Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?

Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?
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For more than 30 years, the medical profession has debated the existence of an intolerance to the wheat protein, gluten, unrelated to allergy or celiac disease. What is the evidence pro and con?

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In 1980, researchers in England reported a series of women who suffered from chronic diarrhea that resolved on a gluten-free diet, yet didn’t have evidence of celiac disease, the autoimmune disorder associated with gluten intolerance. The medical profession was skeptical at the time, and even 30 years later, so much so, that much like patients who had irritable bowel syndrome, patients claiming non-celiac gluten sensitivity were commonly referred to psychiatrists because they were believed to have an underlying mental illness. Psychological testing of such patients, however, found no evidence that they were suffering from some psychosomatic hysteria.

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

On the flipside, the internet is rife with unsubstantiated claims about gluten-free diets, which has spilled over into the popular press to make gluten the diet villain du jour. Claims like ‘17 million Americans are gluten sensitive.’ However, it must be remembered that this is also ‘big business.’

When literally billions are at stake it’s hard to trust anybody, so as always, 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 was unfortunately very thin because we didn’t have 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. Like they give you a muffin and you’re not told 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. So it was truly ‘in their heads.’

But 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 the placebo gluten-free bread and muffins.

They started out gluten-free and symptom-free for two weeks and then they were challenged with the bread and muffins. Here’s 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. But the small group that got the actual gluten, felt worse still. So, they concluded, this non-celiac gluten intolerance thing may actually exist.

It was a small study, though, and even though they 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 of filled with wheat flour or filled with placebo powder. And more than 2/3’s failed the test, like they got 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, confirming the existence of a non-celiac wheat sensitivity. Note they said wheat sensitivity, not gluten sensitivity.

Gluten itself may not be causing gut symptoms at all. See most people with wheat sensitivity have a variety of other food sensitivities. Two thirds are sensitive to cow’s milk protein as well, then eggs were the most common culprit.

So if you put people on a diet low in common triggers of irritable bowel symptoms and then challenge them with gluten, there’s no effect. Same increase in symptoms with high gluten, low gluten or no gluten, calling into question the very existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

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

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to feeb via Flickr.

In 1980, researchers in England reported a series of women who suffered from chronic diarrhea that resolved on a gluten-free diet, yet didn’t have evidence of celiac disease, the autoimmune disorder associated with gluten intolerance. The medical profession was skeptical at the time, and even 30 years later, so much so, that much like patients who had irritable bowel syndrome, patients claiming non-celiac gluten sensitivity were commonly referred to psychiatrists because they were believed to have an underlying mental illness. Psychological testing of such patients, however, found no evidence that they were suffering from some psychosomatic hysteria.

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

On the flipside, the internet is rife with unsubstantiated claims about gluten-free diets, which has spilled over into the popular press to make gluten the diet villain du jour. Claims like ‘17 million Americans are gluten sensitive.’ However, it must be remembered that this is also ‘big business.’

When literally billions are at stake it’s hard to trust anybody, so as always, 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 was unfortunately very thin because we didn’t have 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. Like they give you a muffin and you’re not told 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. So it was truly ‘in their heads.’

But 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 the placebo gluten-free bread and muffins.

They started out gluten-free and symptom-free for two weeks and then they were challenged with the bread and muffins. Here’s 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. But the small group that got the actual gluten, felt worse still. So, they concluded, this non-celiac gluten intolerance thing may actually exist.

It was a small study, though, and even though they 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 of filled with wheat flour or filled with placebo powder. And more than 2/3’s failed the test, like they got 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, confirming the existence of a non-celiac wheat sensitivity. Note they said wheat sensitivity, not gluten sensitivity.

Gluten itself may not be causing gut symptoms at all. See most people with wheat sensitivity have a variety of other food sensitivities. Two thirds are sensitive to cow’s milk protein as well, then eggs were the most common culprit.

So if you put people on a diet low in common triggers of irritable bowel symptoms and then challenge them with gluten, there’s no effect. Same increase in symptoms with high gluten, low gluten or no gluten, calling into question the very existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

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

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to feeb via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

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 video series summarizing the best available science on gluten. Stay tuned for 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 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.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

75 responses to “Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?

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  1. I think there is a typo in the Doc’s Note:

    Stay tuned for Gluten-Free Diets: Separating the Wheat from the Chat and

    Is it not “separating the wheat from the chaff“?




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          1. I take this chance to thank you Dr Michael Greger for all your incredible work, informations and this wonderful site that is one of my favourite in the world of Human Nutrition !!

            I think that one day thanks to sites like this, the importance of Preventive Medicine through Nutrition will be an important part of Med school and related field.

            Best regards,

            Mauro, Italy




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  2. Sometimes it is the amount given that provokes reactions. Environmental medicine physicians know this concept very well. One capsule of say oat flour or oat bran is not going to cause me to blow up and get diarrhea. But a small bowl of oatmeal WILL do so! Wheat is the same. And sometimes it is because these gluten containing grains are considered high FODMAP foods. FODMAP is an acronym, deriving from “Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols.” I follow a low fodmap diet to keep my bloating symptoms under control.

    I no longer believe in blind and double blind studies for the most part anymore. They have to take out too many variables by necessity and thus can never tell the full picture of anything. Sometimes they can be useful but they are severely limited. Even for drug testing they are limited as there is always the curve that did not benefit from the drug and the curve that got bad reactions. A statistical average means nothing if one’s individual biochemistry cannot properly metabolize a drug. Same with food




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    1. Hi Linda, I was going to make a few observations but noted that your point about the problem with blind and double blind studies seemed to be a good take off point.

      I developed psoriatic arthritis about 6 years ago and when my rheumatologist suggested methotrexate I decided to investigate dietary factors to avoid that. Turns out gluten can be a factor in about 15% of cases and since I have a sibling with celiac disease I decided to eliminate gluten instead of doing an elimination diet. 10 days later the arthritis disappeared.

      Case settled right? Well no, I was also vitamin D deficient and had also begun rectifying that with supplements. So maybe there is confusion here. But anytime I inadvertently consumed even the smallest amount of gluten I would wake up with intense arthritic pain in my distal joints.

      Well I kept studying and two years ago came across this site. It did not take long for me to realize that there are a lot of pro inflammatory factors in animal products so I went with WFPBD. Within a relatively short time the remaining swelling in my toes disappeared and I became much less gluten sensitive. That is, I could have my vegan wrap in a whole wheat tortilla with no ill effect. Well at least not for the first one. This week I have had a wrap every day, (they are really good) and this morning the swelling has returned with great intensity.

      So my conclusion is that I am much less gluten sensitive but probably need to limit the gluten. (Maybe I’ll cut those wraps down to 2 a week.)

      Now to your point about double blind studies. Six years ago, I could have participated in one and been part of the proof that gluten was THE problem. Six years latter, the picture is much murkier. Turns out there are a multiplicity of factors and gluten seems to be one. So I’m looking forward to the next two chapters on this.




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      1. That sounds like what happens to me. I tried wheat pasta and bread once after going vegan without noticing much, maybe a little swelling and pain in my ankles for a day or two, but not much, and I’m used to that happening for unknown reasons. Then a couple weeks later I ate a lot of wheat three days in a row and could barely walk for 3-4 days after I stopped eating wheat. Then a couple days ago I got some vegan green chili sauce on rice and beans at Whole Foods, the swelling and pain came back, along with a really bad mood. It lasted 2 days. I’m guessing the sauce had wheat added to thicken it. Seems like a dose dependent response to me.




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        1. Yeah, I’ve gotten in trouble trusting things from Whole foods that were done in their deli. A few years ago I saw some gumbo, read the label and had it for lunch. That night while in pain I remembered blindly following the ingredient list. It was perhaps my own fault as I do know that wheat is in gumbo but I was on auto pilot. Another time I was reading ingredients in another of their deli dishes and came across the precise ingredient, “sauce”. At that point I brought out the manager.




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          1. “Sauce”??? Wow, can’t believe that was allowed! LOL. And I have had the similar auto-pilot experience you mention when looking for vegan food.




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          2. Been going over so much info on this website and learning a BUNCH! So, what happened with that “sauce” ingredient? did they tell you what the heck it meant or ?… haha




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            1. Hey J. She was as mystified as I. And she’s promised corrective action. Alas I did not see much conviction in her response so we’ll see. I did tell her how dangerous that was (actually I ranted a bit) so she might have been feeling that.




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      2. Interesting stories from all you guys. Thanks for sharing. Now, Stewart, I have held the theory that some of these sensitivities can be corrected if they did not exist at one point in a person’s life. Since you noticed the corrective potential of a WFPBD, what do you think about trying raw? I recently did raw before 4pm and noticed some great benefits and I’m not suffering from anything specific except occasional bloating. Thoughts?




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        1. Oh come on joebosauce. Anyone posting here is likely to be opinionated to some degree and I’m no exception.

          The bio availability of phytonutrients might be enhance or destroyed by cooking. And, as is the case with mushrooms,certain toxic aspects can be reduced or eliminated without compromising the useful phytonutrients by cooking. I have heard (though not confirmed) that there is a problem with raw cabbage. But cooking cabbage can destroy myrosinase that is necessary in forming sulfurophane which is really beneficial.

          The bottom line is, I’m not convinced that raw as a rule is a good idea. So, I try to go raw when that seems best and cook when that seems best. It depends on the food. Indeed I suspect your mild gastric distress could easily be countered by cooking some of those veggies. Unfortunately we don’t always know which ones.

          Good luck on finding out. I’ll sure be interested.




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        2. I too am eating a raw till four diet. Really it’s just choosing one meal to eat hot but I notice crazy bloating after my hot meal. Painful sometimes :( idk what it is because its never the same meal although I don’t like cold beans so perhaps that’s the culprit. I too have a siblings that have celiac disease so I avoid moat gluten laden foods not only because I don’t want to endure any side effects but most wheat products aren’t vegan anyway! There are so many benefits from going raw, plant based diets have been preventing diseases and cancers for years so its convinced me.




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  3. Just a random thought since I notice digestive issues with gluten free and gluten products with or without eggs or dairy…its not the gluten but something else. There are so many different ingredients how can anyone know for sure…it could be increased fiber causing the bloat as well.




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  4. Have you heard of the theory that it is actually not gluten that supposedly causes certain symptoms but adenosintriphosphate-amylase (ATI) that is enriched in modern grains through century-long cultivation?




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  5. Yikes, that was pretty complicated (though well done). I wonder if this suggests that we should look for environmental triggers of broader automimmune conditions like leaky gut syndrome (I think that’s an autoimmune condition though I’m not a health care professional…) which could lead to wider classes of food intolerance. E.g. I think there’s been speculation that one type of pesticide that works by giving leaky gut syndrome to pests, might have a similar effect on humans.




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  6. Let’s take wheat and treat it like an herb or drug. What if it has upper limits? What if it has contra-indications? It might have both benefits and non-benefits. Of coarse there might be a type of pollutant. Seems to be a lot of variables. But we eat so much of it it’s worth it. I deprived myself of a lot of food with the “eat right for your blood type” diet. Don’t want to do that again.




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  7. Almost ten years ago I read some information that made me decide to start grinding my own wheat and making my own bread for health reasons. At the time gluten was not even an issue. It was about the lack of nutrients and health benefits eating store bought bread/flour vs. the over abundance of nutrients and the benefits of using fresh ground wheat. It wasn’t until recently that I came across an article from a blog I subscribe to that the whole gluten sensitivity and fresh ground wheat “came together” for me.

    http://www.millersgrainhouse.com/milling/gluten-may-not-be-your-problem/#sthash.JNfZ6Yha.dpbs

    From a health perspective, it makes so much sense. Whole foods, not highly processed, is what will give us better health and store bought bread or flour is HIGHLY processed!




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  8. As a person with high gluten sensitivity but non-celiac, I can say there is a flaw in the study (as presented above). I know I can swing low doses of wheat products where gluten is not added as an additional ingredient. But, when consuming low doses of high gluten, or any added gluten product, my stomach swells like a balloon and gas is a huge issue. It took me years to figure out the issue and I discovered the major difference by removing gluten and being careful that should I desire delicious (note below) bread that it has to be ‘no added gluten bread’ to be remotely tolerated. And small doses.
    Aside from that: good bread is airy, light, and cooked— not this dauby, dense, damp junk called bread today. I miss the good baguettes…




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    1. I bake bread and in my experience, the light airy-ness of bread is usually a direct result of its gluten content – the more gluten in the flour, the softer,more fluffy loaf you will have. I now grind my own organic grains and my bread is dense peasant bread (which I have absolutely grown to love as it is so rich in flavour and texture). Also, if you’ve eaten gluten free bread it is rarely light and fluffy. Just a note.




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  9. Ataxia? I though the real dilemma with gluten sensitivity according to its leading researchers was that you might have no gut symptoms but get damage (irreversible) to your brain (also nerve system, and it’s associated with leaky gut), therefore by that theory, a little is never ok.

    I have AI and stay well on a healthy diet etc, but my Dr keeps me gluten free even though I feel fine when I eat wheat bread or other gluten grains. It would make my life much easier, happier and cheaper if I could eat some gluten. Even gluten free, I get IBS (d) which I think is caused by caffeine eg even in cacao and/or hot drinks. Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions on any of this?




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    1. Absolutely gluten can silently harm any organ over time, even in those without celiac disease. I would definitely follow your doctor’s advice and stay gluten free, especially since you have AI.




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      1. BUT.. the same Dr also gave me other recommendations which go against Dr Gregrs reported general medical science and specific recommendations for my condition. Ironically for my gut health, the part 2 to this series says stopping gluten can harm gut health. I feel fine when I eat gluten. But those Drs filled me with anxiety over the issue, besides expensive testing (none of which showed gluten to be a problem for me).

        Ive read the leading science into ” silent ” gluten sensitivity but I don’t think there’s yet any reliable science behind it? Unless you have unexplained internal issues, why go gluten free on a medical suspicion? Ive also had other wacky medical theories put my way which turned out false




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        1. Gurgle,
          If your blood tests and genetic tests don’t show gluten sensitivity, and you don’t notice symptoms from gluten, it sounds to me like eating some gluten may be fine for you. I have known people who have IBS (d) who see a reaction to cacao and caffeinated beverages so those may be culprits for you. I haven’t seen the research that is the basis for people being so opposed to gluten. I would ask the drs who have filled you with anxiety over gluten to cite the studies showing it’s harmful.




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  10. After going vegan 3 months ago, it has become clear that I react to wheat gluten. Previously, I could not tell if it was the dairy/eggs or the gluten. Now, I’m sure it’s wheat. However, my reactions are not primarily GI problems. Within a day or so of eating wheat gluten, my ankles and hands swell and are painful, my muscles cramp and ache, and my mood gets really really bad. The symptoms last for 1-4 days depending on how much wheat I ate. Does anyone have any information about these types of symptoms?




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    1. Wheat can give you all kinds of symptoms, and they don’t have to be GI problems. Also gluten can silently damage organs over decades, leading to serious problems later on. “Wheat Belly” is an excellent book about the variety of ways wheat can harm our skin, heart, nervous system, mood, blood sugar, etc.




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      1. Hi Julie, I’m an RD and I’ve reviewed the book, “Wheat Belly”, and several articles Dr. Davis has written. While Dr. Davis makes some interesting points, some of his remarks can be misleading. In fact, there is a vast amount of research supporting the health benefits of whole grains, including healthy digestion, reduced risk of heart disease (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20820954), diabetes (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17760498), and several cancers (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9589426), and prevention of weight gain. If you are interested in learning about another perspective on wheat from the one presented by Dr. Davis, here is a link to an article that discusses “Wheat Belly”, point by point: http://www.aaccnet.org/publications/plexus/cfw/pastissues/2012/OpenDocuments/CFW-57-4-0177.pdf




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    2. I have had a non celiac gluten sensitivity that causes inflammatory arthritis in the extremities. It’s actually one of the constituent proteins in gluten that causes the problem rather than gluten per se. Therefore barley and rye can cause the same symptoms. Eliminating all animal products in my diet greatly reduced the gluten sensitivity so that a little occasionally has no effect now. I’m suspicious of blanket condemnations of foods that have been shown to be so valuable in human nutrition. I keep thinking of peanuts. They are great nutrition unless they cause you anaphylactic shock.




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    3. Me, too, Brian Murphy. I dropped wheat from my diet for several weeks after I learned it can contribute to triggering migraines. Then I had a half a slice of bread and the next morning I’d gained 2 and a half pounds of water-weight, which is notable for me, since I’m short, and my joints were sore and achy for 2 or 3 days. Ugh.




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  11. This list from the “Transcript” should have had an “, MA, and others.” at the end, or an “including PTSD” at the beginning.

    It missed many, including Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia, CFIDS, and ALS.

    Quote: “The medical profession has a history of dismissing diseases as all in
    people’s heads—PTSD, ulcerative colitis, migraines, ulcers, asthma,
    Parkinson’s and MS.”




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  12. As always, I am quitie impressed by Dr. Greger’s efforts. I have some thoughts here as it pertains to gut permeability:

    Fasano and collegues reported that only 57% of those identified as gluten-sensitive carried the DQ2 or DQ8 genes, the genes that are tested when determining gluten metabolism disorders. This finding indicates that those two genes are less involved in gluten sensitivity than they are in celiac disease. On the blood tests, just under half (48%) of those diagnosed as gluten-sensitive had positive antigliadin (AGA-IgA) or AGA-IgG antibodies.

    What is interesting is that more than half of the gluten-sensitive group carried the celiac DISEASE genes, while the rest did not, indicating that the genes aren’t necessary to produce the antibodies.

    A. Fasano, et al, Divergence of gut permability and mucosal immune gene expression in two gluten-associated conditions: celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. BMC Med. 2011 Mar; 9(23).




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  13. Is there any news on studies of “amylopectin-a” and blood-sugar spikes? Some on the internet are saying that this polysaccaride increases blood sugar levels faster than straight sugar and therefore is a reason by itself to avoid wheat.




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  14. So what about gluten causing inflammation in the body? Do you perhaps have any information on that, since I have been hearing about it here and there.




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  15. What I found even more intriguing about this video was the reference to PTSD and its physiological basis. Does anyone have any good references on this?




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  16. If you look at the groundbreaking work of Dr. Alessio Fasano you might want to revisit this in a whole new light. Here is one citing:
    Nutrients 2013 Oct.; 5 (10): 3839-3853 A. Fassano et al Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: The new frontier of gluten related disorders.




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  17. I have actual symptoms if I eat wheat. First noticed after overdosing on wheat with a pizza meal I had an ecocardiogram the next day . My ventricualr muscles were slamming together I feel my heart beating to the point I can’t sleep and my breast scars, from where I had cancers removed nearly 4 years ago, sting a lot and my finger joints where there is osteoarthritis become inflamed and painful. I ate small serves of bread in Argentina while on holiday no symptoms, but, back here in Australia symptoms are immediate I blame it on the bread and what has been done to it. I have other allergies. Pineapple gives me severe migraine, Headaches from alcohol, caffiene and ginger. Doctors are sceptical about the wheat flour issue so I just don’t eat it and I am fine. This one is not psychological. I haven’t been tested It is sufficient for me to eliminate wheat flour etcand get on with my life.




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  18. I have taken medication for my asthma every day for sixty two years, yes you read that number right! I tried going gluten free in the mistaken belief that it would help me lose weight. I didn’t lose weight but what I did lose was my steroid drug medication. Now, thanks to you and the folks at FOK I am on a WFPBD , I feel fantastic, have tons of energy, and no more steroids. I just wish more MDs would test for gluten intolerance on people with respiratory issues. Thank you for your great work, I hope your book is a best seller.




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    1. or what we eat it in combination with it “normally”. do we break down wheat gluten or dairy proteins first? Would the body react different? just some thoughts.




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  19. Dr Gregor,

    Please contact Stephanie Seneff. You might be interested be in her she is a biologist and researcher at MIT. You might want to talk to her about gluten sensitivity.




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  20. I know someone who has been diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. They mentioned the cutting out gluten helped them a bit. Does Dr. Gregor have any information on MCS?




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  21. I recently attended the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise and saw many lectures, including several by Dr Greger. My wife and I have purchased about 7-8 copies of “How Not to Die” for friends and relatives. I am asymptomatic, as far as bowel symptoms, but wanted to test for gluten and food sensitivities, just for informational purposes, fulling expecting the results to be negative. However, my fecal anti gliadin IgA ( 101 ), my fecal anti-oat IgA, and fecal anti tissue transglutaminase IgA were all elevated, and I was advised, by Enterolab, to “follow a permanent gluten free diet” and “avoid all oats”. I’m not sure what to do. We could probably all fall into the category of having some possible symptoms of gluten sensitivity ( bowel symptoms, headaches, sinus congestion, depression, arthritis, chronic skin problems/rashes, fibromyalgia, fatigue, etc. Would love to hear Dr Greger’s opinion. If necessary, I can do gluten free, but dont want to if not necessary, or potentially harmful. I’m vegan now. SS




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  22. Great info here! Thank you Dr. Greger for making your research and findings available to so many and making a difference.

    Also….have you thought about looking into Carrageenan? There seems to be quite a bit of controversy over this pervasive additive thickener.
    Also used for inflammation research in animal models.

    “Scientific research shows that that consumption of food grade carrageenan may lead to harmful effects on human health including inflammation, lesions and (resultant) cancer in the colon.”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1242073/

    “2002-2012: Industry sponsored scientists question whether the inflammatory nature of carrageenan is rodent specific and whether the resuts of animal studies can be extrapolated to humans.
    Scientists conduct experiments using human colonic epithelal cells and find that carrageenan, even low levels of food grade carrageenan induce inflammation in human colon cells.”
    http://www.cornucopia.org/CornucopiaAnalysisofCarrageenanHealthImpacts042612.pdf




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    1. kb: NutritionFacts does have one video (I thought there was 2, but only one is coming up) and a few posts which mention carrageenan.




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  23. On the subject of wheat – or for that matter – all grains, what does Dr. Greger thinkg about Dr. Davis’ Wheat Belly book? Do grains cause belly fat due to blood sugar spikes? I searched this site to avoid wasting anyone’s time but couldn’t find any reference. Thanks very much.




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    1. Kim Furzer: Dr. Greger wrote a whole book about the topic called Carbophobia. Even though I think Carbophobia came first, it is in essence a response to Wheat Belly. Also on point is the information about the benefits of whole grains found on this site. Here is the topic page: http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/grains/

      If you go to the topic page, you get the links to the individual videos. But here is the text without the links. Note the point about whole grains being linked to slimmer waist.

      “A healthy plant-based diet consisting of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds may help cut chronic disease risk. Nutrition research suggests that, unless you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, you should eat whole grains, including gluten grains, since overall, whole grains are linked to lower chronic disease risk. Unfortunately the standard American diet includes a high proportion of refined grains, which do not provide the equivalent health benefits.

      The Framingham Heart Study found that three or more daily servings of whole grains were associated with a slimmer waist. Another study found that the eating of three whole grain portions a day alleviated hypertension as much as medication did. Whole grains may help lower risk for prediabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, cancer in general, and breast and prostate cancer in particular. Whole grains contain beneficial nutrients including magnesium, zinc, ergothioneine and phytates. By sprouting grains, you can increase the antioxidant content.

      The toxic metal cadmium can be found in whole grains and vegetables, but does not appear to be as harmful as cadmium from animal-based foods.”




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    1. Hi Roxisam- Thanks for sharing this article. The causes of NCGS continue to be debated and researched. Amylase trypsin inhibitors (ATIs) are being studied as one of the contributors, but from what I can tell from a quick literature search, there isn’t anything conclusive yet. Similar with FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols)–they remain a good candidate, but the jury is still out on who may benefit from restricting them and the mechanism behind their potential negative effects.




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      1. Cathleen, can you share what you have found until now, please? I have been trying to identify other food sources of ATIs, or at least something that says this is not really conclusive…. I just CAN’T believe wheat is bad, unless a person has specifit sensitivities to it. But the fact is that a doctor told my daughter to avoid wheat – not gluten, but WHEAT, and she has some (light) auto immune issues.
        OBS/OFF TOPIC: I am lost commenting for the first time without disqus… :/




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  24. A functional medicine doctor just told me that “all” people experience gut irritation from wheat, loosening the junctions of the epithelial lining. I think she was referring to the gut permeability and inflammatory response claims that are circulating regarding wheat. For example:
    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2886850/
    2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377866/
    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705319/

    I’ve been a whole grain eater for years. I don’t perceive that seitan or wheat berries or barley pilaf or whole grain bread is causing me any GI problems. I’m very confused by the conflicting research in this area. Can anyone help sort it out?




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    1. All of the articles refer to people with some degree of sensitivity so that population will experience some degree of mucosal irritation that can contribute to what we’ve seen as “leaky gut”. One question that has been kicked around lately is why is this so prevalent these days? One explanation has been from the hybridization of the many types of wheat that we grow now in order to maximize crop sizes. Another is the near ubiquitous use of weed killers that stay on the grains and are also irritants for those that do not manifest the celiac disease markers. There are people that are full blown celiacs and have no gastrointestinal symptoms whatsoever so one cannot only go by how one feels if you are in a high risk group for celiac disease. In this case all traces of gluten must be removed from your diet. Otherwise, using symptoms in regard to how you feel, both gastrointestinal, joint pain, headaches and the host of other problems associated with leaky gut get to be the yardstick. If you suffer from none of these then I would probably look elsewhere for my medical advice. In general, making blanket statements that are supposedly true in “all” situations leads to error.




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      1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Docbeccy.
        Your question about some of the features of industrial-scale agriculture (GMO, herbicides, pesticides) possibly playing a role in diet sensitivity is interesting. It’s an interesting argument for buying organic wheat and flour.




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  25. I feel bad when on wheat – particularly accumulation of wheat – feel ok when I have just 1 wheat bun, but if I continue to eat wheat – I get bowel issues. Unfortunately, I can’t eat many gluten free things, because tapioca upsets my bowels too! Maybe the people in the study had an issue with tapioca too?




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    1. People with a sensitivity describe your symptoms vs. the more profound symptoms seen with those suffering from symptomatic celiac disease. Another malady that can be confused is a sensitivity to FODMAP type foods which are those of varying length chain oligo, di- and mono saccharides that due to inability to properly digest them in the GI tract end up going thru a type of fermentation and then lead to GI discomfort. The elimination diet to rule out the various FODMAPS can be quite arduous as it removes many, many foods from the list of what someone can eat. Hopefully, though the culprits can be identified and the other foods slowly reintroduced so one can design their diet around what they can eat and not have their frequent gastrointestinal issues. Here is a website for further reference http://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/what-are-fodmaps/




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    1. Hi Pat,

      Einkorn flour contains gluten. As a dietitian nutritionist (moderator on NF) I would not recommend einkorn for anyone who has Celiac Disease. As for a “true gluten sensitivity” not so sure. I don’t know what you mean by your term “true gluten sensitivity” so not knowing that I cannot recommend a course of action.

      As for kamut, it is a “relative” of durum wheat, so again, contains gluten. It is off limits for those who have Celiac or strong gluten sensitivity.

      Thanks for being part of our community!

      Lisa Schmidt, MS, CN, CYT




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      1. Thanks for your reply, Lisa,

        Sorry for the confusion. I simply meant someone who actually has gluten sensitivity, as opposed to someone who doesn’t, or someone who has some other food sensitivity. ;) I’ve read where families who have a mild gluten sensitivity are eating einkorn without any noticeable side effects, but others warn doing so can cause organ damage without symptoms. It’s a little scary – and confusing.

        I’m still learning about gluten sensitivity. My sister has hashimoto’s disease and after becoming vegan I discovered I have gluten sensitivity. A half a slice of bread gives me bloating and water retention, sore joints, blurry vision, as well as a host of other symptoms, including contributing to triggering a migraine.

        I appreciate Dr. Greger’s videos very much and am thankful to be part of this awesome community.

        Thanks again




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  26. Very interesting video. Thanks for showing the science in such a non-biased way, as usual.
    I had a severe wheat allergy when I was little that I mostly grew out of. I was able to eat wheat without getting sick like I used to, but when I ate a lot, especially processed forms like white bread (white bread was the WORST), I would get very bloated and have a very foggy head and even head aches. I currently stay away from gluten because of all I’ve heard about it, including something about how some people’s immune systems (those with autoimmune disease) attack gluten and because gluten looks similar to the thyroid, it can attack the thyroid (would love to know if there’s any good science on this), as well as gluten supposedly getting into the bloodstream and causing inflammation. I DID have a slight thyroid issue before going WFPB but I believe it was due to severe malnourishment and other factors. Anyway, when I was little my mom would bake everything for me from scratch and she used spelt flour which does contain gluten but I did really good on it. I also noticed that when first going vegan and eating a lot of the AMAZING foods like gardein and field roast and the like, most of which has gluten in it as a binder, I seemed to do fine but noticed the bad reaction again when I ate white bread (vegan of course). However I haven’t had any gluten since going WFPB and I’m afraid to try any due to all the things I’ve heard about it. I admit that all that stuff is in my head, I definitely would be afraid of it getting into my bloodstream and causing inflammation (when I ate a lot of bread and such before, I looked very puffy, but it may have simply been due to wheat sensitivities and other unhealthy factors to those foods) and I’d be especially afraid of it causing my body to attack my thyroid since I’ve worked at healing my thyroid naturally and I may have a slight autoimmune thing in that I was born with a couple of low antibodies and I should know more about it but I don’t pay much attention to it because I haven’t gotten a head ache or sick or anything since going WFPB vegan… I sometimes mourn the fact that I’ll likely never have a “sick day” enabling me to justify eating soup and laying in bed–sure I’ll still eat soup and even lay in bed, but it won’t be the same.




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  27. Thank you for the unbiased info Dr. Greger. Just a couple of quick things here, I found a more recent study on NCGS that I thought I would share: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5083263/

    In addition, I have not seen or know of any studies conducted on those that seem to have IBS with NCGS that included introducing organic wheat. All studies only refer to wheat or gluten in general. I did find some other information that indicates that GMO wheat and the disiccation process with glyphosate (spraying with Roundup prior to harvest) could be the causation of NCGS and perhaps IBS here: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/real-reason-for-toxic-wheat-its-not-gluten/

    I would be curious of your thoughts




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