Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
April 07, 2008

Dear Mark: Gluten

By Mark Sisson
105 Comments

Dear Mark,

You talk a lot about the evils of grains. I follow your logic on why a grain free diet is best, and I have seen weight loss and just feel better overall since heeding your advice. But there is one thing (well, more than one) that I don’t understand but hear about often. Could you explain what gluten is and why it should be avoided?

Gluten is a large, water-soluble protein that creates the elasticity in dough. It’s found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, triticale, and oats. These days it’s also found in additives like thickeners and fillers used in everything from lunch meat to soup to candy.

Gluten sensitivity or intolerance, once thought to be rare, is now believed to affect a third of the population. (Some believe this number is substantially higher.) It’s considered a genetically influenced, life-long autoimmune disease, but it sometimes doesn’t manifest itself until a person is in their thirties or even forties. When an affected person eats or drinks something containing gluten, the protein initiates a kind of allergic reaction in the body, resulting in some level of inflammatory reaction. The reaction can vary significantly from person to person and can manifest itself in a wide variety of initial symptoms that include: dermatitis, fatigue, joint pain, acid reflux, abnormal menses, and infertility. Some gluten sensitive people are asymptomatic, at least for a certain period of their lives.

In serious cases, gluten intolerance causes intestinal atrophy known as Celiac disease. The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America reports that 1 in 133 people have Celiac disease. Unfortunately, not everyone who develops Celiac disease will have recognizable symptoms before the condition has wreaked serious havoc in the intestinal system by flattening of the villus epithelium and subsequently decreasing the area for nutrient absorption. For these people, Celiac disease often isn’t diagnosed until after effects of malnutrition have set in (lack of growth in children, diarrhea, stomach pain and/or bloating, vomiting, behavioral changes, etc.). In these cases, biopsies are often taken to assess the extent of damage and to aid diagnosis. Even if biopsies are normal, there is still the chance that nutrient absorption is impaired.

Thankfully, methods for diagnosing gluten sensitivity and related Celiac disease have improved in recent years as awareness has increased and more research has been done. Blood tests for specific antibodies have allowed physicians to diagnose the disease in many cases before much if any damage has occurred. Researchers are also beginning to test for antibodies in the intestinal tract, which may promise an even earlier diagnosis in at-risk individuals.

Given my stance on grains, I obviously suggest avoiding gluten. As mentioned, gluten intolerance is a very common condition and may be underestimated still. Given the relatively recent introduction of gluten (and all grains) into the human diet, gluten intolerance and the related Celiac disease are very unfortunate but not very surprising conditions. In addition to omitting grains from your diet (especially those listed above), it’s important to avoid processed foods, which likely contain trace amounts in forms like hydrolyzed proteins, starch/modified starch, malt, binders, and natural flavorings. If anyone in your family has been diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it’s a wise idea to talk to your doctor about testing options.

Whatshername? Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Simple vs. Complex Carbs

Gluten-Free Girl

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

Sponsor note:
This post was brought to you by the Damage Control Master Formula, independently proven as the most comprehensive high-potency antioxidant multivitamin available anywhere. With the highest antioxidant per dollar value and a complete anti-aging, stress, and cognition profile, the Master Formula is truly the only multivitamin supplement you will ever need. Toss out the drawers full of dozens of different supplements with questionable potency and efficacy and experience the proven Damage Control difference!

TAGS:  dear mark, gluten

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

105 Comments on "Dear Mark: Gluten"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Migraineur
8 years 5 months ago
One thing I wish I’d known when I had the celiac antibody test – the test is useless if you haven’t actually been eating gluten recently. The doctor who ordered the test didn’t tell me that! I avoid gluten most of the time anyway – not religiously, but since I eat grains only very occasionally, and avoid processed foods, I hardly ever consume any gluten. But when I do, I suffer from GI distress. For our vegetarian friends, it’s also important to note that a lot of meat substitutes contain gluten – if gluten is a problem for you, read… Read more »
Mike OD - IF Life
8 years 5 months ago

2 words anyone should know about when talking about grains and long term health…. Leaky Gut

Mike OD - IF Life
8 years 5 months ago

ok my fancy link didn’t work above…take 2…although less dramatic now….Leaky Gut

http://projectfit.org/iflifeblog/2008/03/19/is-your-gut-leaking-what-to-do-about-it/

Jerry
Jerry
8 years 5 months ago

So should we avoid bread all together? Or is there a healthy bread to eat?

We’ve been taught as a society that wheat bread is the way to go, but that doesn’t seem to be the case from what I’ve learned lately.

Eric
Eric
8 years 5 months ago

Celiac disease sounds like a very scary and serious thing. It is sad that these things can potentially go undetected and sometimes go undetected till it is to late.

Barry
8 years 5 months ago
Why would you tell people not to eat gluten? Why not suggest instead that they try not eating gluten for a few weeks and see if they feel any better? There is no reason to avoid it if you don’t have any problems digesting it. I don’t, and have enjoyed gluten based foods while dropping tons of fat, building muscle and improving my health as you can see when you visit my blog. This same advice applies to cow’s milk. Some people will cut dairy and feel great. Others will cut dairy and notice no difference. I drink lots of… Read more »
Cheryl
Cheryl
7 years 4 months ago

Barry:

It is not about eating wheat and dairy and feeling good after.

It is about what is in wheat and dairy that we have to worry about. Nobody should eat wheat or dairy if they want to stay healthy.

Too many toxins in each.

Cheryl
Cheryl
8 months 25 days ago

Not only has it got toxins in each, but wheat is not digestible. It tears the lining of our guts and causes leaky gut, which leads to further discomfort, and disease.

If only people would listen to us, when we suggest getting off these foods. The trouble is we are not professionals, and they do not think we know what we are talking about. The medical world may be professionals, but where does their thinking lead? More sickness and disease.

Fer
Fer
8 months 25 days ago

How’s your gluten and dairy rich diet going? It’s been almost 8 years since your post.

Barry
8 years 5 months ago

Also, pointing out that this food or that food is “relatively new” to humans on the larger scale of evolutionary time is a little silly.

Does anyone really think prehistoric man was eating broccoli? But I don’t see anyone warning of the dangers of broccoli. This whole paleolithic diet rhetoric has some merit but lots of people take it too far.

Sasquatch
8 years 5 months ago

Barry,

It’s helpful to think in terms of categories. We may not have eaten broccoli specifically, but we did eat a variety of wild vegetables and are adapted to them. We generally did not eat grains as hunter-gatherers and therefore we aren’t equipped to deal with gluten and a multitude of other grain toxins like phytic acid and protease inhibitors.

Anna
8 years 5 months ago

Barry (& other gluten skeptics), you might want to check out this blog for some recent posts on glutens.

Post #1
http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2008/04/leptin-and-lectins.html

Post #2
http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2008/04/leptin-and-lectins-part-ii.html

Anna
8 years 5 months ago

Lots of folks feel great right up until they drop with a heart attack or receive a cancer diagnosis, too. Doesn’t mean just because one doesn’t perceive slowly accumulating damage from something, that damage isn’t occurring.

Has anyone read the recent study on “normal weight obesity”, from the Mayo Clinic (Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez). I just read the headline today and skimmed some press releases. Interesting stuff.

Barry
8 years 5 months ago

Right. Eating bread causes heart attacks and cancer. Great analogy.

Sophie
Sophie
6 years 3 months ago

It probably does. Check out the research in Good Calories Bad Calories by Taubes.

Mike OD - IF Life
8 years 5 months ago
The bigger issue is also not only gluten…but a person’s whole body environment. A person living a stress free life, with a feeling of purpose, spending time with friends and family, being happy, and not surrounded by toxins….probably could easily deal with any issue associated with gluten. A person who is highly stressed, overweight, lowered immune system, surrounded by toxins….does not need anymore negative strains…as it only leads to more dangerous illness and diseases down the road. Health is a whole body equation…all the factors count, not one is responsible solely. Remove as many stressors (toxins, allergens, stess) as possible… Read more »
Nancy S
8 years 5 months ago

Actually Barry, celiac disease IS linked to certain forms of cancer. No correlation to heart attacks that I am aware of though.

Anna
8 years 5 months ago

The proverbial “beer belly” is also known by another name – “wheat belly”.

VW
VW
6 years 10 months ago

Other than my extremely round and often bloated belly I am happy with my body. As I read up on Celiac disease I realize I need to get diagnosed asap. Can you tell me more about the “wheat belly”?

Mark Sisson
8 years 5 months ago
Barry, I’m thrilled for you that you can eat gluten and thrive. I sure did for 45 years. Or so I thought. My research has led me to a point where I now suggest that, based on our common evolution and the fact that our genes haven’t changed much in 10,000 years, we are all prediabetic, prearthritic, precancerous and preatherosclerotic if we send the wrong signals to genes. It’s just that some of us are much more “pre-disposed” than others. Maybe based on minor gene variants, maybe on stress as Mike suggests – whatever. The fact that some of us… Read more »
Scat
Scat
3 years 11 months ago

Hi Mark – I’m new to this and just read lesson #2 about avoiding grains. Would you suggest gluten free bread/pasta if I were to eat some carbs? Thanks

Anna
8 years 5 months ago
Jerry asked, “Or is there a healthy bread to eat?” Good question. I don’t know if there is a definitive answer. I do think most of the breads touted as “healthy” aren’t really. For me, the answer is definitely no, because my glucose metabolism no longer works properly. The miniscule amount of bread I can eat without raising BG just isn’t worth it, I really like good bread, and used to bake it all the time, but that’s probably how “a predisposition” into a reality. As time goes on, I see bread more as a transportation vehicle, a way to… Read more »
Ken Wilkens
Ken Wilkens
8 years 5 months ago
Hi Mark GREAT post about Gluten. My 8 year old little girl (who is a Type 1 Diabetic) has Celiac Disease. To those who want to try and eliminate Gluten to see if they “feel better,” don’t be fooled! My daughter was not symptomatic at all, but flagged the Celiac Antibody. She just returned to being Gluten Free after being on a “Gluten-ous” diet to confirm the diagnosis completely. She is for sure Celiac. I have made the commitment to her to remain Gluten Free as well. Not always easy, especially out at restaurants… but I want her to feel… Read more »
Mark Sisson
8 years 5 months ago

Ken,

Great that you looked into all this with your daughter and nipped it in the bud. Of course, you will be better off yourself for eliminating gluten. And it’s not that difficult, given enough time to readjust.

I don’t have a real specific link to diet guidelines yet (other than the many posts we have done over the past 18 months). I will have a very detailed set of guidelines in my forthcoming book “The Primal Blueprint”. Glad to hear you have adopted the “Kearns Method” in your training. BK knows his stuff.

Ken Wilkens
Ken Wilkens
8 years 5 months ago
Kearns had a good teacher!… look forward to the book, and will pick through the posts and put together some sensible eating guidelines in the meantime. Seems like much of it is in line with “Paleo Diet for Athletes…” and at the most basic level — lean proteins, fruits and vegetables… and of course the right carbs for training… Thanks! Oh, some additional information — Type 1 Diabetics are very prone to Celiac, so both my Diabetic kids (yes, 2 of my 3 kids have Type 1 Diabetes!) get screened every Quarter for Celiac. It’s amazing that 1 in 133… Read more »
Migraineur
8 years 5 months ago

“Type 1 Diabetics are very prone to Celiac.” Wow. Why have I never heard this?

Ken Wilkens
Ken Wilkens
8 years 5 months ago

Hi Migraineur
Not sure if your comment was serious or tongue-in-cheek. Either way, both diseases are Auto-Immune and there is a definite link. If you Google “Celiac and Type 1 Diabetes,” you will see plenty of info.

Cheryl Diamond
Cheryl Diamond
8 years 5 months ago

I was told that tempeh is cultivated with a mold called Rhizopus Ogliosporous. Isn’t that against everything we believe?? It is like eating blue cheese. The manufacturers claim it is a good mold to eat.

Any comments on such???

Mark Sisson
8 years 5 months ago

Everything we believe? Don’t know about that, Cheryl. Although one of our mutual friends might disagree with me here (DK), some fungus is definitely edible while some is deadly toxic. It helps to know the difference 🙂 RO is both edible and has been shown to remove neurotoxins from certain legumes. A number of studies indicate that its use in making tempeh is quite safe.

Lisa
Lisa
8 years 3 months ago

I very frequently get a throbbing pain that extends from 1.5″ above my navel to about 2″ below the navel. This does occur within 3-6 hours of eating but eating wheat bread or drinking a beer actually makes me feel better! The doctors can’t find anything wrong other than to say I have a “redundant colon” (extra length of colon) which may cause constipation. Is it possible I am gluten intolerant or would I know by having a reaction to wheat or beer?

Mark Sisson
8 years 3 months ago

Lisa,

Sounds like you have some kind of sensitivity. I wouldn’t be surprised if were to gluten. Have you tried going a few months with no grains?

Shannon
Shannon
8 years 2 months ago
I recently was diagnosed with stage III form of celiac disease and also have diabetes mellitus since early childhood. Personally, I have suffered for many years with complications associated with celiac disease, but was never diagnosed or tested for the disease. On a positive note, I began the diet almost three months ago and now feeling much better and experiencing an increased level of energy and stamina. The diet has dramatically changed my abilities to control my blood sugar levels. Thanks to everyone in the celiac support group, the wonderful doctors and nurses who have been the utmost supportive.
Cheryl
Cheryl
8 years 2 months ago

We found a bread that is gluten free,and yeast free. It contains millet and flax seed with a little baking soda. Is this bread ok to eat??

Mark Sisson
8 years 2 months ago

Cheryl, if you must eat bread, that’s probably your best alternative. We’d call it a sensible vice.

trackback

[…] system. (You say fiber, I say unnecessary roughage, but that’s only the half of it.) Enter gluten and lectins, both initiators of digestive mayhem, you might say. Gluten, the large, water-soluble […]

Gowri
Gowri
7 years 4 months ago

Hi,

Interesting post. I learn more and more informations on almost every type of food we consume that is unhealthy in one way or the other. Eventually I suppose everything would come under this category and I wonder if there would be anything left out to eat without having to worry.

Julie Aguiar
Julie Aguiar
6 years 9 months ago

Ummm, Yeah Gowri..Clean meat,eggs, natural fats, veggies, nuts, seeds and some fruit…organic of course! (fermented ,too!)

trackback

[…] can cause problems. These guys employ various anti-nutrients, chemical defenses like lectins and gluten to prevent and dissuade consumption. Certain animal and insect species have developed tolerances, […]

trackback

[…] stream haphazardly. If damaging proteins (like lectins from grains and legumes, for example, or gluten) slip into the blood stream, they are recognized and the immune system responds as it normally […]

trackback

[…] little yummy treats… they are not very sweet but are most definitely satisfying.They are gluten free and follow the primal blueprint. Feel free to experiment as I […]

Krista
Krista
6 years 3 months ago

I am surprised at the link to Gluten Free Girl…sll her recipes seem to me to be ‘worse’ than the gluten full recipes!
tapioca? potato flour? rice flour???

Debbie
Debbie
6 years 3 months ago

The link to Gluten Free Girl is included not because of her un-primal recipes but because Shauna Ahern (lady behind GFree Girl) has a lot to say about Celiac disease/going gluten free, and what it means for health.

trackback
6 years 3 months ago

[…] Dear Mark: Gluten […]

Primal Toad
6 years 3 months ago

It is unfortunate, but my mother buys a lot of vegan products… the main ingredietns are soy and gluten for the protein…

But, since I have been primal (2 months ago) my family has eaten more primal foods and less of the “other stuff”. So, I am doing my part!

trackback
6 years 3 months ago

[…] If you would like to read more about gluten, see Dear Mark: Gluten. […]

trackback

[…] all probably be better off not eating it. Mark Sisson has written extensively about the dangers of gluten and gluten-containing grains, so head over there and have a look if this is new to you. The short […]

trackback

[…] Ans. Like I said… the gluten. […]

trackback

[…] starch, sweet potato, type, vegetable protein, vegetables, yam by RG You know what… forget gluten, forget lectins… let’s assume that grains and beans have no detrimental effects. With […]

trackback

[…] 2 (TG2). TG2 is a well-known marker for osteoarthritis severity, and it often binds with gluten, resulting in the formation of pro-inflammatory antibodies. If glucosamine binds with TG2, less TG2 […]

trackback

[…] 2 (TG2). TG2 is a well-known marker for osteoarthritis severity, and it often binds with gluten, resulting in the formation of pro-inflammatory antibodies. If glucosamine binds with TG2, less TG2 […]

trackback

[…] 2 (TG2). TG2 is a well-known marker for osteoarthritis severity, and it often binds with gluten, resulting in the formation of pro-inflammatory antibodies. If glucosamine binds with TG2, less TG2 […]

trackback

[…] main culprit of the rampant autoimmunity which exists in the current western world is our friend gluten. A paleo diet, which if eaten strictly is essentially free of gluten, as well as being highly […]

trackback

[…] has managed to obtain official recognition as being good for the heart even as it doses you with gluten. As healthy whole grains, they hide their armaments in plain sight; they cloak their puny bodies in […]

trackback

[…] Because wheat contains deadly gluten. Enough […]

trackback

[…] evidence I’ve read says no. Granted, most of the evidence is meta-analysis of scientific studies, rather than the […]

trackback

[…] food source and have not really had selective pressure to adapt to it. So we don’t, really. This is why 1/3 of the population has more-than-baseline reaction to gluten, though really everyone has some measure of sensitivity to it. There may be some cultures more […]

trackback

[…] how many products and foods are contaminated with gluten.  Wikipedia has an adequate overview, and Mark does a fairly intensive overview on his site as well. Additional resources can also be found on […]

wpDiscuz