ditch the gluten grains and reach for nourishing foods.

There wasn’t always an upheaval against wheat and gluten. It was historically eaten in a simpler form before being hybridized by the agricultural industry in the latter part of the 20th century. Essentially, genetic engineers were paid a lot of money to come up with a modified form of this grain that would increase crop yield and decrease production costs. Despite drastic changes in the genetic makeup of wheat, no long term safety studies were ever conducted on animals or humans. As with many of the genetically modified organisms on our grocery shelves today, we are the guinea pigs!

These are my top reasons for avoiding gluten and wheat-products:

  • A loaf of whole wheat bread will increase your blood sugar higher than sucrose (table sugar) due to the type of starch it contains. This causes a spike in insulin, a hormone that is extremely efficient at converting carbohydrates into fat storage on the body (especially abdominal fat).
  • Wheat is also an appetite stimulant due to its chemical makeup; those who eat gluten consume an average of 400 excess calories per day compared to those who avoid gluten.
  • Gluten breaks down into polypeptides that cross the blood brain barrier and bind to opiate receptors in the brain – this causes a reaction similar to an endorphin rush that happens during a “runner’s high”. This doesn’t seem too harmful until you look at the addictive nature of wheat: after the high comes the crash, and then, the cravings for more.
  • Gluten is notorious for making a substantially negative impact on mood and behavior, both in children and adults. The following conditions have been linked to gluten-intolerance: ADHD, depression, anxiety, mood swings, autism, mental fog, irritability, and schizophrenia.
  • Gluten creates gut-permeability. Restated: it pokes holes in your digestive tract. It’s a gut-irritant and leads to chronic low-grade inflammation in the small intestinal wall. This causes obnoxious gastrointestinal contents to cross into the blood stream, which ignites the immune system and sets the perfect stage for autoimmune disease and food sensitivities.
  • Other conditions that have been correlated with gluten are: pain and inflammation, arthritis, migraines, hypothyroidism, acne, high blood pressure, and celiac disease, which is a form of gluten allergy.
  • A sensitivity to gluten can lead to skin and mucus membrane reactions such as canker sores, gastritis, eczema and psoriasis.
  • Lastly, I simply feel more motivated and energetic when I avoid the gluten and I hear this from a lot of people I see.

If you’re still not convinced, try a gluten-free diet for a month and see what benefits you have!

Gluten Free Recipe Websites:

Elana’s Pantry

Gluten-Free Goddess

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

Two excellent cookbooks


3 thoughts on “Whaddya Think of Gluten?

  1. Rio Larmand

    Hi Sacha, I came across this post on myyogaonline, and have been trying to leave a comment without success.

    I would be very interested to know of your sources in regards to the comment: “The following conditions have been linked to gluten-intolerance: ADHD, depression, anxiety, mood swings, autism, mental fog, irritability, and schizophrenia.”

    First off let me state that I have NO doubt that eating a healthy diet contributes to mental stability. However- your diet does NOT make you autistic.

    The majority of the population is completely ignorant/misinformed about autism in general and does not even REALLY know what autism is.

    Autism is something that you are born with. You are not made that way by a vaccination or a food allergy, and eliminating gluten from your diet will not reverse autism anymore than medication will.

    A simple google search reveals that while there are studies being conducted, there is no evidence to “link” autism to gluten intolerance.

    As a doctor with an apparently large circle of influence/views, I ask you, as a young woman currently undergoing autistic assessment, to please avoid contributing to the ignorance surrounding this subject.

    1. Dr. Elliott Post author

      Hi Leo,

      I didn’t mean to imply that eating gluten will cause autism. However, there is a lot of evidence showing that eliminating gluten (and casein in dairy) in children with autism leads to an improvement in behavior and language. A Google search will show that there are positive clinical studies (see first two links under “Other links” below).

      The Autism Research Institute promotes the GFCG (gluten-free, casein-free) diet on their website. http://www.autism.com/index.php/treating_diets

      Will it work for every child and person with autism? No, probably not. Would I try it on my child if he or she were autistic? Absolutely. Many families have reported dramatic improvements in their autistic child when they implemented this diet.

      Other links:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *