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Gluten-Free Diet Plan | 3 Mistakes People Make

September 18, 2018

Adhering to a gluten-free diet is essential for preventing inflammation, intestinal permeability, high blood sugar, and other negative effects. However, there are three common mistakes that many people make when switching to a gluten-free diet plan.

It’s a common misconception among even the most health-savvy that a gluten-free lifestyle is only for those with a gluten allergy, a gluten intolerance, or celiac disease. While it is true that individuals who suffer from any of the above challenges have a heightened need for following a gluten-free diet plan, there are reasons that all people should avoid the substance.

Learn more about gluten, its negative effects, and about the three most common mistakes people make following a gluten-free diet plan.

What is Gluten?

Although many people talk about it, there is still a great deal of uncertainty that exists about the definition of gluten. Put simply, gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, and all related grains1. Its primary function is to provide elasticity in foods such as bread and pasta.

Why Does it Seem That Gluten Has Only Become a Problem in Recent Years?

It is commonly thought that the gluten-free diet is a “fad” of recent times. One reason for this misconception can be attributed to the sudden appearance of this topic in the mainstream media.

Prior to the last decade, gluten wasn’t talked about nearly as much as it is today. This is mainly attributed to the fact that wheat crops have been modified drastically since the 1960s. The engineering of crops that were more disease-resistant and higher in carbohydrates led to plants that were also higher in gluten content. You can read more about the dangers of gluten here. 

Beginning in the same decade, access to quick, pre-prepared meals exploded. Rather than spending hours in the kitchen, families could have dinner on the table in minutes. These pre-packaged, processed foods also filled American diets with more gluten than ever before. This shift in dietary habits, as well as improved health care, have now led to the current cultural awareness that exists about living a gluten-free lifestyle.

Why Should Everyone Follow a Gluten-Free Diet Plan?

The amount of gluten that the majority of Americans consume is a fairly recent change. At no point in history has a culture ever had such easy and abundant access to this much of the foods containing the protein. Therefore, it’s no surprise that so many health issues are emerging as a result.

Why should everyone make the switch to a gluten-free diet plan? Explore some of the top consequences of this damaging protein.

Wheat causes intestinal permeability

Intestinal permeability refers to the degree to which bacteria and other substances can leak through the small intestines into the bloodstream. Increased intestinal permeability is linked to a leaky gut syndrome. This can occur when the intestinal walls become damaged. Leaky gut and a high amount of intestinal permeability can lead to complications2 such as depressive symptoms3. In addition to the link found between certain conditions (such as asthma4) and intestinal permeability, gluten can increase your likelihood of developing leaky gut syndrome.

Aside from intestinal permeability and leaky gut syndrome, there are many other intestinal-related consequences of a diet high in gluten5. Gluten can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms in subjects without celiac disease (as discovered in one double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial6).

This research alone shows the need for a gluten-free diet plan for all individuals.

  • Leads to high blood sugar
  • Diets that are consistently high in gluten can lead to elevated blood sugar levels (also known as hyperglycemia).

Increases zonulin production

Zonulin is a “protein that is responsible for controlling the binding of the cells that line the intestines.” Gluten consumption increases zonulin in the body, which can lead to increased gut permeability7, even in individuals who do not have celiac disease.

What is even more troubling is that over time, this increase in zonulin (and its effects on the gut) can cause an individual to develop an autoimmune disorder8. Research has shown that zonulin is tightly linked to autoimmunity9, and levels of it in the body should be controlled.

Gluten causes inflammation

Studies have linked excess dietary gluten consumption with increased inflammation in the body10. As you may already know, chronic inflammation can lead to numerous health conditions and diseases. Factors such as diet, medications, stress levels, and exercise can also help or harm inflammation11.  

There are three main ways that people react specifically to gluten:

  1. Allergic reaction (e.g. wheat allergy),
  2. Autoimmune reaction (e.g. celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, and gluten ataxia),
  3. Immune-mediated reaction (e.g. gluten sensitivity)12.
Due to the severity of symptoms produced by these gluten-specific health conditions, individuals with any of the above should take every possible precaution to avoid gluten consumption.

Damage caused by lipopolysaccharides (LPS)

Lipopolysaccharides (or LPS) “are bacterial toxins that can cause inflammation and health issues.13” When there is an increase in intestinal permeability, LPS (which attach to long chain fats14) can trigger an immune reaction.

As discussed earlier, diets that are high in gluten can lead to intestinal permeability and leaky gut. Lipopolysaccharides are harmless when safely housed in the gut15. However, when they leak into the bloodstream, they become toxic. Once in the blood, lipopolysaccharides lead to many damaging effects on both the brain and body and increase inflammation.

Although more research is needed to fully comprehend the effects of LPS, dietary habits have been shown to be the primary way to reduce harmful exposure.

Improper storage of LPS in the gut can also trigger the process that ultimately leads to the development of diabetes and obesity16.

Gluten-Free Diet Mistakes

From all of the studies presented above, it’s clear to see why gluten is a toxin in everyone’s diet. In addition to gluten-specific health conditions (e.g. an allergic reaction, an autoimmune reaction, and an immune-mediated reaction), there are so many other health consequences. Immune reactions, inflammation, intestinal permeability, and leaky gut can all disrupt your health. Therefore, following a gluten-free diet plan is the best way to prevent all of these resulting consequences of a diet packed with gluten.

However, before running out to the grocery store to buy food, there are some important things to know. Learn more about three of the most common mistakes that most people make when going gluten-free

Gluten-Free Diet Plan | 3 Mistakes People Make Infographic

Mistake #1: Replacing gluten with unhealthy foods

Just because a product comes with a “gluten-free” label doesn’t mean that it is healthy. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Due to the increased awareness of celiac disease and gluten-free living, most stores now carry gluten-free cupcakes, cookies, crackers, breads, pizzas, and more.

This is one reason that many people replace packaged foods containing gluten with other unhealthy grains, such as potato, rice, corn, and soy. Despite the fact that all of these foods are gluten-free, they are not necessarily healthier.

When making the switch to a gluten-free diet plan, avoid processed foods. Instead, fill your diet with whole foods. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and high-quality meats that are naturally gluten-free.

Mistake #2: Not getting enough fiber

When you remove gluten from your diet, an unintended consequence can be a sharp reduction in the about of fiber you are consuming.  Many Americans receive the majority of their fiber intake from foods containing wheat and other grains. Fiber is crucial for all individuals, as it promotes overall bowel health, a healthy weight, balanced cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and reduces the risk of developing colon cancer.

While planning out your gluten free diet plan, be intentional about choosing high fiber foods. This includes naturally gluten-free foods such as high fiber vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and more.

Mistake #3: Gluten isn’t the only toxin to eliminate from your diet

In the standard American diet, toxins are everywhere. Although gluten is an important toxin to eliminate from your diet, there are others of which to be aware.

Gliadin, lectins, and wheat germ agglutinin are three more toxins that can cause similar health conditions as gluten. To avoid these substances, it is best to be completely grain free. Grains and wheat are also very high in Ochratoxin A (OTA) a mycotoxin know to compromise healthy gut bacteria. Make sure to learn more about removing mold and mycotoxins from your body. Alternatively, you can choose to limit grain consumption one to two times per week. 

Beginning a Gluten-Free Diet Plan

Almost all current studies point to the harmful effects of gluten. Don't listen to the cultural misconception that a gluten-free diet plan is a passing “fad,”.  Avoiding gluten is a wise choice since researchers have linked this protein to serious health consequences. Chronic inflammation, leaky gut, intestinal permeability, autoimmune disease, and allergic reactions are health conditions that should not be taken lightly.

Instead, choose a gluten-free diet plan that is full of nutritious vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and quality meat products. A diet free from the burden of gluten is an exceptional way to keep your body functioning at peak levels.

Starting on a gluten-free diet can be very rewarding. By removing gluten you begin to decrease inflammation, balance blood sugar, repair your gut lining and jumpstart a healthier body. As you start this process consider following the 7 keys to any autoimmune diet protocol to further eliminate chronic inflammation.

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