Gluten. No Big Deal or Silent Killer?

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Gluten: Is the new Gluten-Free Diet just a fad? Or could gluten be killing us all slowly? Come find out.....

Is the gluten-free diet just a fad or are there real dangers of gluten?

It seems that everyone is going gluten-free these days. There are gluten-free sections of grocery stores, gluten-free menu options, and even a gluten-free cruise line.

But what is really going on here? This wasn’t happening years ago so were people just sick then and didn’t know it, or has something changed?

Is gluten freely a bad thing that no one should eat?

Here are some facts about gluten that hopefully will help you understand more about this whole situation.

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What is Gluten?

Gluten is a substance in wheat, and some other grains: barley, rye, and spelled.

It gives these grains, and particularly wheat, its stretchiness (and it tastes great in our mouths too :)).

It’s made of 2 proteins: gliadin and glutenin.

Regardless of what it’s called, this substance is something we Westerners love to eat.

But it seems to not be loving us back.

There is sooo much I would like to write about this, but much will have to wait ’til later.

For now, here are some things to get you introduced to My Story and what the real deal is with gluten.

Gluten and Our Family

We’ve given up gluten at various times in the past and present.  And I’ve been doing a TON of thinking and reading about this.

I’ll write more on these later, but here is our brief history.

1.  Me: I went off wheat before I was married when I suffered severe fatigue and brain fog that I traced clearly to excessive wheat consumption.  I later started eating wheat again, but in smaller amounts, and mostly whole grains only.

2.  My son: About 6 years ago our oldest was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.  There is a lot of compelling evidence (anecdotal and otherwise) that autistic people tend to have intolerances to gluten and casein (one of the proteins in milk products).  We took our son off gluten a number of years ago. We noticed not complete healing, but a definite improvement in symptoms.

3.  My Husband:  He went off gluten (for the most part) about 3 years ago after suffering from severely low ferritin. (He was basically almost dead.) Adding iron to his diet didn’t do enough but taking gluten out of his diet was one of the things that got his blood results almost back to normal.

4.  Me again and “The Whole Fam”: Recently I have been dealing with some new puzzling healthy symptoms. More on the whole deal later (when I have time to put all of my thoughts down) but I am now totally gluten-free.  I wasn’t eating much–just samples at Costco (which are VERY tempting).  I’m working on my youngest and my husband too. Read on to find out why.

Is Gluten-Free Just a Fad?

Some people think that eating gluten-free is just a fad. Or a way to lose weight. There are a lot of folks claiming that going gluten-free helped them lose weight. And you know how that works.

Talk about something helping you lose weight and:

1.  People jump on the bandwagon ’cause they want to lose weight too OR

2.  When people find out that YOU are gluten-free, they assume you are doing it to lose weight.

Well, I would love to not have to fight a few extra pounds (I am not really overweight, but I do need to watch it), but I assure you that I wouldn’t go totally gluten-free just to keep 1-5 pounds off.  And I don’t think an occasional slice of wheat bread or pizza is going to keep that much weight on me.

Believe me—this is NOT a fad.

Documented Dangers of Gluten

1.  Mental Disorders

– Reduction in wheat consumption during WWII led to a reduction of schizophrenia, plus antibodies to gluten are more prevalent in schizophrenics (source)

2.  Autoimmune Disease

Gluten is clearly linked to autoimmune disease with correlations up to 40%. (Source)

3.  Infertility

Gluten sensitivity is linked to miscarriages and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).  (Source)

4.  Death

Yes–this might sound a little extreme, but–gluten really could be a silent killer.  Rates of mortality are increased up to 75% with gluten sensitivity.  We’re not even talking celiac here folks!  Check this out to see documented data on how bad gluten can be for some people.

So after reading all of this… you think gluten-free is “just a fad.”
What do you think? Is Gluten “no big deal” or a silent killer?

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  1. I am looking for a Gluten Free Bread that would be suitable for a Communion Bread for my Christian Congregation to share. They DO NOT want wafers & would very much like to have One Bread to share with all members. So far, what I have found is either wafers, OR was WAAAAY to crumbly, (both unacceptable).. Has anyone else gone down this route & been successful?? It sure would be a blessing for many Christians.

  2. This infirmation is complete [expletive deleted by blog owner]. You are spreading panic among parents without cause.

    1. Hi there. I would appreciate it if you would tell me exactly what you disagree with rather than using expletives. And how exactly am I spreading panic? Gluten has been implicated in many health problems and issues w/ gluten are documented even in mental institutions. Just do an internet search for wheat and schizophrenia and you can see what I mean. Thanks.

  3. Hi Adrienne,

    The links you posted lead to pseudoscientific articles and not to actual studies published in peer-reviewed journals. Like most if not all issues that we deal with on a daily basis, the effect that diet has on health is multifactorial. Eliminating gluten from one’s diet and finding that improvement in symptoms results in no way proves that gluten is the offending substance. Simply focusing on making healthy eating choices and introducing a sustainable change in diet tends to result in positive health outcomes. In order to determine that gluten is indeed as bad as it is being made out to be, we need placebo-controlled, double blind studies and, as far as I know, there aren’t any. Perhaps you know of one? The reason I have to harp on this issue is because, yes, for all we know eating gluten may be causing us problems, but spreading information like that contained in the above article is rather sensationalistic and causes panic which is, in itself, a problem. You might say you’re just writing this for personal enjoyment and sharing it friends and loved ones but this site is available to the public. Although each individual reader has the responsibility to think critically and use diligent and thorough analysis, you also have the responsiblity to provide good, sound advice, especially since this site appears to be both popular and interesting. I have no doubt that your intentions are good but but a good tree must bear good fruit too. I realize that this article is already a couple years old so the timing may be off; however, the gluten-hate rages on. Truth is paramount. What good are faith, hope, and love if they aren’t based in truth? And the truth is, as of today, we still don’t know beyond a reasonable doubt that gluten is the enemy.

    1. Hi Joe. Thanks for commenting. There are so many links going off of the articles that I posted that your generalization is not true. I must say that of course, things can be multifactorial but I, for one, am off gluten for good. I didn’t need to wait for a double blind study. My husband had ferritin stores of just about zero and iron pills did almost nothing. When we took him off gluten and added a probiotic his iron stores shot up. Yes, the probiotic for sure did something too but he has had gluten on and off since then and now has taken himself off of it due to how he feels when he eats it. I don’t need a double blind study to tell him he needs to do that.

      I don’t think that this is sensationalistic or causing panic at all. I think our food system is a huge mess and all the chemicals they are dumping on foods and in the air and water and all of the overmedication is a huge problem. I am trying to offer my readers help and options that might help them. There is a lot of information that gluten is a problem and causes schizophrenia and to ignore this causes peril to our society.

      Yes, this site is available to the public but perhaps you should be more concerned with the filth on TV and movies that is available to the public or the promotion of GMOs and the use of RoundUP that is available to the public even though we now know horrid things about RoundUp.

      There are many enemies right now – and yes, stress is one of them. But gluten is certainly causing major issues for many people.

      I think I linked to this in the post, but this is a good read.
      Maybe you would wish to contact Psychology Today and ask them about why they published this?

      I don’t mean to be harsh, but I am a mom trying to get good information out to people that might help them live a healthier life. Of course I am not a doctor and I can’t say this is medical advice, but I can point them towards things on the internet that make sense to me and things that work for me and/or others.

      Finally, perhaps this study on gluten and autism will interest you as well . Thanks again.

  4. Thank you for the info! I just recently decided to try going gluten-free because I have hypothyroidism and have read many articles about the link between gluten intolerance and thyroid disease. If you have problems with your thyroid or have symptoms of hypo/hyperthyroid, please go get it checked! It is one of the most misdiagnosed diseases there is and can lead to multiple health complications if it is not treated. Or if you know you have thyroid problems, research how it relates to gluten! I am also about to start using the Young Living essential oils.
    I can’t wait to start having energy again and stop feeling like I’m 50 when I’m only 24!

  5. Just curious…what was your husband’s Ferritin level? I’ve been having a lot of issues lately and my blood work came back with an abnormally low Ferritin level also. I’ve been GF for a month and hope to see some improvement after 3 mos.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing this informative post! I having been thinking about reducing my family’s wheat consumption. I found your blog at Works for me Wednesday. I would love it if you shared a post at my new linky party.

  7. Wow, so glad you posted this article, Adrienne. I’m definitely going to cut back even more (if not all the way) on gluten consumption. Gluten is so ingrained (no pun intended) in our culture and common foods Americans eat, everyone should read this article to know what it’s actually doing do our bodies! Thanks for sharing.

    -molly (from tuesday bible study)

    1. Hi Molly! So nice to hear from you! I’d be happy to help in any way I can with getting off the gluten. I am even learning that for some who don’t even have celiac, even a little bit can kick off immune responses. Hence I am getting it out completely.

      Look forward to spending more time :).

  8. You have such a great blog and thank you for so much useful information. I have been totally gluten free for the past 3 years due to many health issues. (Not because of a fad.) I saw a remarkable difference in the first 24 – 48 hours of being off of gluten. Brain fog was gone, almost daily migraines were beginning to improve, gut inflammation was significantly decreasing among other signs. I knew immediately that I never wanted to feel that way again and haven’t looked back! Also, the bloodwork that for years showed very high counts for an autoimmune disease, all of a sudden returned to normal without the gluten in my system. It’s amazing that so called “specialists” in the medical field couldn’t figure this out.

    Because of my great success, I switched my two autistic children to a gluten free eating plan [notice I didn’t use the term “diet” here? :)] and the difference was drastic! Not a cure, by any means, but a huge improvement. They both know how gluten makes them feel and act and they realize that they don’t like feeling that way. Given the choice of a gluten free snack or a gluten filled snack, they happily choose Gluten Free. So, for many of us, Gluten CAN actually be a silent killer. Somewhat scarey, but knowledge is power and we need to obtain the knowledge to make the right choices for our bodies so that we can live longer, healthier lives.

    Again, thank you for all of the wonderful information on your blog!


    1. I had almost the exact same issues as Sharon. Chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain, irritable bowel, fatty liver, pre-diabetes, you name it. My bloodwork for several years showed high inflammation numbers, high auto immune indicators, high liver enzymes. I was seeing an RA Doctor, Immunologist, Endocrinologist, and Gastro Doctors, $60 co pay a pop, at least once a month, host of medicines I could not tolerate. I had several different diagnoses, Lupus, Sjorgens, Fibromylagia, Fatty Liver (NASH), Anemic, etc. On my own I started a low carb diet to lose weight. I felt better! I told the PA at my RA that cutting carbs made me feel better, and was told to try cutting out gluten. GLUTEN? Never heard of it. Well I tried it! One year gluten free! Last week all my blood work numbers and counts have gone from RED to black. High/Abnormal to NORMAL. ALL of them. Nothing red now. I want to shout from the rooftops! It’s not (put diagnosis here) it’t GLUTEN.
      Gluten is toxic to the human body. I am living proof. Yes, doctors need to take this more seriously. I had a major turn around, seriously feel 20 years younger! Get Rid of GLUTEN.

  9. I am so interested to learn more about this. I’ll admit, I have to this point ignored most of the gluten free talk, as it overwhelms me for some reason. But after my 5 year old dd has had constant stomach issues since she was born, and all the testing is coming back negative, we were recommended to drop gluent from her diet to see if it helps. So as of Friday, or family is now gluten free. We are still adjusting, and it is still overwhelming, I don’t know what to eat from one meal to the next, but we are learning. I hope this is the answer, for her.

    1. I hope it helps you too. Did you see the Heal Your Gut course I’ve written about? Not sure when it’s coming back but might be good to think about.

  10. While I think that our society eats way too much wheat, I just cannot believe that everyone needs to completely stop eating it. My husband has Crohn’s disease so I have given this a whole lot of thought and have read quite a bit. People have been eating gluten for thousands of years. I know that our food is not like the food in past history, but people have been eating gluten.

    I would be willing to try it if I could get flours that are safe for my peanut/tree nut allergic child. I have yet to find any gluten free flours that are safe.

    1. Hi Linda. The more I read about gluten the more concerned I am about it. I would seriously check out the summit and hear what they have to say. The Weeding Out Wheat book is fabulous as well. I buy my grain whole and grind it and it has no contamination issues. Have you checked this brand? (affiliate link)

      1. I have never seen that brand, but I am trying to stay away from a lot of rice because of the arsenic issue. Most gluten free recipes I’ve looked at call for almond flour, which I cannot use. Who wrote the book you mentioned? A doctor?

        1. I know about that. I don’t know where the rice is grown but in CA is better than the south of the US. Here is my info on GF Baking. The book is written by a blogger friend but I can say she did a GREAT job. Of course, the summit folks are really big in their field (many of them). The book is based on a bunch of research. There are many “not so good” ebooks out there but this one is top notch.

  11. Enjoyed the article. I put a lot of time and effort into preparing healthy meals for my family. I have heard people going gluten free, but have not looked into it extensively since we do not currently have any health issues. I am now more interested into looking into it if it is important for ones overall health. What whole grains do you use that are gluten free? I currently use a lot of flour made from wheat berries that my mom grinds for me – would those contain a lot gluten?

    1. Hi April. I know that book. I have done a lot of digging into that (well some, at least) and it is problematic. The premise is great but recreating that kind of situation in the home kitchen is very difficult so many will have reactions likely and/or exposure to gluten without meaning to. I really appreciate your bringing it up but I do need to make that caveat. Thanks.

      1. Did you read the entire book? It is very well researched and the author is NOT saying that you should use that method to bake bread with that method if you have a gluten intolerance. What the book does show is that wheat and gluten are NOT bad for us (those of use with no allergies or Celiac) and that by going on a gluten free diet is not necessary. She spent 3 years researching the book and it is well annotated with clinical studies. 🙂

        1. Hmmm… I will have to talk to a few folks. I didn’t read the whole thing. Have you checked out the Weeding Out Wheat book? You do have to buy it but it is REALLY good.

          1. Yes, please read then entire book, it is quite fascinating and I’ve heard the author speak before. She is well versed in this area and the research is quite thorough. I did a search on Weeding out Wheat but was unable to find it on Amazon. There’s more information out there published by the author of Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread.

            1. I ran this by some friends who are very much up on this gluten fermentation debate. They said clearly that it would be impossible or near so to recreate the situation that Jessie puts forth in her book and that if one is trying to stay away from gluten that this isn’t the way to go. Thanks!

              1. Somehow I think we have a miscommunication. Although I do believe that it is very possible to get a gluten free bread by her method (in fact, in speaking to her directly, she actually personally uses this method). What I AM trying to communicate is that by the sourdough fermentation process, not only do you get a lower gluten bread, but also a bread that is low glycemic with more bioavailable nutrients…… a person who is not Celiac, gluten intolerant, or allergic to wheat does not need to go on gluten free diet. I’m sure that Jessie would be glad to answer any questions about her book.

                1. Thanks. I can try to contact her but I was trying to work on something w/ her for my blog and someone I wasn’t getting communication back. Not sure what happened. I think the carbohydrate effect is great but of course that happens w/ GF flours as well. I am very very cautious about recommending this method to anyone trying to stay away from gluten. That’s my point. The more I learn the more I want nothing to do with it. And I had a killer whole wheat bread recipe that I was told by a baker’s daughter that I could “make money with.” sigh.

    1. I read Wheat Belly as well as dozens of other studies and scientific “food science” journals to learn the history of wheat and why it seems all of sudden gluten is causing so many issues. Well….today’s wheat is not the wonder bread wheat of our childhood, and personally, I think that is why ‘all of a sudden’ gluten is an issue. Wheat was genetically manipulated to yield more grains per stalk, (more yield per acre, more money per acre) and that process, I feel, is at the root of the current issues with wheat. It may be non GMO, not genetically modified as they claim, but it has been genetically manipulated without an FDA approvals or studies to determine the health risks associated with it.

  12. Hey Adrienne!

    So glad you shared this – it’s been a wonderful program with so much great information – if only the world would grab hold of it and not act like it’s the latest fad 🙁

    I wanted to mention that I believe you have the time zones mixed around. I think it starts/ends at 10 EST and 3 GMT – may want to double check 🙂 Take care – hope you continue to unravel the mysteries of chronic ilness – it’s so challenging at times!

    1. Hi Heather. Thanks for that…you are right. I had them mixed up :). I wish more would listen as well and thanks for your well wishes!

  13. I never thought about gluten effecting me, but now after learning about what they are doing to our food, I realize that it was not the bread that had a negative effect on my body, but the gluten. Years ago I stopped eating any food that contained starch, now since we switched to real food, I can eat bread again.

    Would love for you to share this on Real Food Fridays, people may be suffering, and not know why.

  14. I’ve been listening to some of these interviews this week (very science heavy) and doing a lot of thinking/praying too. My youngest was diagnosed with a minor wheat allergy a few years ago and I know wheat gives me the whole post nasal drip, brain fog, bloating thing. Especially from store bought products. I REALLY want to be able to do sourdoughed spelt or something for my family, but after listening this week, I’m beginning to think we should just avoid gluten as much as we can.