Gluten Sensitivity Put to the Test

Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?
facebook
tweet
google

In 1980, researchers in England reported a series of women with no evidence of celiac disease (the autoimmune disorder associated with gluten intolerance), who nevertheless resolved their chronic diarrhea on a gluten-free diet. The medical profession was skeptical at the time that non-celiac gluten sensitivity existed, and even 30 years later, such patients were commonly referred to psychiatrists. Psychological testing of such patients, however, found no evidence that they were suffering from any kind of psychosomatic hysteria.

The medical profession has a history of dismissing diseases as all in people’s heads—post-traumatic stress disorder, ulcerative colitis, migraines, ulcers, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Despite resistance from the prevailing medical community at the time, these health problems have subsequently been confirmed to be credible physiologically-based disorders rather than psychologically-based confabulations.

On the flip side, the internet is rife with unsubstantiated claims about gluten free diets, which have spilled over into the popular press to make gluten the diet villain du jour, with claims like “17 million Americans are gluten sensitive.” However, it must be remembered that the gluten-free food industry is a big business. When literally billions are at stake, it’s hard to trust anybody. As always, it’s best to stick to the science.

What sort of evidence do we have for the existence of a condition presumed to be so widespread? Not much. The evidence base for such claims has been unfortunately very thin because we haven’t had randomized controlled trials demonstrating that the entity even exists. The gold-standard for confirming non-celiac gluten sensitivity requires a gluten-free diet, followed by a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled food challenge. For example, give people a muffin and don’t tell them if it’s gluten-free or gluten-filled—to control for placebo effects—and see what happens. The reason this is necessary is because when you actually do this, a number of quote-unquote “gluten-sensitive” patients don’t react at all to disguised gluten and instead react to the gluten-free placebo.

We never had that level of evidence until 2011, when a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial was published, which tested to see if patients complaining of irritable bowel symptoms who claimed they felt better on a gluten free diet—despite not having celiac disease—actually could tell if they were given gluten containing bread and muffins or gluten-free bread and muffins.

Subjects started out gluten-free and symptom-free for two weeks and then were challenged with the bread and muffins. In my video, Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?, you can see what happened to the 15 patients who got the placebo, meaning they started out on a gluten-free diet and continued on a gluten-free diet. They got worse. Just the thought that they may be eating something that was bad for them made them feel crampy and bloated. This is what’s called the nocebo effect. The placebo effect is when you give someone something useless and they feel better; the nocebo effect is when you give someone something harmless and they feel worse. On the other hand, the small group that got the actual gluten, felt even worse still. The researchers concluded that non-celiac gluten intolerance may therefore indeed exist.

It was a small study, though, and even though the researchers claimed the gluten-free bread and muffins were indistinguishable, maybe at some level the patients could tell which was which. So, in 2012, researchers in Italy took 920 patients that had been diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity and put them to the test with a double-blinded wheat challenge by giving them capsules filled with wheat flour or filled with placebo powder. More than two-thirds failed the test, such as getting worse on the placebo or better on the wheat. But of those that passed, there was a clear benefit to staying on the wheat-free diet. The researchers concluded that their findings confirmed the existence of a non-celiac wheat sensitivity. Note I said “wheat sensitivity,” not “gluten sensitivity.”

Gluten itself may not be causing gut symptoms at all. Most people with wheat sensitivity have a variety of other food sensitivities. Two thirds are sensitive to cow’s milk protein, and many are sensitive to eggs. If we put people on a diet low in common triggers of irritable bowel symptoms, and then challenge them with gluten, there’s no effect. We find the same increase in symptoms with high gluten, low gluten, or no gluten diets, calling into question the very existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Interestingly, despite being informed that avoiding gluten didn’t seem to do a thing for their gut symptoms, many participants opted to continue following a gluten-free diet as they subjectively described “feeling better.” So, researchers wondered if avoiding gluten might improve the mood of those with wheat sensitivity. Indeed, short-term exposure to gluten appeared to induce feelings of depression in these patients. Whether non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a disease of the mind or the gut, it is no longer a condition that can be dismissed.


 

More than 10,000 articles have been published on gluten in medical journals—intimidating even for me! Combined with the multi-billion dollar financial interests on both sides, it makes for a difficult task. But I think I did it! This is the first of a 3-part series summarizing the best available science on gluten. Also check out: Gluten-Free Diets: Separating the Wheat from the Chat and How to Diagnose Gluten Intolerance.

Why this apparent increase in food sensitivities in recent decades? It could be because of pollutant exposure (see Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors and Allergies and Dietary Sources of Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors).

What can we do about preventing so-called atopic diseases (like allergies, asthma, and eczema)? See my videos Preventing Allergies in Adulthood and Preventing Allergies in Childhood. The weirdest example of an emerging food sensitivity may be the tick-bite related meat allergy story I review in Alpha Gal and the Lone Star Tick and Tick Bites, Meat Allergies, and Chronic Urticaria.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

  • guest

    Thank you sooooooooo much for this today. Dr. Mcdougall has published literature claiming that wheat can be a direct cause of mental illness. That is our very own vegan Dr. Mcdougall.

  • John

    In these studies do they say if the wheat is GMO or non-GMO?

    • Alan

      John – There is no gmo wheat on the mrket and this time and has not been for yrs, Actually i do not think it ever was.

      • Thea

        Alan: You are correct. Last I checked anyway, GMO wheat was not commercially available. It exists, but it is not legal and should not be in our food supply.

    • TR M

      Or was the wheat desiccated (dried) just before harvest with Roundup (glyphosate)? Even non-gmo crops are being sprayed to have uniform dryness just before harvest. To really tell what effect the wheat itself would have you’d have to use organic wheat.

      • Simon

        Excellent Point, perhaps chemical insecticides and herbicides contaminating the gluten is the major problem, has this theory ever been tested?

      • Wilma Laura Wiggins

        This is what I have suspected for some time. I only eat organic wheat.

    • Filip

      dont forget that there is no proof that GMOs are bad for you in the first place

      • John

        Proof. NO, there’s just a lot of evidence.
        John S

        • Filip

          There has been no study conclusively proving that GMOs are harmful, as for this evidence you speak of show it, make a link to it, prove to me that youre not simply hating on GMOs because some guy on youtube told you to

          • Eva

            Filip, you are an idiot.

          • Filip

            how so, because i dont blindly believe what the internet tells me

          • Filip

            Inside the mind of Eva “Some fuckwit on the internet told me this is true, anyone who is skeptical of statements without any evidence supporting them must be mentally retarded.”

          • John

            Filip,
            You prove that GMO’s have conclusively been shown to be safe. I don’t feed “probable carcinogens” to my family. Perhaps you do. GMO’s are designed to maximize the amount of patented carcinogenic Roundup herbicide that can be put into your food. For extensive evidence, check out the work of Jeffery Smith. It is very well documented. There have been numerous studies about how it negatively affects the gut microbiome. Also check out Green Med Info. Yes, there are still people arguing that there is no conclusive proof that cigarettes cause lung cancer either. That’s the nature of empirical evidence. Good for corporate profits? Yes. Why do other modern countries ban GMOs? Why do those corporations say they’ve always been in favor of labeling GMO’s in other countries, but fight to the death to hide labeling here in the US? It’s not because they’re safe. John S

          • Filip

            There is no evidence proving whether gmos are either sage or unsafe, the only thing we do know is that they are often accompanied with pesticides and herbicides, the real issue is the chemicals, not the genetic make up of the plant

          • John

            THere is a lot of evidence showing that GMOs negatively alter the gut microbiome,and the negative evidence is growing rapidly. That is largely the reason why we are getting so many unusual diseases right now, auto-immune for example. Saying it’s Roundup and not GMO’s is like saying cigarettes don’t cause cancer, just smoking them does, so let children buy them. If they don’t smoke them, they’ll be ok. GMO’s only exist so that the company can soak the ground with damaging herbicides, and save money by selling us inferior products. They save on weeding, we pay on medical bills. There are no GMOs that are grown in a sustainable, ecologically responsible way.

          • Filip

            Not its like saying that the cigarette packages cause cancer, provide me with one study that shows that gmos are harmful

          • John
          • Filip

            Those were animal studies, which prove nothing if their effects on humans, Dr. Greger himself said that there is no evidence conclusively proving that there are any risks in eating gmo other than their tendency for herbicides and pesticides, which the gmo are not at fault for.

          • Thea

            Filip: Dr. Greger has also said that there are no studies showing the GMOs are safe for humans either – which is the point.
            .
            It blows my mind how much faith our society places on animal models for testing drugs to save us from diseases or learn about what is safe or not safe for human consumption for every other situation, but for some reason, it is OK to completely dismiss animal models that suggest harm from GMOs. While I don’t think animal models are a good guide in just about any situation, that just means that we need proper human testing before unleashing bizarre Frankenstein plants on the environment and human guts. When animal models suggest harm, then we need to take note and do some serious human testing before we unleash these things on the world. Once plants escape into the environment, it can be impossible to stop later.

          • John

            The makers of GMO seeds are unwilling to let people use GMO seeds unless they can confirm that the person is “friendly” to GMO interests. They are patented, they own them, and they can control who gets information about them and what information they are willing to share. A lot of people disagree with Dr. Greger about organic food and GMO’s. I’m one of them. I’m sure that you wouldn’t say that animal studies prove nothing about humans in any other endeavor and you sound like a paid apologist for GMO’s. Animal studies are what they do first. If you can’t get the GMO’s from the company you can’t do the studies. I don’t think you would be so completely obsessed with finding the slightest doubt about problems with GMO’s if you weren’t paid to do it. You sound like an apologist for the tobacco companies.

          • Thea

            John: Attacking the argument is fine and fleshing out an argument like this can be helpful to others. However, attacking the person, as in “You sound like an..” is against the rules of this site. I am speaking as a moderator for this site. I’ll give you a little bit of time to fix your post. Otherwise I will delete it.

          • John

            Please let me know if it is properly worded now.

          • Thea

            John: That’s a much harder call. Since it is probably not any worse than other posts which seem to squeak by, I’m not sure I can object. I’ll let the NF staff decide that one. (I’m just a volunteer moderator.)
            .
            But I would put this to you: You have a strong post with great arguments without those lines. You could just take those 2 sentences out and lose nothing in my opinion. Actually, I think removing the lines would make your post stronger, because those are weak arguments which take away from your points. Or alternatively, you could take those sentences out, and start a new paragraph. In the new paragraph, include just the second sentence and then explain what you mean by that (I don’t know myself, so others might be confused too), making it clear that you aren’t accusing John of such a thing, just that the arguments are the same… These are some ideas for you to consider.
            .
            Thank you for revising your post so quickly.

          • maggie

            John, and you are god on this subject? Where exactly do you get to be the ultimate judge on this while the rest of us, including Dr. Greger are all wrong. A genuine question John. What exactly what are your qualifications for this decree. No respect intended here John. I just can’t see how you can be so adamant in your argument.

            I only buy organic and have genetic thyroid disease so can’t question if GMO is a factor as I wasn’t always eating strictly organic. Other arguments on the question of why so many diagnosed people with thyroid and other auto-immune diseases? Some are saying floride others our faucet drinking water, over use of anti-biotics etc. There are many studies going on and hopefully they will shed some light on this epidemic of diseases.

          • John

            Hello Maggie,
            I can’t imagine what you are even talking about. Apparently you have founded a new church and I am it’s god. Well, I resign.

            Apparently you believe that I am not allowed the constitutional right to disagree with Dr. Greger or anyone else. I believe that I am allowed to disagree. In fact, I believe that we are all allowed to disagree. What country do you live in? I don’t think I want to live there.
            John

          • GEBrand

            Filip, Please remember that Science does not operate on any hypothesis being “proved” or “disproved”. Science operates by the accumulation of large amounts of study results that, by the greater preponderance of the evidence, show a hypothesis to have greater value than not. When, eventually, the greater preponderance of the evidence of a hypothesis to be generally in agreement, the hypothesis is generally regarded as being correct and becomes, over time, a generally accepted theory. This is the foundational bedrock of Science. Even Einstein’s famous theory E=MC2 is still being evaluated and “proven”.

            So, while Filip is technically correct that there is “no proof” that GMO’s are bad for (us) in the first place”, there may not ever be “Proof”. However, there IS a body of scientific work that does legitimately raise concerning questions and worrisome issues about the safety of GMO’s when they are either consumed and/or released into the ecosystem. There are numerous scientific studies whose results are genuinely and legitimately scientifically worrisome.

            The significant issue in my mind is why we would release GMO products/animals into the world with no genuinely significant and meaningful understanding of their long-term effects. This issue is completely separate but in addition to any pesticide or dangerous-chemical issue.

            While Filip’s comment is perhaps technically correct at first glance, I think the comment is not well thought through . . just like GMO’s.

          • maggie

            Excellent post GEBrand. This is exactly my understanding after reading countless articles on this subject because of my auto-immune disease and gluten intolerance diagnosis which has been confirmed by the way and not in my head.

      • GEBrand

        Please remember that Science does not operate on any hypothesis being “proved” or “disproved”. Science operates by the accumulation of large amounts of study results that, by the greater preponderance of the evidence, show a hypothesis to have greater value than not. When, eventually, the greater preponderance of the evidence of a hypothesis to be generally in agreement, the hypothesis is generally regarded as being correct and becomes, over time, a generally accepted theory. This is the foundational bedrock of Science. Even Einstein’s famous theory E=MC2 is still being evaluated and “proven”.
        So, while Filip is technically correct that there is “no proof” that GMO’s are bad for (us) in the first place”, there may not ever be “Proof”. However, there IS a body of scientific work that does legitimately raise concerning questions and worrisome issues about the safety of GMO’s when they are either consumed and/or released into the ecosystem. There are numerous scientific studies whose results are genuinely worrisome.
        The significant issue in my mind is why we would release GMO products/animals into the world with no genuinely significant and meaningful understanding of their long-term effects.
        While Filip’s comment is perhaps technically correct at first glance, I think the comment is not well thought through . . just like GMO’s.

        • david

          Thomas Khun’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

          good stuff

        • david

          We should release GMOs into the wild because poor countries will need them. In the next twenty years, climate change, water shortages, extreme weather, places like Egypt or Bangladesh won’t be able to feed their masses without much higher yields in more extreme and variable conditions.

          Google “scuba rice” to see a great example.

  • Trailmomma

    I have diagnosed Celiac but oh how I wish it was all in my head or even potentially in my head. :( Some days I feel like I need to wear a scarlet letter “C” on my chest because when I tell people I need to order “gluten-free xyz” they inevitably roll their eyes and think I am paleo. I avoid any “gluten-free” processed products and opt for the naturally gluten-free things like fruits, veggies, beans and rice. I do hope they continue studying gluten though … not that I want a magic pill or anything, but reducing Celiac in children would be great. Thanks Dr. G for all your work!

    • Thea

      Traimmomma: I have read that the relatively recent gluten phobia phenomenon has been both helpful and problematic for people with celiac. On one hand, you now have access to more products than ever before. On the other hand, you get lumped in with people who are not true celiacs, which is a serious problem. I feel for you. Good luck.

      • Trailmomma

        Thanks Thea. :-)

      • peseta11

        Thea, just to complicate matters for Trailmomma and others, many ‘gluten-free’ have been reported to have gluten in them. I don’t know if the reporting is accurate.

        • Thea

          peseta11: If it is true, it’s seriously criminal. Terrible.

          • Karen McCormick

            Government standards for gluten free allow a certain amount anyway. If I remember correctly, its about 20-50 ppbl. Sometimes I get something marked “Gluten Free” and still get a reaction.

          • Thea

            I did not know that. Since it is my understanding that there is no safe level of gluten for someone with celiac disease, it is very sad that you can’t trust the gluten free label.

  • Mery Daae

    Finally some recognition on GS

  • justme

    Here is what I’ve read .. a long time ago … with this new wheat we have that has been bred to only stand about 18″ instead of the tall wheat it came from .. and in breeding this wheat there is another protein that is more abundant than in the wheat of old .. it was always there, just in smaller amounts, and it is that protein that people are sensitive to .. not gluten, but when they go gluten free they also don’t get this other protein, so they get better and blame gluten .. I dunno .. might of been a tall tale but, that was my take on the article.

    • Julie

      One single-blinded crossover study found that when subjects switched from eating regular wheat to ancient Kamut wheat their total cholesterol, LDL, blood glucose and inflammatory markers improved.
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23299714

      • TR M

        It isn’t just the GMO stuff that can mess us up. Using traditional techniques we have bred wheat with stronger bonds in the gluten. The gluten in modern wheat is very much more cohesive (hence the “glu” in gluten, ha ha) than spelt or older wheat. This was done so bread could be manufactured easier without air holes etc.
        If you over mix wheat dough you get a very hard pile of dough. If you over mix spelt you get a runny mess. So the gluten in at least those 2 crops behave very differently.

        • Filip

          With a sample size of 22 that study is worthless

      • Wilma Laura Wiggins

        Very interesting. Did they make sure both groups were free of the insecticides?

    • Carl

      Modern breeds of wheat may be a possible cause of this sensitivity. Are the people sensitive to emmer, einkorn, spelt, khoresan and other old varieties of wheat?

    • Mick

      It is even more likely that wheat became much much more abundant in our diet – wheat is everywhere – in bread too but also as a filler, thickener in many products (though recently corn took that over). More exposition to wheat results in wheat sensitivity being more likely.

  • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/10204425601955176/ Bill Weronko

    I cannot speak for anyone else but I had acid reflux and occasional brain fog. Upon advice I went to a wheat
    free diet and both symptoms went away completely. I have tried several times having pizza and the like with a quick and decisive recurrence. I am pretty sure it is the wheat (glutens?). This is too bad because I love bread. I have no such reaction to gluten free products.

    • Julie

      A friend of ours experienced the same as you. He eliminated gluten and his acid reflux vanished. Every time he eats gluten, he’s hit with acid reflux again.

    • guest

      Bill: It’s possible that the culprit is wheat. Or, it could be the yeast because fermentation of foods generate histamine, so all bread products contain histamine. Have you tried any non-fermented wheat products, like pasta?

      • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/10204425601955176/ Bill Weronko

        No, but I will. Thank you for the tip.

    • Johanna

      I have found I get brain fog from fatty food (e.g., cheese in pizza) or from a fatty Thanksgiving meal, after which I want to lie down on the couch and nap. So I would ask if you think it could be the cheese instead of the wheat? Just my thought….

  • nutritionmuse

    Gluten sensitivity is real and we do have some tests that can help identify those with sensitivity. There is a link to mental health and some of the most compelling literature is from Dr. Aristo Vodjani. His editorial in the European Journal of Immunology Vol. 6, no. 1, 0-0 (2008) is a good starting point to understanding this complex reaction. The Cyrex arrays which he helped develop have improved my ability in the clinic to differentiate those who are reactive to wheat/wheat components and those who are probably looking at another aspect of their lifestyle/nutrition that is causing symptoms. However, the absence of symptoms is often more important than lighting up a test panel which is just one step in the process of getting to the root cause of dis-ease. I agree that the VAST majority of ‘gluten fear’ on the internet is not founded in good science, there are many $ at stake, and lots of people using GS as a marketing strategy. Great topic Dr. Gregor! Thanks for tackling it!

    • Julie

      Approximately what percentage of your patients show reactions to wheat on their Cyrex lab tests?

      • peseta11

        …and are any/many checked first for celiac?

  • Martens

    The worse reaction I ever had was eating 10 grain cooked, bulk-bought mush with spelt and rye. But, I also had cooked apples, quince and cinnamon with it. I blamed it on either the exotic quince, too much cinnamon, or the spelt. Haven’t had the suspects again.

  • Douglas Jack

    META-ANALYSIS OF HUMAN DIET Gluten or Wheat sensitivity can be understood in terms of colonial destruction of humanity’s worldwide ‘indigenous’ (Latin ‘self-generating’) 3-dimensional OAK-led (other nuts as well) Polyculture Orchards worldwide on every habitable continent & island. Without the tree as earth’s primary biosphere technology, the sun is too powerful & burns all life. Nuts such as the acorn when properly processed are far more abundant, digestible & nutritious than colonial grain diets. In the Americas before colonization typical oak & other nut & productive trees were 150 years old. On 50 square metres (eg. 7.1 x 7.1 metres) of land a 150 year old oak tree next to a human settlement, fed urine & bio-digested fecal matter into leaf mulch on the surface along with other materials would produced up to 10 tonnes of acorns per year. The same area with the tree chopped down produces only 3 – 4 kilograms of wheat, barley, oats, rye etc. but only with massive ploughing, weeding, fertilizing, watering & processing of product. Humans as primates are traditionally stewards of the food tree with abundance for all species with very little labour. Colonists destroy the peace & abundance which attracts them. Imagine destroying 10 tonnes of practically free production in return for a lifetime of slavery for 3 – 4 kilograms.

    The rise of ‘exogenous’ (L ‘other-generated’) colonialism begins in Babylon, Mesopotamia 7 – 8,000 years ago simultaneously with 2-D ‘agricultural’ (Latin ‘ager’ = ‘field’) destruction of polyculture. 3-D tree canopies & understory food production is at least 100 times (10,000%) more productive of food, materials, energy & water-cycle than agriculture. However with the cutting of the hardwood oak & other food trees, military advantage was gained through the plastic (hard but able to be crafted) hardwoods applied to war-ships, forts, vehicles, bow, spear & catapult weapons etc for plunder & control. Part of violent colonialization is hierarchal institution command-&-control, which unfortunately also leads to untruths dominating forced-indoctrination in education, media, corporations, government, military, industry etc. As ecological-economic refugees from war-torn Europe, colonists in military-regimented invading under strict oligarch control could not feed, house, clothe or heal themselves for decades. 1st Nations here in the indigenous tradition, welcomed & provided these essential goods & services to the newly arrivals for decades only to be turned upon

    Humanity’s indigenous Polyculture Orchards photosynthesize 92-98% of solar energy into food abundance. Tree roots descend as deep as the canopy 10s of metres into the earth’s substrate pumping water, mining minerals & developing extensive nutrient colonies. Massive solar-energy polyculture photosynthesis creates cold spots on the continent which attract warm-moist ocean winds inland where 60% of water transfer is through condensation upon trillions of square kilometres of fractal leaf & bark surfaces. Only 40% of water falls as rain/snow. Our job isn’t just to resist colonization but to animate & align with life for all species to become productive & kind human beings again. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/design/1-indigenous-welcome-orchard-food-production-efficiencies

    • Vege-tater

      Permaculture on any level makes so much sense, mirroring natural systems as much as possible. On the other hand, monoculture is our downfall.

      • John

        Yes, it’s a little harder to learn, but permaculture gives us better quality food, more sustainable, better for wildlife, people are out getting sunshine, more bees and other pollinators, and less plant pathology in general. Like learning how to cook good food, it takes a little bit of learning, but it’s totally worth it. I have a food forest and it’s fantastic. John S

  • SH

    Thanks for covering this. I get a bit annoyed when non-celiac gluten sensitivity is dismissed out of hand when it has been real for me. This is one of a few areas where the medical establishment has failed people. My grandmother had celiac disease, I have the genes for it, and because of her experience it occurred to me a decade ago to cut gluten out of my diet and see how I felt. My doctor would not to do an endoscopy for celiac, only a blood test which at the time was unreliable, so I took matters into my own hands. A week after cutting out gluten, I lost 2 inches off my waist without dieting and my depression lifted. I was finally, after years of trying, able to wean myself off of Zoloft. The way I manage things now is I don’t worry about contamination, and if once in awhile I eat something with gluten in it the only symptom is heartburn. One time however I ate something with gluten every day for two weeks as a kind of test, and I ended up depressed and with digestive issues. I doubt I have celiac (I should have properly tested a long time ago though), and I don’t honestly know whether it is wheat sensitivity or gluten sensitivity, but it doesn’t really matter to me. I have other food sensitivities and allergies anyway; milk, coconut, bananas and hazelnuts. I am not putting a whole lot of money in the GF food industry pockets, because I am WFPB and only buy occasional GF bread or bagels, not GF junk food. If doctors had been proactive about testing people properly for celiac, especially people with a family history, maybe some of these problems would have come to light much sooner. The American medical community was clueless about celiac, it was hard for Americans to get diagnosed, and they assumed it was extremely rare, even though the numbers in Ireland and Italy were higher, so I blame them for being narrow-minded more than I blame ordinary people just trying to feel better.

    • Vege-tater

      Smart, there is nothing to lose from trying an elimination diet to test a suspected culprit, and saves all the rigmarole of questionable lab testing. As long as overall nutrition is solid, cutting out an isolated ingredient shouldn’t be an issue and may improve many others.

  • Colliemom

    Fascinating. Ten years ago I tried an elimination diet to see what triggered morning migraines. Coffee, peanut butter and soy milk were suspect. There was no change until I eliminated my sprouted wheat bread. A doctor’s tests showed no conclusive evidence of wheat sensitivity, but to this day
    I still have some sensitivity after consuming pizza or muffins. Avoiding wheat products means fewer headaches and less sinus congestion for me.

  • Greg_X

    It’s now common practice to use Roundup just before harvesting conventional wheat. Using Roundup on the crop at that point substantially increases yield by encouraging greater seed release & by acting as a desiccant. The increasing prevalence of this practice seems to strongly correlate with the rise in Celiac-gluten sensitivity-wheat allergy incidence. Google search the following for a number interesting articles, some including charts, on the increased use of glyphosates vs corresponding increases in Celiac incidence & other serious disorders: ‘ Hospital discharge diagnosis (any) of celiac disease ICD-9 579 and glyphosate applications to wheat (R=0.9759, p≤1.862e-06). Sources: USDA:NASS; CDC. (Figure courtesy of Nancy Swanson) ‘

    • Rebecca Cody

      I’m glad you brought this up. Spraying Roundup on soon-to-be-harvested wheat has to be contributing to many problems people have with wheat and/or gluten.

      Another problem is that our commercial wheat has been hybridized to the point where it now forms many more types of gluten and types that have never been eaten by humans before. It seems that, when people reproduce, the offspring get half their genes from each parent, but when wheat is hybridized it keeps all the genes from every parent, or at least many more than the original grains had. So there is a lot to consider and many studies need to tease these issues apart and find the answers.

      At one point I was about 40 pounds overweight and having a lot of trouble with reflux. My ND said, “Reflux is a wheat problem and an overweight problem.” Stopping wheat was quicker, so I did and the reflux was gone in two days. I then went on to lose the weight and I’ve not had any reflux since.

    • Julie

      While glyphosate can certainly be causing symptoms, it is not exclusive to wheat. Round Up is sprayed as a post-harvest dessiccant on so many crops, including all non-organic beans and grains. So I’d say that both glyphosate AND gluten cause problems separately, and are even worse together.

      • SH

        I wonder if this is also why I can’t tolerate non-organic soy!

        • Julie

          It may be. In addition to being covered with glyphosate, non-organic soy is genetically modified, which can certainly cause problems.

  • Cheryl

    Gluten Sensitivity is because of SIBO. And also people who are not dx’d Celiac still have autoimmune diseases and most of the comorbidities of celiac disease as well and may be sicker because giving up gluten does not make them well.

    • SH

      This is so true, I also have Hashimoto’s. I am low energy because of it. Have to say that going WFPB has helped a lot though.

      • Cheryl

        My problem is now I cannot even eat the healthy foods. There is very little I tolerate unless I go on a water fast for days and then I can eat healthy foods. I’m allergic to oats, cashews,rice, tomatoes, dairy, beans and some fish. I was even allergic to carrots at one point.

        My daughter has Hashimoto’s.

        • SH

          Yikes! I hope there is a doctor that can work with you. One thing that gives me hope is that the plant kingdom is so huge, there are so many alternatives, you just have to find them and figure out how to work with them. But no need to starve!

  • Darcelle Rancourt

    I don’t know what to think of gluten anymore. When I first went plant-based I decided to go gluten-free as well and I developed rosacea. I reintroduced gluten back into my diet (I didn’t want to return to eating animal products) because I thought the removal of it might’ve upset the gut flora, but it didn’t help. Now I don’t know if it’s worth trying GF again or not (I did not notice any physical benefits from not consuming gluten). Seems like most people only talk about it helping IBS or eczema, nothing about rosacea.

    • CHP

      Darcelle. I am gluten intolerant and among my six symptoms was rosacea. Once I eliminated wheat and gluten, my rosacea disappeared and hasn’t returned in my four years of being gluten-free, no matter the temperature outside or how many glasses of red wine I consume!

  • Vege-tater

    Could be just me but once I started eating WFPB and cut out all animal products and processed foods including fats and oils, any food sensitivities and almost all my health issues in general, subsided or disappeared. Getting your diet right is everything!

    • Thea

      Vege-tater: It’s definitely not just you. I have read other accounts on line of people who were say gluten-sensitive and later lost that sensitivity (ie, could start eating gluten/wheat again) after switching to a whole plant food based diet. This phenomenon of losing food sensitivities is not a guarantee, but it can give people hope. Thanks for sharing that part of your story.

    • bex

      Even people who earnestly eat a WFPB can still have trouble with T2 diabetes. While this diet helps many, it doesn’t help all and is not a cure all. I know people who eat this way plus exercise but still need medication to help manage their T2 diabetes. Their medication needs decreased (yeah!) but didn’t go away. A WFPB diet didn’t get rid of their diabetes altogether.

      Changing your lifestyle can certainly have a huge impact on health (for good and bad). A WFPB specifically can have a huge positive impact on many diseases but please don’t sell it as an automatic cure. It’s better to sell it as a way to decrease dependence on medication and possibly get off of it for many common first world diseases as well as a way to feel better in general. Please be careful not to make promises that may not be able to be fulfilled. Genetics still plays a role and can cause some to still need medication even when they’re following a WFPB diet.

      • Vege-tater

        I understand that there are some who may still have to medicate, but they are the minority for various reasons. Diabetes was rare in cultures who ate a good diet and now it is virtually epidemic! I know very few my age (63) who don’t have it! I thought following the ADA diet and exercise advice was the right thing, but it got me nowhere. It took a lot of research and work and I had to keep cutting back on things to find where the issues were, but with the help of FOK, after many years of diabetes and a slew of medications, 3 weeks of faithfully following a McDougall type diet reversed it. Some say once you have diabetes you will never “reverse” it, even if you get your diet right you are just “controlling it” with diet. That is nonsense because if getting your diet wrong is what caused it, getting your diet right will fix it! I realize we all have different genetics and therefore tendencies to certain issues, but a “disease” is never a shortage of medication, which only palliates symptoms and often cause more issues. Granted, masking symptoms may make it more tolerable and prolong survival, but the disease is still doing damage. If and when possible, rooting out the cause and remedying what you can is the goal. Not always possible I know, nature does make mistakes, but the pill for every ill mentality will never advance the real goal for solutions instead of bandaids.

    • SH

      Yes this is true for me as well. I used to be intolerant of peppers, eggplant and some other things that I can now eat. It didn’t get rid of everything though.

      • Vege-tater

        I still seem to have a few minor issues, but nothing at all like before, and not even problematic enough to really fret over, I like the tastes too much! LOL. Like I’ve said before, besides going WFPB, adding cultured foods to my diet really helped a lot too, along with being able to cut out the slew of pharmaceuticals that probably complicated the issues!

      • Paul

        I love all those nightshades! But I guess I’m fortunate I can eat them without problems.

    • aribadabar

      What are the cons that you see in using Extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil?
      The PREDIMED study as well as its copious use reported throughout history and particularly by the the longest lived human, Jeanne Calment, suggest it cannot be that bad.
      Yes, she also smoked but I think her genes+ the EVOO/DARK chocolate combo mitigated the deleterious effects of the tobacco smoke. Not stressing out over dayjob also helped, I am sure.

      Anyway, would be glad to hear/see your thoughts on EVOO in light of Jeanne’s case.

      • Vege-tater

        For me, I was diabetic and learned that T2 diabetes is a disease of intramyocellular lipids, too much fat in the cell, preventing insulin from doing it’s job of regulating the entry of glucose, and causing it to circulate and spill into the urine. I had been told that diabetes was the fault of heredity, carbs and sugar, and though avoiding them may help moderate glucose spikes, it never did a thing to fix it. Cutting fats did, and reversed it in a couple weeks! I was basically vegetarian anyway, so the biggest change was cutting added oils. What even the ADA pushed was BS, the facts were very different from what I had been told even by my doctors, and Dr G helped with my own efforts to eliminate the issue. Not only reversed diabetes, but arthritis, fibromyalgia, IBS, chronic fatigue, high everything, the list goes on. I was on a slew of medications for each issue and had no quality of life, needed a cart to get around. Going fully plant based helped a lot,
        but cutting the fat was what really got quick results and reduced inflammation also. I feel if that can reverse disease, than it should work to prevent it too. When you stop being young, your body stops being so forgiving. Nature only cares that we live long enough to reproduce…and I would like to live in good health as long as possible, so…. I’m not saying EVOO is going to kill you, but it sure was NOT helping! My body didn’t care whether they were “good” fats, only that they were fat! YMMV, proceed at your own risk, but my enforced “education” was not fun and I would have preferred to avoid it, if I knew better then!

        • aribadabar

          Thanks for the insight and experience shared. Does this mean that high-fat whole foods are also out of question – nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut (shreds) and the child of “good” fat + carb – 85%+ dark chocolate? And if yes, do you use anything at all as a fat source?

          • Vege-tater

            I generally try my best to keep it around 10% overall, but it can vary from day to day and yeah, only from whole foods…with the rare exception of a few drops of toasted sesame, truffle, or mustard oil for flavor. I am a chocoholic, better for me to avoid it and use cocoa powder because I can’t eat just one! LOL. I craved it for a while, but it passed along with the other fat cravings! A big warm mug of cocoa avena satisfies my chocolate monkey and the smoothness gives me that melty texture too. Well, close enough!

          • aribadabar

            This made me think – sounds like you are ApoE 4/4 which is characterized by a notoriously bad lipid metabolism. Have you done 23andMe or any other genetic testing?

  • Emma Kyte

    I’ve been vegan for several years, but I developed reactions to gluten after a period of stress that I believe kickstarted autoimmune symptoms (crohn’s and colitis run in my family). I’m studying to be a dietitian and know enough to tell that it is absolutely something in wheat that I’m reacting to. I can not eat any wheat for months and then eat some pizza and I’ll have tooth pain almost immediately after, followed by a noticeable increase in joint and muscle pain, fatigue and headaches that I only seem to get after eating wheat. I don’t have coeliac disease, so what is the problem if not gluten sensitivity?

    • Julie

      Sounds like gluten sensitivity to me.

      • SH

        Me too!

  • TheHulk

    There is no such thing as gluten sensitivity in India. I have never heard anyone in India, having problems eating wheat. What might be the reason behind it ? Our staple diet is usually Roti (made from wheat), vegetables, salads, Dal (lentils) and Rice. In evening usually it’s just one grain item (either wheat or rice).

  • Matthew Smith

    I have chicken arms, which I think is evidence of Celiac disease.

    • Vege-tater

      Chicken arms? That must mean wings…can you fly? lol

      • Matthew Smith

        I’m sorry, I believe I mean Keratosis Pilaris (Chicken Skin). You might be able to find a picture.

        • Vege-tater

          You know I was just kidding you I hope? It looks similar to what my son had when he was young.

    • WFPBRunner

      Matthew do you eat dairy? I had bumps on the back of my arms that cleared up when I gave up dairy. Same with my daughter.

      • Paul

        I had KP before starting WFPB in the early 90s. It disappeared completely and never returned.

  • Lucy Salerno

    Dr. Gregor, I just finished watching your video, Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death. It was truely amazing. I’ve been a quasi vegan for about six months now but after the information you presented in your video, I will definitely be going back to being a full-blown vegan.

  • Vege-tater

    I can eat seitan without a problem, which is pretty much pure gluten, yet on the very rare occasions I eat commercial raised dough products, I will feel kind of lousy. Not sick exactly, just blah and bloaty. My own sourdough bread never fazes me, even on the rare occasions I’ve resorted to using the plain white flour I feed the culture with, so I am suspicious it must be the something(s) in the commercial processing that is the culprit. Well, specifically for me anyway.

  • David

    The harm from too much gluten has much more to do with than just gut symptoms. Gluten is related to insulin resistance, for example. Today’s wheat has much more gluten than the wheat of 50 years ago. Instead of a black-and-white discussion we should recognize that most people can tolerate gluten, but there is a downside to too much gluten intake.

    • Thea

      David: Gluten is just plant protein. I can’t think why plant protein would be related to insulin resistance unless maybe??? because someone is eating a giant amount of seitan (pure gluten). (My thinking: I know eating meat is related to insulin resistance. And meat has a lot of protein. Animal protein is usually safer, but maybe there is a special case where it is not?….) Do you happen to have a link to studies showing gluten is related to insulin resistance–especially when eaten as part of wheat berries or spelt, etc? I’ve never seen that. Thanks.

  • Mary

    Thank you for all the great articles and videos. It seems lately that many sites are shooting for contrast in the text. Key words/phrases/headlines in dark bold print. And the main body of the articles in a much faded print. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I’m finding it really a strain to read all of this wonderful information. Anyone else find there has been a change that is hard to adapt too?

  • Toni

    I eat gluten free because of a diagnosis of a wheat allergy 30 years ago. However, when I travel to Greece (family) and eat an occasional slice of bread I am not bothered by symptoms. They are a non-GMO country.

  • Debbie

    Okay… I have been searching all over for info on WHEAT allergy as in anaphylaxis, that I developed at age 51! I have been eating mostly a plant based diet and had cut back greatly on processed bread, pasta etc., but was taking a cooking class and made seitan, and discovered the allergy. Thankful I am a nurse and educate myself on all things nutrition, because my doc just confirmed with blood test and said… stay away from wheat and here is your epi pen! Ugh! Here is the kicker, yep, still drink an occasional beer, I can only guess that my desire to drink dark craft brews keep me from allergy issues and I assume the fermentation process… but seriously would really enjoy picking Dr. Greger’s vast vaults of knowledge to figure this one out, not just my antedotal assumptions!

  • david

    Just a thought for a topic to research: FODMAP, (but not related to gluten, but as an alternative to gluten free diets).

    I did the elimination diet in this book http://smile.amazon.com/dp/B007R7SPYM , and it worked 100%. The author has a masters degree in nutrition from Cornell. The book has 230 reviews and 4.5 stars.

    It turns out the fructans in wheat is part of the problem, not gluten.

    I thank you and hope to hear more on this popular topic.

    • Paul

      Do low FODMAP people not eat beans?

  • Glutenfree16

    Hello. I was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and an internet search lead me to a series of articles that scared me quite a bit. I believe posting a link is not permitted, but it can be found by searching “The Celiac Disease Epidemic – Why Gluten Free Isn’t Enough”. I read the series of articles which basically claims that 2/3 of those diagnosed who maintain strict gluten free diets see minimal healing of the damaged intestines and that Celiac sufferers are up to 3X more likely to die due to complications or related diseases (i.e. cancer) because the auto-immune component of this disease is never really shut off.
    Is there any scientific evidence that gluten-free diets aren’t enough of a solution for those diagnosed?
    Thank you for any help.

    • Thea

      GlutenFree16: It is perfectly fine to post a link to an article.
      .
      I don’t know the answer to your question, but I’m sure you are aware to be very careful about believing what you read on the internet. Hopefully someone else will have some more specific information for you.

      • Glutenfree16

        Thank you Thea. I do understand that. Having been through cancer with a loved one, I know the internet can sometimes be a wealth of info. and sometimes a cesspool of misinformation. The multi-article Celiac series ended with a “Webinar offer” that just so happens is being held in 2 days (what luck!). Lol. It just wreaks of some type of sales ploy. I guess I’ll see…
        Thanks again.

  • jostoich

    Another factor is the presence of glyphosate in grain products, especially wheat. Non-organic grains not only contain residue of glyphosate from agricultural application during cultivation, but it is also commonly applied post harvest as well. Glyphosate, aka Roundup has been shown to cause dysbiosis in the gut and is now being classified as a probable carcinogen. I adopted a gluten free diet more than 15 years ago because I was having some gut issues, mostly unexplained constipation and bloating. I can affirm that it was not just occurring from wheat intolerance. I had always enjoyed eating oatmeal for breakfast a couple days a week and that is when I began having the worst symptoms. I was already dairy free, so I know it was not dairy related either. After reading about the gluten free diet, I decided to try it on my own. The results were blatant. My condition improved and reversed to normal after a a few weeks. If I ingest gluten, such as a single slice of cake on my birthday, I have symptoms right away that takes weeks to resolve. I also connect eating gluten to experiencing an increase in inflammation systemically throughout my body (increased joint pain/arthritic symptoms). I did get tested by my pcp doctor for celiac disease and also consulted a rheumatologist who ran tests for the markers for gluten sensitivity and the tests showed nothing. Regardless of what the tests indicate, I will not eat gluten willingly or knowingly. I know what it does to me and feel much better without it. Who feels it, knows it. It is out of my diet for good.

  • Cynthia Kirk

    There are a couple of things missed by this article. One of the potential issues with gluten sensitivity/ intolerance may be more directly related to the pesticide protocols currently in place in the USA for wheat production. Massive amounts of RoundUp (Monsanto) are used during the harvest of wheat. Is RoundUp persisting in the food chain? Is that causing illness? The other thing that was mentioned in passing was folks on a gluten free diet were given identical foods either with or without wheat. Seriously? You don’t think someone can tell the difference? If you put two different slices of bread in front of me I could always tell the difference. There is no doubt that anyone on a gluten free diet could tell the difference. Texture, taste, smell they are all there in wheat based products. Traveling through France 6 years ago was almost torture.

    I went GF after my 3rd sibling was diagnosed actual Celiac by biopsy 10 years ago. I am the youngest of 6. I had genetic tests done and a stool sample tested that showed genetic predisposition to gluten sensitivity and a definite sensitivity to gluten showing up in the stool. About 6 months into being GF I realized my very regular headaches had almost disappeared. My allergies were barely noticeable. I used to get a sinus infection once or twice a year. I’ve had one or two in ten years.

    For my older siblings the symptoms of celiac disease did not appear until they were well into their 40’s and one in her 50’s. By then my sister’s thyroid function was shot. All of her “regular” tests fro celiac came back normal — until her doctor took a quick biopsy as a just to be sure measure when he was doing an endoscopy.

    It would be wonderful if there was an accurate test. But I don’t think they have figured it out yet. Celiac / Gluten Sensitivity is a weird health issue. It’s easy to miss and it pops up with many different types of symptoms. It doesn’t’ always cause stomach issues.

    My brothers are glad (and so am I) that GF is the disease du jour. It has contributed to an explosion of food choices that were non-existent 20 years ago. Even 10 years ago there was no where to get a decent loaf of bread. Now I can go the local supermarket and buy a loaf of Udi’s and so much more.

    Lots of people think GF is healthy. Unless you are careful, it can be very unhealthy. I don’t recommend it if you don’t need it. Most GF foods are high in sugars and fat — to make them taste better.

  • Jerry LA

    Reports in the Journals (NEJM?) were the pervasive artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharine, … over time affect gut microbes such that gluten is not properly digested. This relates to people who drink lots of Diet soft drinks
    gaining weight. The artificial sweeteners cause insulin activity – body sees “sweet”, cranks up insulin, stores whatever it can find in the blood as fat. Processed Food Inc. has been sneakily inserting artificial sweeteners in lots of products so this could be the root cause of the sudden widespread gluten problems. We do vegetables, fruits, whole grains (including those with gluten), legumes, nuts, seeds very little processed foods, no problems. Point is, in these gluten/gluten free studies, are the researchers and participants scrupulously avoiding any and all artificial sweeteners.

  • Jacob Dijkstra, MD

    The dousing of wheat with glyphosate before harvesting came recently to my attention. It appears to make it easier on the combines to harvest the crop. I would like a reliable source to confirm this for me. I know two people very closely who think that they are wheat (gluten?) sensitive. One person had no problem eating plenty of wheat pasta in Italy (no glyphosate use before harvesting?), but has serious intestinal problems with wheat, including pasta, in this country. The other person tolerates organic (no herbicides/pesticides) wheat products at home, but has serious problems eating wheat products outside of the house (restaurants etc.).

  • Iluv Merengue

    Gluten or let’s say wheat sensitivity doesn’t have the same effect on anyone. What it did to me was: make bloated by retaining lots of water, making my eyes puffy, worsening my nasal congestion to the point I’d get frequent and frightening apnea attacks. When I began suspecting it could be the wheat my father had already been suffering from celiac for years. I just opted for stopping it, then I read that most people could handle it again after 6 mo. to a year of abstinence so I started eating it again but after a while the symptoms returned, and soon I noticed that I could eat wheat, and also dairy – my other trigger – during the cool months but had to stop as soon as the temperatures rose. I believed it to be a relationship with fungus in the air so I did this for several years. But in ’11 I broke my rule and ate wheat (and dairy) during the summer and very soon I got terribly depressed. I stopped but I got even worse, even had a serious thyroiditis attack (I did know there was a relationship between wheat intolerance or celiac with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis but I’d done my best to ignore it).
    After several months of abstinence I made the choice of eating bread (and cheese) again becausen I was broke and it was at least 4x cheaper to buy a big loaf of whole wheat bread as opposed to a small g/f one, this didn’t even last too long but about 2 mo. after I stopped I had another thyroiditis attack and possibly a gallbladder attack at the same time, there was actually not much I could eat without getting like a panic attack so once again I cleaned up my diet. I spent about 15 mo. wheat-free before I went at it again. But this time I made a rule to eat it every other day and at one meal only (if I could…) and that helped but after over a year of this little game I decided to stop for good. That was early last year, then many months later stubborn me decided to make one “small”l exception and I ended up with horrible colic in the middle of the night and that convinced me I should never play with it again.
    Now that I am vegan I wish I could eat it so I could have more options. A friend brought me a pkg. of vegan sausages a while back but I haven’t touched them because one of the top ingredients is wheat gluten and I’m afraid of a reaction, I’m afraid that they’ll end up in the trash (and they’re not cheap!).

  • soulsista

    I was diagnosed with celiac disease by endoscopy 6 years ago. I was classified as a Marsh IIIa, which means I had partial atrophy of the villi in my small intestine. I went strict gluten free, and remain so to this day. About 3 years ago, the gastroenterologist declared that my villi had regenerated, and I don’t have evidence of damage from gluten. This was great news, except that I still had frequent episodes of feeling like I ate gluten, and was diagnosed with chronic gastritis. I had fatigue, joint pain, and stomach upset, but I couldn’t seem to equate it with any food I was eating. I was told to take prevacid and return in 3 years. I did not accept that answer and found another gastroenterologist who put me on a FODMAP free diet. (FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates (oligosaccharides), disaccharides, monosaccharides and related alcohols that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. These include short chain (oligo-) saccharide polymers of fructose (fructans) and galactose (galactans), disaccharides (lactose), monosaccharides (fructose), and sugar alcohols (polyols) such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol. – Wikipedia)
    He also had me take Benefiber powder in the morning and evenings. My life has DRAMATICALLY changed for the better. I was having malabsorption related to ingesting certain FODMAPS. I went very strict for a month, and felt so much better, except that this is a very strict diet. I started reintroducing foods slowly, and found out which FODMAPS were causing problems. (This is where the Benefiber really helps, it absorbs the gastric juices produced by the malabsorption and greatly reduces or eliminates stomach discomfort) I found that I cannot eat lentils, asparagus, chocolate liquor (used in many chocolates, especially in baked goods), avocados, and other FODMAPS. Interestingly, gluten is a FODMAP, too. I have seen a few articles stating that non-celiac gluten intolerance is really a FODMAP intolerance. I hope this post helps someone out there, because it has made a huge difference in my energy level and inflammation level. As a bonus, after a few weeks on the no FODMAP diet I started losing weight like crazy. I thought my thyroid was acting up, but everything was normal. I cannot prove it, but I think my weight loss – 30lbs – has to do with decreased inflammation. My weight has stabilized at a healthy level.

    • WFPBRunner

      But you are ok with beans? This post was great and should be helpful for many. Asparagus? Crazy right?

  • Marco

    Could you please comment on the findings in this article: Interdiscip Toxicol. 2013 Dec;6(4):159-84. doi: 10.2478/intox-2013-0026.

    Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance.

    Samsel , Seneff