Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
23 Jul

The “Dangers” of Going Gluten-Free

glutenfree 1In just about every article discussing the growing popularity of gluten-free diets, an expert or two appears three quarters of the way down warning about the “dangers” of attempting a gluten-free diet without medical supervision. The first reaction – from people like you and me who have experienced real benefits giving up gluten-containing foods – is a strong eye roll. “This again?” you think. Next they’re going to say that refined sugar is an important food group and I need a high-carb diet for “brain function” or something similarly inane.

But hey, these are medical experts with acronyms after their names. Maybe we should listen to what they’re saying and investigate their justifications for saying it. What dangers or risks are they actually referring to? Are they real dangers that we should heed, or are we in the clear?

There appear to be three primary arguments against widespread adoption of gluten-free diets. Let’s examine the evidence for and against each.

“Gluten-free diets put you at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.”

Is wheat actually nutritious? Wheat flour must, by law, be fortified with calcium, iron and the B-vitamins folic acid, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. Flours commonly used in gluten-free products, such as rice flour, potato flour, corn meal, and tapioca, are not fortified with nutrients. Those are all important nutrients that everyone needs to be healthy, and so by replacing wheat with gluten-free products made from flours without those nutrient fortification stipulations, a newly gluten-free individual can suddenly find himself embroiled in a nutrient-sparse diet. This is a problem, to be sure, but it’s not about lack of gluten. It’s about a lack of fortification.

A recent study attempting to address this question reveals a few of the nutrients we’re supposedly missing from our gluten-free diets. Whole grains are a little better than refined grains, it turns out. After all, the nutrient fortification program is designed to replace some of what the refinement process eliminates. So, what exactly are we missing out on by eliminating gluten from our diet? Whole wheat (which includes the bran and germ) beats out other common starch staples in many nutrients. Here, check out the Wikipedia (I know) page for wheat, which compares the nutrient values in a handy table. Looks impressive, right? But wheat is not the only way to get those nutrients. It’s certainly not the best way. To wit:

Manganese: Also found in nuts, pineapple, and bivalves like mussels and clams.

Betaine: The second richest source after wheat germ is spinach.

Folate: Leafy greens, pastured egg yolks, and animal livers (especially chicken) are very high in folate. So too is kefir, if you go for that kind of thing.

Copper: Ruminant liver once a week gets you all the copper you’ll need. Alternately, eat dark chocolate and oysters.

Zinc: Red meat and oysters.

Selenium: Brazil nuts (just one will do), kidneys, pastured eggs, wild salmon.

In the conclusion of that first study, the authors lament the lack of “high nutritional and tasty cereals that are naturally gluten-free” with which to construct suitable replacement junk food for gluten-free dieters. I can think of a few worthy replacements, but they don’t involve grains. There’s no need for wheat at all, provided you don’t just eat and rely on gluten-free baked goods. Another study confirms this, suggesting that people on a gluten-free diet should increase their intake of fruits and vegetables. This will replace all the micronutrients wheat can offer us, plus the phytochemicals and antioxidants that wheat by and large cannot.

Takeaway: Wheat is an attractive and important source of micronutrients for those folks who won’t eat green vegetables, red meat, nuts, bivalves, and liver. But for those of us who relish those foods and the many other nutrients they provide, wheat offers nothing special. Try not to live on lean steak and green beans or anything crazy like that. Just eat from the incredibly varied Primal table (including the weird stuff every now and then) and you won’t miss the meager offerings of wheat.

“Gluten-free diets decrease levels of good gut bacteria and increase levels of bad gut bacteria.”

A while back, this study made the rounds. Anyone who wanted to ridicule people on elective gluten-free diets could now do it with a study under their belt. Never mind the fact that they rarely actually read the full study. Never mind the fact that they didn’t understand the significance of a shift in gut microbiota composition. They just knew that it was “bad”, that it was proof we gluten-abstainers were foolish and wrong. But the actual study paints a slightly different picture. Actually, a phrase embedded in the quote in the abstract says it all. Healthy gut bacteria decreased and unhealthy bacteria increased parallel to reductions in the intake of polysaccharides after following the GFD.

The gluten-free diet wasn’t hard on the subjects’ gut bacteria because gluten was absent. It was hard on their guts because it was poor in fermentable substrate for the gut bacteria to consume. They replaced whole wheat based foods with refined grains and starches that happened to be gluten-free. Whole wheat is a decent source of prebiotic fiber, if nothing else, and that fiber feeds the bacteria. Rice flour, (cooked) potato flour and starch, tapioca flour, corn meal, and most other gluten-free flours or starches used in gluten-free packaged foods are poor sources of prebiotic fiber. Starved of food, the beneficial gut bacteria get crowded out by the pathogenic bacteria.

If you look at the PDF detailing the RS content of various foods, you’ll see that grains are the top source of resistant starch in the diets of most industrialized nations. They’re not incredible sources, they’re not dense sources, but they’re all most people have. Your average American isn’t making green banana smoothies, eating cooked and cooled potatoes, and stirring raw potato starch into sparkling water. They’re chowing down on wheat and other cereal grains.

Takeaway: If you’re going gluten-free, you have to replace the fermentable fiber in whole grains with the fermentable fibers and resistant starches in fruits, vegetables, green bananas/plantains, cooked and cooled potatoes, and raw potato starch. This will surpass and improve upon the modest amounts of said fibers/resistant starches found in wheat and other gluten grains. Most of you already know this (the subject has received a lot of attention on this blog for years), but it’s important to pass this on to others who may not.

“Gluten-free diets may morph into eating disorders.”

This is an interesting claim, perhaps the most relevant to the Primal crowd. Anyone who takes a keen interest in how specific foods affect their health, both long-term and short-term, runs the risk of lapsing into paralysis by overanalysis. I’m talking about:

Being deathly afraid of a little canola oil (I hate it, but c’mon).

Worrying about the PUFA content of that rotisserie chicken so much that you just go hungry.

About to dig into some BPA-free sardines until you start wondering just what they replaced the BPA with.

Feeling like having some ice cream as a treat, but you end up standing in the aisle with the freezer door open scouring Pubmed on your smartphone for any adverse effects of the stabilizer used in the salted caramel for so long that they all melt and you go home empty-handed.

Taking a wide berth around the bakery counter in Whole Foods to avoid breathing in any airborne gluten particles.

I get all that. Given the choice, I’d have my food cooked in butter or olive oil every time. I’d only consume pastured, bug-eating chickens and their eggs. I wouldn’t eat foods packaged in plastic, would have my butcher pack my meat up in glass tupperware rather than wrap it in plastic. And I avoid gluten as a general rule. But I don’t base my life around it. I don’t let those preferences predominate and overshadow everything else. Because that’s a perfect world and you can’t ever get that. It doesn’t exist. You can’t be perfect. Being perfect is imperfect, even. It takes too much work and too much stress.

Take it from me – a guy who despite being sensitive to the effects of gluten will have a polite bite or two of cake if someone made it for me and really put a lot of care into it. As long as you’re not eating it regularly, as long as you’re just “nibbling” every once in awhile, and as long as you’re not celiac or highly sensitive to gluten, you will be okay. I’ve gotten to the point where those nibbles and those polite bites don’t bother my gut (giving up alcohol has certainly helped with that, as has resistant starch), but a full on slice of cake or a big hunk of bread absolutely will. Find your tolerance point and hover there. Don’t pass it, don’t worry too much if you stay below.

It’s important to distinguish between “preference” and “fear.” I prefer not to eat grains. I don’t fear them. I prefer not to eat a high-carb diet. I don’t fear carbs or think them evil. I prefer to avoid gluten – and feel better when I maintain that. But I don’t fear gluten.

Takeaway: If you’re not celiac or gluten-sensitive, don’t freak out if a stray bread crumb lands on your plate or the sushi place is out of tamari sauce. You’re probably going to be just fine. You consume food. Food isn’t supposed to consume you. Don’t let it.

What’s the bottom line? Provided you have a reasonable head on your shoulders, you shouldn’t require medical supervision to successfully and safely adopt a gluten-free diet. A proper Primal way of eating that includes leafy greens, fermentable fiber, resistant starch, the occasional slab of liver, seafood, and plenty of other nutrient-dense plants and animals will support your gut health, provide sufficient micronutrition, and promote a healthy relationship with food. The “dangers of going gluten-free” are worth noting and are probably relevant for your average consumer scrambling for room on the bandwagon, but I think we’re in the clear.

What are some other “dangers” of going gluten-free? Did I miss anything?

Thanks for reading, everyone.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I think the danger is too many rules (unless you are truly allergic). If you are sweating the occasional slice of pizza or flour tortilla, then you are probably overthinking it. Life is short.

    Jaby wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Agreed. As always, Mark strikes a reasonable balance.

      I am gluten-intolerant to about the same degree as Mark. If I go to a pizza restaurant with family and my choices are gluten-free pizza or dry salad, I generally go with the pizza. I get tired of eating salad while everyone else scarfs down delicious food.

      Harry Mossman wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I don’t “sweat” wheat products, I just choose to avoid them. Entirely. For me, it’s worth it, it’s not “hard”, and the main factor in my success from morbidly obese/sick/dying to slightly overweight/healthy/thriving. I was never officially diagnosed with any wheat sensitivity or celiac but no one ever looked either (I was diagnosed pre-diabetic, BED, a whole host of “psychological” disorders, neurological/joint pain, etc etc etc.). No matter, my real life experience trumps any test out there imo.

      As for pizza, who says one has to eat the crust? It’s the most tasteless part and I just strip it off and toss it. I only eat commercial pizza twice per year and that is how I enjoy it. Loaded toppings, extra cheese. Yum.

      Akimajuktuq wrote on July 23rd, 2014
      • I think Mark got it right when he differentiated choice and preference from fear. If people are fearing eating certain foods (barring life threatening allergies) then that seems disordered and obsessive. But making the choice to avoid food because you don’t feel great when you eat them or don’t believe they’re healthy is entirely different. Choice not fear is key.

        Michele wrote on July 23rd, 2014
      • I get tired of throwing food away too – buying a sandwich or burger on good bread and throwing the bread away.

        I know some paleo types think bread, rice, tortillas and potatoes, etc. are tasteless, disgusting crap. About 6 billion people would say they are nuts. They must not have ever had good bread, rice, tortillas and potatoes. I like them just as much as when I ate lots of them.

        Harry Mossman wrote on July 23rd, 2014
        • Who said YOU can’t eat bread? Mostly, I don’t order anything with bread, but for the two times per year that i have pizza I do not feel bad tossing the crust. My family wants pizza and they like that i eat it too, even if modified.

          I’m not arguing whether 6 billion people like/eat grain (cuz that’s all some of them have available) but I do not like what it does to my health. I definitely used to think that I loved bread and tortillas etc, but I actually only loved the toppings and fillings. (I still love potatoes but they are not a food that i can eat in moderation at all.)

          “Good bread” is not good for me, or many people… And with my post I was kind of assuming most of us are avoiding grain/bread already and that my tip might actually be helpful… oh well, my bad.

          Akimajuktuk wrote on July 24th, 2014
      • Absolutely. I’m not a pizza fan but I often do the same thing with a big juicy hamburger. I either order it without the bun or just remove the bun to the outer edges of my plate and ignore it. Some restaurants even offer bunless hamburgers. I don’t sweat the occasional bite of cake during a special occasion, as Mark pointed out, but I normally don’t eat wheat products or substitutes and don’t miss them.

        Shary wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Exactly. Thank you, Mark, for being a reasonable voice. The only effect I get from gluten or processed foods is acne – so when I travel, or when I’m with friends and someone pushes some cake on me, or when I’ve got no other option, I eat the processed food and deal with the acne. Life is too short to obsess about food.

      meepster wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  2. The funny thing is, if you’re actually told by a medical doctor that you need a gluten free diet, you are likely to receive little to no guidance on what that means. When I was diagnosed with celiac four years ago, I was handed a list of foods I could no longer eat and that’s about it. No one talked to me about nutrition, how to plan meals, substitutes for wheat or anything else. Nobody told me that dairy was an issue for many celiacs, or that I had to replace my cookware and worry about something called ‘cross-contamination’ when I went out to eat. I pretty much figured it out on my own with the help of the internet and several previously diagnosed relatives. So, all this hand-wringing over ‘medical supervision’ is ridiculous, since the people that might actually need a doctor’s help to figure out the diet don’t actually receive any useful advice!

    One request, for those of you who are ‘gluten light’ or ‘mostly gluten free': if you go to a restaurant, please don’t insist on gluten free food for your order and then eat some bread or dessert or take a bite of someone’s pizza or something. This is a real problem for people who really get sick when they eat gluten, as it teaches many restaurants that gluten free is just a fad, and conditions like celiac disease are made up. Make up your mind to be gf or not before you go, and stick with it!

    Kate wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I actually shouted out loud when I read your comment! YES! Exactly.

      If going gluten free is “dangerous” for people then… hello… what about us coeliacs?! Who tells us it is dangerous and who helps us “still” eat right? In the UK the follow up and “support” is laughable – no help other than a basic leaflet that tells you the obvious foods to avoid. A passing reference is usually made to “fibre” but that is it.

      (I also agree with your second point. I totally support someone’s right to chose to go gf and obviously it goes with the paleo territory but… when you say you require gf and then sit and chose to eat something with gluten in, you make it seriously, seriously difficult not only for us coeliacs trying to get taken seriously about cross contamination and safe foods when eating out, but also it makes it hard for the food industry. Speaking as both a chef and a coeliac I see both sides and it is a serious issue.)

      Annie wrote on July 23rd, 2014
      • I agree with above. I was diagnosed about 21 years ago in the UK as a Coeliac. I was warned about using the same breadboard and toaster as my husband. Back then it was very difficult to eat out, now its fairly easy. It was the dietitian who told me I was lactose intolerant when I had problems with the gf bread as back then most had milk in them. The most help came from the Coeliac Society. If someone thinks they are a Coeliac then its important to have the current blood test before you ditch all the gluten containing grains otherwise you can get a false negative. Its important to get a correct diagnosis as Coeliacs are more prone to get other auto-immune diseases. I get followed up each year with a lot of blood tests which show how well I am. I find I’m very well following my primal way of eating and get less unexplained bouts of diarrhoea.

        Diana wrote on July 23rd, 2014
      • Annie, that’s a magnificent response! The people need to cease and desist from being sheeple and realize that the food industry simply doesn’t have any conspiratorial desire to harm people (least of all paying customers), while the government isn’t staffed by compassionate or health-wise bureaucrats or lawmakers. It’s up to us as individuals to take responsibility for what we choose to eat and drink. The food industry is going to respond to what it observes us doing and buying.

        Freelancelot wrote on July 25th, 2014
      • So if you just prefer the gluten-free option on a menu, you’re supposed to avoid it because some people can’t figure out that wheat isn’t the only thing to eat even if you’re not celiac?!? I do better with limited or no wheat and like non-wheat pastas, for instance. I would just tell the waiter if asked that they don’t need to take special measures to avoid contamination with wheat, I just want the gluten free option on the menu. What else I eat in the meal is none of their business and shouldn’t affect celiacs. Just say the word celiac while ordering and then they know to be careful. Honestly, it’s all just food. If you need a prescription to order the gluten-free options, they should say so on the menu. Otherwise, anybody should be able to order it.

        jwoolman wrote on August 1st, 2014
    • Amen, amen, amen!! To all of the above. I’m in the US but my doctor (gastro-interologist) gave me no information at all except “You have Celiac Disease. That means you can’t eat even a trace amount of wheat, rye, barley or probably oats.”

      Then he actually congratulated me because I didn’t start crying, as many of his Celiac patients apparently did when they heard the news. Gee, I wonder why they might react that way?

      Paleo-curious wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Amen, amen, amen!! To all of the above. I’m in the US but my doctor (gastro-interologist) gave me no information at all except “You have Celiac Disease. That means you can’t ever again eat even a trace amount of wheat, rye, barley or probably oats. There is no cure, this is for the rest of your life.”

      Then he actually congratulated me because I didn’t start crying, as many of his Celiac patients apparently did when they heard the news. Gee, I wonder why they might react that way?

      Paleo-curious wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I, too, couldn’t help nodding in agreement with your statements. In fact, I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago noting the same thing, that if being GF is so unhealthy for non-celiacs then why would it be any healthier for celiacs and NCGS people? (http://www.proverbialcat.com/blog/gluten-sensitivity-under-attack).

      It is rather absurd when you stop to think about it. When I was diagnosed with NCGS I, too, was given very little guidance on what that meant. I went home in tears thinking I’d never be able to eat anything again. That has, of course, been far from the truth and I have plenty of great tasting, healthy food to eat every day.

      Janet wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Unfortunately, even good doctors tend to make poor nutritionists.

      (But the best doctors recognize that, and will recommend a good nutritionist to you.)

      Michael wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Hi,

      Having known many doctors in my time, they are the most ignorant people when it comes to diet. It starts when they are junior doctors in hospitals, drinking liters of sodas & eating crap. They are not educated in nutrition! If they were, then hospital food would be PRIMAL BASED & not the crap they give to patients.

      Larry Silverstein wrote on July 23rd, 2014
      • Doctors aren’t taught nutrition per se, they are taught biochemistry and physiology. Yes, they are ignorant but being a Celiac disease patient myself I teach people about the diet and the sequellae of non-adherence.
        As above, I’ve wondered how I’ve survived these past 34 years eating GF? I mean it’s so nutrient deficient right?
        I guess eating meat and potatoes have saved me? If I’m in a place where GF is not available… I fast. Gasp!! And, then eat when i get home. If I can’t get GF food for a while I take a multiple vitamin.
        I’m not sick or vitamin deficient, or anemic. Go figure.

        Lauren Romeo, MD wrote on July 24th, 2014
  3. I have MS and my adviser recommended Primal diet and gluten free what do you think.

    Tina Leyba wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I would say your adviser is on to something… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm0U9jky9X4

      Curtis wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Seems to be a good idea. Also head over to Terry Wahls and look what she has to say.

      guzolany wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I absolutely agree. I had a lot of health problems that have been resolved with a Primal/Paleo lifestyle. (I do NOT recommend processed “gluten free” foods though. Still junk.)

      Akimajuktuq wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Yes, I second Dr. Terry Wahls – check out her ted talk on youtube – very inspiring and motivating!

      Red22 wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  4. For about a year now i’ve been gluten free & gourge on fats & moderate “protein” meats/fish I don’t even eat any vegetables & i have been in perfect health and perfect shape. Even my blood test shown to be true :) but i do however drink tea without sugar & basically get about 12g of carbs & i feel great without all this gluten in my diet like it used to be, I have more energy and i can think more clearly. To me they sound pretty evil saying grains are essential & the studies that they come up with, While WE all know & feel the benefits of being gluten-free

    MattB wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • No fruits and vegetables???? I don’t get that. I strive to get as many as I possibly can.

      Natalie wrote on August 4th, 2014
  5. I think your average consumer is eating the gluten free pizza and declaring victory. You can’t take one piece of junk out of the junk food and continue eating it and expect your health to improve very much, not unless you have celiac anyway. When you’re on the SAD diet wheat is a health food by comparison. When you’re eating Primally it’s shown to be the toxin it is.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Why are people always so quick to throw the word “toxin” around?
      Seeing as “the prevalence of NCGS seems to be only slightly higher than that of celiac disease” (according to a recent Italian prospective multicenter survey) – which in turn affects somewhat less than 1% of the population in most developed countries – , and considering that several of the world`s longest-lived healthy populations regularly consume wheat/gluten-containing/cross-reactive grains, the notion that wheat consumption per se is “toxic” regardless of dose and context appears a tad far-fetched.
      I second Jaby`s point:
      On the population level, stressing out over complete grain avoidance due to the (generally misguided) belief that even modest (gluten-containing/cross reactive) grain consumption on top of a “solid dietary base” will turn one into a nutrient-depleted, permanently brain-fogged zombie at staggering risk of developing every disease of civilization under the sun probably does more harm than modest grain consumption itself.

      Karl wrote on July 23rd, 2014
        • This constitutes a perfect example of the baseless fear-mongering that triggers the aforementioned paranoia with regard to dietary perfection. It contains mostly wild speculation built on a massive overstretching of the currently available evidence, buttressed by out-of-context data/factoid snippets – one particularly telling example is the author selectively paraphrasing “Dr. Alexio Fasano” (whose actual first name happens to be “Alessio”), the guy who has done much if not most of the groundbreaking research on all things gluten (sensitivity), in support of her contention that nobody should consume any gluten at all. Here`s what Dr. Fasano had to say about his stance on the matter during a recent interview:

          “We don`t digest gluten completely, which is unlike any other protein.
          “The immune system seems to see gluten as a component of bacteria and deploys weapons to attack it, and creates some collateral damage we call inflammation.”
          (Paraphrased by Nora Gedgaudas as “…NO human can actually digest gluten.” Here`s the context she doesn`t bother to mention in her article:)
          “But our bodies are engaging in this war all the time, and for the vast majority of us (!), there`s a controlled reaction, the enemies are defeated and nothing happens. Very few people eventually lose this battle and may develop celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy.
          So if you argue on that basis that we should all go gluten free, it`s like saying that we should all get rid of germs or bacteria. That`s ridiculous….most of our bodies cope with gluten just fine.”

          Karl wrote on July 23rd, 2014
      • I think calling wheat a “toxin” is fair for many people, myself included. A toxin is simply “A poisonous substance, especially a protein, that is produced by living cells or organisms and is capable of causing disease when introduced into the body tissues.”
        The study you referenced is flawed for a couple of reasons – Firstly, it was done outside of the US where wheat is very different than it is here so you cannot extrapolate European studies on gluten sensitivity to the US population because we are not eating the same wheat. Many gluten sensitive people, again myself including, can handle wheat products in Europe far better than in the US. Secondly, many people figure out the gluten connection to their health without the help of or even mentioning it to their physician, so that population would not be reflected in this study.
        The other thing to consider is whether for some of us it is the gluten in the wheat at all or something else. I have patients who can tolerate things with rye or barley, but not wheat – but they test negative for a wheat allergy. It makes me wonder if there is something else specific about wheat in the US – which brought me to this blog post – that could be related to an actual toxin ON wheat rather than IN wheat – http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2012/01/a-wheat-farmer-weighs-in-on-wheat-belly/
        Interesting anyway.

        Amber L wrote on July 23rd, 2014
        • I specifically object to “the notion that wheat consumption is “toxic” regardless of dose and context,” as dose and context are what determines the toxicity of any given substance; by your definition, most everything is a “toxin,” including water and oxygen. In fact, depending on the particular definition of “many” I choose to employ, I could make the case that “calling” red meat “a “toxin” is fair for many people,” based on the observation that “Large numbers of patients with IgE Ab to alpha-gal continue to be identified in the USA and globally” (Tick bites and red meat allergy./Commins et al).
          As for the study I referenced being flawed – I chose to cite this one because it happens to be comparably large and methodologically sound; the few available US data are also in that ballpark, ranging from 0.6% in a primary care setting (Prevalence of gluten-free diet adherence among individuals without celiac disease in the USA…/DiGiacomo et al) – based on specifically questioning a representative sample of the US population about adherence to a gluten-free diet, which should address your second objection – to 6% in a tertiary care setting (University of Maryland between 2004 and 2010). These numbers are roughly comparable to those often cited for common food allergies – and nobody calls, say, eggs “toxic” because a single-digit percentage of people has to fear negative repercussions from consuming them, right?
          As to wheat being particularly dangerous due to specific herbicide residues: Maybe. But in the absence of solid evidence, an intuitively logical just-so story does not a smoking gun make – and jumping the gun on the basis of a seemingly airtight hypothesis without taking the time to gather solid data doesn`t exactly have the best track record – look how well it turned out for Ancel Keys…
          My point remains: The notion that the (overwhelming) majority of the population in any developed country (including the US) should categorically avoid wheat due to its “toxic” effects is not supported by the currently available evidence (though I agree that in absolute numbers, “many” people may be negatively affected by wheat consumption).

          Karl wrote on July 23rd, 2014
        • Fair enough. Perhaps Karl has better research and maybe most people do shake off the immune response but I remain suspicious of gluten and definitely think ones calories could be better spent on more Primal nutrient dense foods. In any case the decision is fairly clear for me because I am a carb addict so I have to stay away from the most heavy sources anyway just due to the whole one slice leads to loaf thing.
          I did think most folks here believed in the zonulin leaky gut deal but go on and eat up!

          Groktimus Primal wrote on July 23rd, 2014
        • Just to share my own experience, I’m 21 years old and from Europe and I can eat anything including gluten and junk foods without adverse effects, however, when I sopped eating grains my CRP went from 1.5 to 0.2 within a week and it has stayed there. So, I agree that a slice of cake or even a pasta dish a few times a year IF you are healthy and notice no adverse effects, might not impact your health. However, I think better studies should be conducted to find out if there is any impact on most of the population. Bacteria and viruses might elevate your crp acutely, but they don’t chronically maintain it over 1.0 like I suspect grains do.

          PrimeTime wrote on July 24th, 2014
        • PrimeTime,

          there is research that examines the effect of grains on (systemic) inflammation/CRP levels on the population level (though it could use some methodological improvements).

          Observational research has suggested that:
          – whole grains may decrease inflammation, but
          – refined grains may increase inflammation.

          Meanwhile, controlled trials consistently come to the conclusion that eating grains, whether whole or refined, does not affect inflammation at all (on statistical average, that is – individual mileage may vary, as you have apparently experienced; funnily enough, my body seems to react in exactly the opposite way: Whenever I consume no grains at all for some time, my CRP levels reliably increase to above 1.0).

          Karl wrote on July 24th, 2014
        • It is very possible that some people are reacting to pesticide residues on wheat in the US. Decades ago when first dealing with food allergies, the advice (besides testing different forms such as cooked vs raw vs fermented or tofu for soy) was to test the “organically grown” version of a food before crossing it off your allowed list for precisely this reason. Every crop is treated with different pesticides at different points in the growth cycle, and absorption of the pesticide is different for different plants. Likewise, someone allergic to an antibiotic fed to animals could actually react to their meat. A problem with genetically modified crops (GMO) is also that there is concern that a safe food might be modified into an unsafe food for some of us, as a separate issue from the pesticides/antibiotics problem.

          jwoolman wrote on August 1st, 2014
      • I think carbs are the real toxin (aside from those that are truly celiac, I don’t diminish the seriousness of that)…high carbohydrates, unless combined with a heavy workout load, are toxic at the cellular level no matter where they come from. I think Mark’s stance has always been that getting carbs from rice and tubers are just more effective than bread.

        For those who are insulin resistant, paleo is a method of bringing people away from the toxins (carbohydrates) that have made their body sick. Bottom line, I agree that complete grain avoidance for much of the population is unnecessary, especially if you are not insulin resistant and workout.

        Vince wrote on July 23rd, 2014
        • “I think carbs are the real toxin…high carbohydrates, unless combined with a heavy workout load, are toxic at the cellular level no matter where they come from.”

          I seriously doubt that, seeing as several traditional peoples consume a (relatively) high-carb diet – e.g. the Okinawans, the Kitavans, the Hadza, the Kuna, the Tukisenta (who eat practically nothing but sweet potatoes – their typical daily fare is 94.6% carbohydrate) – and are just as healthy as their low(er)-carb brethren while being no more active (ie their activity levels are moderate, for the most part – they certainly don`t measure up to what your average fitness enthusiast considers a “heavy workout load”).

          Karl wrote on July 23rd, 2014
        • @Karl – I appreciate what you are saying but there’s a couple things that make it not so clear. I’ve seen that Tukisenta stat thrown around but never really seen the study…I’d be interested to see when and how much they eat. Often times these indigenous people only eat once or twice a day at the most and are effectively intermittent fasting. This is going to make their ability to process glucose much better than the normal American person. Their activity levels are also probably matching their carbohydrate intake (I’d find it incredibly hard to believe they overeat due to the probable nutrient density of their starches). It’s just scientific fact that excess glucose is stored as fat, that’s toxic in my book. As a side, I practice carb back-loading so I have no issue with carbs as long as their used in the correct capacity.

          Vince wrote on July 23rd, 2014
        • Vince,
          here you go:

          “Epidemiological studies in a total highland population,Tukisenta, New Guinea: Cardiovascular disease and relevant clinical, electrocardiographic, radiological and biochemical findings.”/
          Sinnett, Whyte (Journal of Chronic Diseases, 1973)

          The meal frequency patterns of the world`s (relatively) high-carbing traditional peoples/longest-lived healthy populations (ie “Blue Zoners” like the Okinawans) appear to be mixed; overall, the bottom line seems to be that a metabolically healthy body homeostatically adapts to differing carbohydrate loads by adjusting insulin sensitivity accordingly, largely regardless of meal frequency (as far as “basic health” is concerned, at least; when we are talking about “optimizing” things, it`s a different story): The more carbohydrate in the diet, the more the body increases insulin sensitivity to appropriately metabolize it, whereas low carb intakes induce “physiological insulin resistance”.
          I would argue that the peoples we are discussing remain metabolically healthy because their “activity levels” are “matching their” overall energy (not just carbohydrate) “intake,” as cellular energy excess has the tendency to cause “toxic” metabolic downstream effects regardless of its macronutrient origin; sure, “excess glucose is stored as fat” (though de novo lipogenesis is a relatively inefficient process, I might add), but the same goes for excess dietary fat – which, contrary to apparently popular belief, does not require high insulin levels to be stored as body fat.

          Karl wrote on July 24th, 2014
    • Why does pizza have to be considered junk food, especially if you make it at home? Gluten free crust with high quality meats, veggies, tomato sauce and cheese seems like a reasonable and satisfying meal, add a side salad and you’re set.

      I’m not saying you should eat it ALL the time but I do think it gets a bad rap when you can make it at home and make it healthier.

      Sharon T wrote on July 23rd, 2014
      • You can certainly improve pizza but grain based crust is not very nutritious (just the usual fortified flour with or without gluten) and flour is just a simple carb that spikes your blood sugar pretty much as rapidly as sugar. Now if you make a meatza or use a nut flour based crust and make those modifications you mentioned then it is more meal and less treat but in my opinion processed grain will always be code for coco puffs. When your sensitive enough to feel the carb/sugar highs you pick up on the wisdom Dr. Atkins left behind. The food industry will try to feed you grain any way they can get the cheap stuff down your pie hole.

        Groktimus Primal wrote on July 23rd, 2014
        • You are fighting culture with nutritional wisdom of your time. Good on ya though.

          Kit wrote on July 24th, 2014
        • I certainly don’t care what others choose to do but if folks are going around eating bread and potatoes and whatever I guess the true definition of Primal (if not Paleo) amounts to “whatever floats your boat” because not only was grain the last real hold out but it is also processed to high heaven. One thing is certain. The Primal folks sure can’t be labelled, even though the press still tries. Hey it doesn’t matter… Pizza is a vegetable according to our government so it’s all good :)

          Groktimus Primal wrote on July 24th, 2014
      • My husband taught himself to make a pizza crust out of cheese. Just mull that over. Cheese, homemade sauce with no sugar, fresh toppings including more cheese. The people at Pizza Hut who put the cheese in the crust have a LONG way to go to match this genius.

        Juli wrote on July 26th, 2014
        • Can you share that “cheese crust” method?

          Paula wrote on July 29th, 2014
        • To Paula: Well, it’s not my method so the short version as I understand it: He actually started out making cheese crackers like expensive ones we saw in store (made of 100% cheese from Wausau WI if you want to Google). He then realized he could make pizza crust.

          Start with grated cheese of your liking. We have tried many kinds.

          Spread grated cheese thinly on baking sheet with sides. Bake at 400 degrees. Watch fat come out. Remove from oven. Soak up fat with towel. Return to oven. You may need to do this twice. Watch carefully for the magic moment between being crisp and burning.

          Now put pizza things on top and bake again until done. Crust will absorb some moisture from toppings which if done right keeps it from burning without getting soggy.

          This is hardly foolproof recipe! If you’d like to try making crackers, muffin tins worked great. Good luck!

          Juli wrote on July 30th, 2014
      • Look, I have major gluten intolerance right now but as soon as my inflammation heals up, I’m having me some pizza!!! I’m a nutrition freak but I need that occasional brick oven or Italian restaurant pizza and nothing is a substitute. (Preferably once a week!). Sighhhhh. People, I just read an article on chocolate, raw cacao, any form of chocolate is practically poison!!! I’m devastated by a holistic article I read when researching cacao.

        Natalie wrote on August 4th, 2014
  6. I think it’s your choice to eat or not eat gluten. I eat what I enjoy eating and do it according to what my body says. I ate a gluten free diet for over a year thinking this would improve my primary progressive MS. I found out that eating an occasion gluten dish or desert did not phase me one way or another. My body was actually happier with a mix. I do see a difference for the worst when I favor one side of the gluten or non gluten. My point is to listen to your body and enjoy eating!

    Mark Naffziger wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  7. I think there will be a growing backlash and misinformation regarding the trend towards grain free, natural diets. Junk food is a trillion dollar industry and junk food producers and their tax payer subsidized factory farm suppliers can afford to lobby against this movement. According to the USDA data base, the annual All Wheat Food Use was was down about 15% last season in respect to the average of the previous six seasons. This was more than 50 million bushels less than what was used in the 1995/96 season. If I were a wheat farmer, I may consider turning my irrigated factory farm back to native prairie and raise the bison that thrived there naturally for centuries.

    Jack Lea Mason wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  8. Just saw an article in my local paper about this very same thing actually titled “A dissenting view of the Paleo Diet” http://seattletimes.com/html/health/2024082823_paleodietxml.html

    Yet I have Celiac disease and a severe dairy intolerance/allergy (break out in hives yet told it isn’t a real allergy by one doctor) but was told that as long as I eat other starches and eat lots of fruits and veggies there will never be nutritional deficiencies. At this point I don’t trust any nutritionists and think I know as much as most of them. Seriously I took my mother to several different ones and give them the paper from her kidney doctor about her dietary requirements and just watch them flounder about like idiots.

    Stephanie Ganger wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  9. Question. If you cook potatoes, let them cool, and then heat them up the next day, is that still good for the good bacteria?

    Patricia wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Patricia, hopefully someone will chime in here to provide certainty, but I can tell you what I THINK I remember from prior reading.

      Rice and potatoes should be refrigerated (or frozen) for at least 24 hours for max resistant starch development. Both can then be re-heated without destroying the resistant starch. However, I think that heating potato starch will destroy some of the resistant starch, so it should be consumed at room temp or below…not used to bake or cook, or placed into hot drinks.

      Please feel free to clarify or elaborate if I am off base here…

      Rodney wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Yes! Put the taters in the fridge overnight. Gently reheat them (low heat).

      Sheri wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  10. Mark – Since Primal is the very simplest form of eating, can you comment on the benefits of grinding your own fresh grain? Sue Becker of Breadbeckers has spent over a decade becoming educated on the benefits of fresh ground grain. I am benefitting from the research she has done and I LOVE the fresh flavor it brings to baked goods without added sugar, and also all of the nutrients I’m taking in that balance my daily health. Home-ground wheat is far superior to any flour we purchase today which has all natural nutrients stripped out and replacements added.
    We began reading Mark’s Daily Apple 3 yrs ago, picked up The Primal Blueprint workbook, and are thankful for how we have learned to restructure our eating to a healthy enjoyable place. Thanks, Mark
    -janet

    janet wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Janet, I agree with you that grinding your own grain is healthier, as it is fresh, as opposed to buying a bag of flour in the store where it has sat for who-knows-how-long and becomes rancid. To take it one step further, it is best to soak or sprout the grains first, which reduces the phytic acids. You can soak/sprout grains yourself, or buy them pre-soaked/sprouted. I do a little of both. I buy my pre-soaked/sprouted ancient grains from http://www.organicsproutedflour.net. The company is called “To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company located in Arkansas. There is plenty of information on the company’s website explaining the process. The Einkorn grain is the best!

      Gail wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  11. Seems to me that the problem isn’t the lack of gluten containing foods but the fake food substitutes. I do enjoy a sandwich once or twice a year and a few cookies on occasion, but I know I will feel stuffy and uncomfortable and often have pain in my hands, back, and feet when I eat a significant amount of gluten free bakery products. But it isn’t a big loss, because I remember the 4 important symptoms I lost when I dropped the wheat.

    Gail wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Ditto.

      I think the article’s sound advice of not going overboard in one’s thinking & approach to food is key to anyone’s health success.

      IslandSeeker wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  12. Thank you for writing this – I violently react to gluten and it just drives me crazy some of the articles coming out regarding the gluten-free diet. I also really appreciate all the details regarding gut health. Last year I started eating not just GF but grain-free using Paleo as my guide. Prior could not drop a single pound despite exercise and calorie modifications. I am now thirty pounds lighter and experiencing way less inflammation (need some more help with this but much better). Can not express enough my appreciation for your website as a resource.

    Linda wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  13. I’m celiac, my mom’s celiac…it’s a real thing. It’s pretty easy to be Gluten Free if you eat Real food, whole food. Yes you stay away from products that have Gluten (some oats, some grains, some soy products et all that you have previously listed.) I find the threat to be those who think going Gluten Free is healthy. It’s like being a vegetarian….those Doritos are vegetarian and some misguided folks will live off them – same goes for Gluten Free. My Mother in law can’t figure out what GF is and asks me constantly at every family gathering if I can have potatoes, cheese etc…Um yeah, I can eat those – no Gluten….I appreciated all her consideration however, she will also purchase a TON of GF frozen products from pastas, breads, desserts etc that she’s excited tp share with me but disappointed when I don’t eat a full loaf of the stuff which totes triple or more the calories of any Non Gluten Free counterpart…The calories and non fortified aspect of Gluten free foods can leave people who are misguided completely malnourished. I was a t a bar the other day and overheard someone talking about GF beer and Ciders…They continued to talk and were drinking them because they thought it was a healthier choice. Til they read the label. it was 2 servings per bottle, drink 4 bottles and your bloated let alone your caloric intake for the day is through the roof…I would kill for a taste of a Guiness long before I wasted my taste-buds on a majority of these GF beers – no contest or just pass the hard liquor already! As a whole, a majority of folks are uneducated or misinformed about nutrition, it would be great to find a way to help anyone and everyone to build a better body and brain through nutrition education.

    Jecka wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I have always enjoyed ciders more than most beer so that has not been a big deal for me, but I wholly concur on the Guinness, Jecka…its the one thing I truly miss!

      I have already told myself if I make it to Ireland someday, I am having one draft Guinness in a Pub (:

      kitten wrote on July 23rd, 2014
      • Ditto, Kitten!
        OMG! Yes…It’d be worth it!

        Jecka wrote on July 23rd, 2014
      • If you get the chance, go for the best option, which is to experience Guinness at the brewery where its made – take the tour and then enjoy your included-in-the-entry-price pint of Guinness at the top of The Storehouse with 360-degree views over Dublin. Amazing!
        That is the only place I have ever actually enjoyed a pint of Guinness :)

        AutumnTiger wrote on July 24th, 2014
        • cool, thanks for the tip! That is exactly what I will do and its something to look forward to for sure!

          kitten wrote on July 28th, 2014
  14. I am gluten-sensitive, but not celiac. I have all the willpower I need to stay away from junk foods after getting gut pains and diarrhea for a week after eating a serving of grain after a few months off it. But one time, I ate the filling from a key lime pie, complete with a few crumbs and had no reaction. Thanks heavens I am not the extreme kind!

    I can eat gluten foods on occasion with the help of [b]digestive enzymes[/b]. These turn all the gluten into harmless nutrients. I have found that I still have a detectable reaction, but it is not a problem. That tip will help a lot of you, although I don’t think celiacs should try it.

    A lot of today’s gluten sensitivity and other sensitivity allergies probably come from glyphosate (Roundup) from genetically modified foods. Eventually, these will no longer be grown. It will take decades for most of the glyphosate to leave the soil, as it is a persistent toxin, and gradually, all the induced allergies will leave.

    In the meantime, supplemental enzymes will help cope. We should consider a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto and Syngenta and others for assaulting us with glyphosate and other things that mean we have to spend extra money. One who commits assault should pay the consequences, not the victim.

    Esther Cook wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  15. Heck, one can get a lot of vitamins and minerals from a good quality dark chocolate bar. I don’t recommend eating a 100 gram bar of dark chocolate every day but for me personally when I started mixing up a bowl of unsweetened coconut flakes with Kerrygold butter and 100% cocoa powder and adding some nuts and a small amount of berries, it makes a heck of a breakfast cereal replacement that packs a hell of a nutritional punch.

    Additionally, a 100 gram bar of high quality dark chocolate has the following:

    11 grams of fiber.
    67% of the RDA for Iron.
    58% of the RDA for Magnesium.
    89% of the RDA for Copper.
    98% of the RDA for Manganese.
    It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

    (Source: Authority Nutrition)

    Pepper Culpepper wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • One of my favorite new “cereals” is a mixture of chopped apple, chopped almonds (soaked if you prefer), dried cranberries or blueberries, toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, maybe ground flaxseed, a sprinkle of cinnamon and ginger. It may be topped with milk (dairy or almond). Morning yum!

      Paula wrote on July 29th, 2014
  16. Yeah, we wouldn’t want to get lumped with those awful people Michael Pollan was gasbagging about when he said “Gluten-free is a social contagion”. Avoiding gluten (or for me, wheat, as there are lots more nasty things in it than gluten – gliadin, for instance) is seen by a lot of people as a fad, but for the life of me I can’t see what the attraction of such a fad would be. “Congratulations! You get to avoid pasta, bread, pancakes, pizza, croissants, doughnuts” and on and on. Who in his right mind would jump on to that bandwagon because it is a friggin’ FAD?

    I feel a blog post coming on, LOL.

    Oh, and Mark didn’t mention another “risk” you will encounter from the Glutenators: “You won’t get enough fiber!” Because, presumably, they have never eaten any spinach, I guess. If you eat meat and vegetables YOU GET FIBER.

    Anybody else having trouble with the server timing out? (I hope this is not a double post.)

    Tyrannocaster wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Yes, Tyrano, and I am getting very frustrated with not being able to log onto this site without several attempts, hour after hour. Getting VERY old. I have high speed internet and can go anywhere else on the web within a nanosecond. Getting on here anymore is like running uphill backward, with a blindfold on and wearing high heels.

      Tiff wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  17. There was an article in the latest copy of Wise Traditions (Weston Price quarterly journal, Summer 2014 pg 45-51) where the author, Maria Atwood, claimed that: “‘Use it or lose it’ works for enzymes in our gut, too. Stay away from a food for a long time and your body will ramp down the production of enzymes needed to digest that food.”

    The author was using this as one of the dangers of going gluten-free – that we would have to reintroduce the food slowly to recoup the enzymes to digest it.

    Interestingly, the author never addresses why we would need to eat the grains in the first place other than mention of the vitamins and minerals that we’ve already proven we can get elsewhere. Her platform was to get people off the “gluten-free craze” with the point that “going too far afield from our ancestral diets we may unfortunately impart to others a fear of eating foods that have sustained mankind for thousands of years.”

    I’d be interested to know Mark’s perspective on the role of “ancient grains” in the diet – as this seems to be a foundation of a Weston Price-based diet.

    Erin wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I was told the same thing by a doctor…

      I had been on a self-imposed gluten free diet for years. The first doctor I saw told me that the Celiac blood test would come back negative at this point – and that the best test I should do was to have my intestine looked at then (showed typical damage to the vili) and again after a year or so to make sure that it had healed and something else wasn’t causing problems. That seemed very common sense, so I followed his advice.

      A few years down the line I followed up with a gastro-intestinologist here in Italy. Low and behold, my intestinal biopsy and ultrasound (or x-ray, honestly I don’t remember…I had to drink this awful white goop) showed a healthy intestine. However, the new doctor told me that the first had given me bad advice and that I did not have a gluten sensitivity but was instead milk intolerant…He decided that I was underweight and that it was important for me to eat bread and pasta. When I reintroduced these foods, I regularly had horrible stomach pains, diarrhea and threw up. His explanation for this was that I had stopped producing the enzymes that digest wheat. He gave me good bacteria supplements and said I would get over it if I persisted…and after more than a year I did…or at least the symptoms were light enough of me to not notice them.

      However, after having my daughter my weight just kept plummeting and I became increasingly anemic. I also had a new asthma problem. At a certain point, I went back to being gluten free and put back a couple of pounds on. I’m still anemic and asthmatic though, although I feel like I don’t have the same degree of fatigue or attacks.

      So my question is: what’s the deal? Has anyone else had a similar experience, or been told the same thing by a doctor. Is the enzyme thing true? And if it is, why don’t I have a reaction to season foods like asparagus or cherries. A whole year goes by without me eating them, and I digest them just fine when Spring finally rolls around.

      primal in palermo wrote on July 24th, 2014
      • This article says that, for the most part, the answer is “no, it’s not true” — http://sciencenordic.com/does-meat-make-vegetarians-ill .

        There is a caveat — you can’t necessarily immediately go from complete abstinence to making the item in question a large portion of your diet without some GI issues. There’s enough cross-compatibility between the enzymes you have that your body would do fine with small amounts after a period of abstinence. To accommodate larger amounts, the body would need some enzymes that don’t necessarily cross over, and that’s where supply and demand come in.

        Regarding the anemia and asthma — I’ve historically had both, myself, and I’ve found that both are vastly improved when I avoid most grains and limit the dairy that isn’t fat-bast (avoid milk, cottage cheese, etc., but consume cream, cream-based items, and some cheeses). I’m still working out the details on what exactly is causing what, though I suspect the anemia issues were in no small part due to being inundated with calcium (calcium inhibits iron absorption). Even now, if I start going too crazy on the dairy, my iron levels drop.

        I wish I knew the exact mechanism for the breathing issues, but I do know that if I have something like regular milk, I tend to have more breathing issues when I try to work out.

        Shauna wrote on July 24th, 2014
  18. I stopped eating grains and starchy carbs over four years ago after having a stent implanted in my LAD – after that my inflammation markers improved noticeably – and my most recent blood panels were so good a doctor friend decided to go paleo as well – here’s my question – apart from my body toning up, I noticed for the first time in my life a tendency towards cramping muscles when exerting myself physically – I’ve been taking supplements on and off, primarily magnesium, but not noticing any real difference – anybody else notice anything like this? solutions?

    klausonmaui wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I’d like to know, too, because I also have some problems with either cramping muscles or real sensitivity to electrolyte imbalance (feeling terrible after playing Ultimate frisbee or biking in summer heat unless I eat salt or drink some electrolyte mix).

      kt wrote on July 24th, 2014
      • Doesn’t surprise me, to be honest. When you drop all the processed crap, you actually run the risk of being *deficient* in sodium (I actually ran into this problem with my son when he was first eating solids — I made all his food from scratch, so he got very little sodium and it was negatively affecting his sleep). I’ve also run into the issue of electrolyte imbalance sensitivities while working out. Here are some things I did to help fix it:

        – Eat more salt. Without processed foods, there’s not much reason to fear putting a little salt on things. Both sodium and potassium are the big electrolyte nutrients that are the first to be canabalized if you go low carb. If you consume a low enough amount of carbs that you go ketogenic, your body will actually dump sodium, and then potassium.

        – Make sure you’re getting enough potassium. A good chunk of the potassium heavy hitters are removed for some people when going Primal (bananas, white beans, white potatoes, yogurt), and some things may take a while to acquire a taste for (avocado, squash, leafy greens, fish).

        – Make your own electrolyte drink. Add a little salt, some citrus or sliced vegetables, or other items that help boost the electrolyte content of your water that you drink while working out. (I also found that Smart Water, which contains a small amount of electrolytes according to the label, to be sufficient to not experience the electrolyte imbalances during a workout.)

        – Drink more water in general. It might be a dehydration thing. If you’re taking in fewer carbs, then you might not have as much glycogen. Glycogen stores water as well as glucose, so less of it means less stored water, too. I found drinking more water, even outside of workouts, helped a lot.

        Since doing these things, I’ve had fewer issues with electrolyte imbalances and muscle cramping, so I hope it helps you.

        Shauna wrote on July 24th, 2014
  19. When diagnosed with Celiac, within 6 months I had to go on B-12 injections (almost deadly low) and start taking calcium supplements for severe hamstring cramps at night. I don’t know why these occurred, but I am glad to be under a doctors care with regular full blood screenings.

    Rob wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Without any other information, this is only a guess, but it’s rather well-known that Celiac causes issues absorbing nutrients (due to the damaged villi). Since it takes quite a long time to deplete B12 levels (the liver can store 3-5 years’ worth), odds are, you’ve been on the road to deficiency long before you were diagnosed. The same largely goes for the calcium.

      Shauna wrote on July 24th, 2014
  20. “If you’re going gluten-free, you have to replace the fermentable fiber in whole grains with the fermentable fibers and resistant starches in fruits, vegetables, green bananas/plantains, cooked and cooled potatoes, and raw potato starch. This will surpass and improve upon the modest amounts of said fibers/resistant starches found in wheat and other gluten grains.”

    I did not know this, and for all of my reading on health, GF, etc, I’ve never heard this before. Interesting, and makes sense. Thank you.

    Shella wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Resistant starch is a hot topic right now. I feel even better since I’ve added it. Rice, potatoes, or RS in my smoothies daily (approximately 50gm). Also, the weight loss seems easier now !
      p.s. Men should have around 100gm per day.

      Sheri wrote on July 23rd, 2014
      • Sorry…. Women should have 1/2 pound and men 1 pound! (not grams).

        Sheri wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Resistant starch. I can’t resist. This image may not be safe for work, although there is nothing nasty in it:

      https://benboomed.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/starchblog2.jpg

      Tyrannocaster wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  21. My mom lives in a retirement community and the other folks are always telling her she walks to fast. My mom is celiac. I’ve often wondered if the lack of gluten in her diet is part of the reason she is able to out-pace the other folks in her age group!

    Karen wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  22. Just what I needed, thanks! I will look into resistant starch because after going gluten-free, I feel worst then ever.

    About the gluten-free stuff sold at the supermarket, I don’t buy it, it’s full of refined sugar! Okay, it’s not true, I buy rice pasta…

    Coco wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  23. I want to remind you all how highly glycemic wheat is. Most likely cause of diabetes among people to day. Not to mention all the other auto immune disease it causes. I have Ms because of it, but no dr told me that. I had to find the cause of those migraines myself. GFD is the only way to restore health. Wheat is a toxin. You just can’t feel the poisoning slowly taking place.

    Kelly wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I’m on the auto-immune paleo diet and can’t eat rice or potatoes. I have a feeling my gut bacteria are out of balance. Besides green bananas, what could I use for resistant starch?

      Kathy wrote on July 24th, 2014
  24. I’m gluten intolerant, so I choose not to eat that stray breadcrumb or non-tamari soy sauce. In fact, most of us here are, so I don’t see why not to stay 100% GF.

    Eugenia wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  25. The support you get here in New Zealand is laughable, or it may just be in my area. I react badly to gluten, and so does my daughter. When she was about 9 I was discussing this with my open minded doctor who suggested that it would not be worth going for any sensitivity tests, as I clearly know what the problems are, and there were no real benefits (financially or medically) for me to do so. He also told me that if she were diagnosed with celiac then she would be ‘in the system’ forever more and I would have to constantly battle the official dieticians wanting to oversee meal plans and so on, who would want to stuff her with other grains, keep to a low fat SAD diet and so on. Much better to carry on as we are, than involve the professionals. And that’s from my doctor!

    Emily wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  26. A lot of interesting comments. What I haven’t read yet is about FODMAPs. I recently started on a low FODMAP “diet” and all of the distress in my gut went away immediately. After a few weeks, the inflammation in my body started to decrease as well. I started on this program after reading a few studies that researched why gluten free makes non-celiac people feel better overall. It seems that the higher FODMAP foods produce the same effect as gluten in the body (for some people) – the body fighting the food, resulting in inflammation. I am not a scientist, and I cannot explain the concept clearly, but do a simple search for FODMAP diets. And there’s a book called “21 Day Tummy” that explains it and gives recipes.

    melanie wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  27. Synthetic vitamin B9, or folic acid, was not part of anyone’s diet in this country until after WWII. By itself, it is useless in the body until it is processed by four different conversion steps into methylfolate. An enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is essential for one of these steps.

    For those of us with MTHFR gene mutations (there are several different ones), folic acid can be processed only partially or hardly at all. We need to supplement with the active form, methylfolate.

    The effects of MTHFR defects are many and varied. One way to find out if you have any of these mutations is to test at Family Tree DNA, download your raw data, then upload it to a site such as Genetic Genie or Promethease for analysis.

    If you have one or more MTHFR mutations, and you eat “fortified” wheat products or take folic acid supplements or multi-vitamins containing folic acid, thinking you are getting enough folate, you may not be. This is a particular danger for pregnant women, as some birth defects are caused by a deficiency of folate – which is why folic acid is added to so many products – but recently we’ve come to understand that it isn’t universally effective because of these mutations.

    Methylation is an important and complex series of reactions. Some are of the opinion that for those with MTHFR mutations, folic acid may be harmful.

    framistat wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  28. I have a problem and question. I am extremely carb sensitive, and after a lifetime of morbid obesity, I lost close to 200 lbs and have been maintaining that loss for the past 4 years. However, I eat only 20g of carbs (at most). I gave up all grains long ago (although I have a very occasional ‘indulgence’), and I can’t afford the carbs in any RS. Since I’ve been eating this way for the past 6-7 years (before I ever heard of any need for RS) and have had no problems, I don’t feel the need to be concerned about it.

    I’m hypothyroid and have bloodwork every 4 months–and every lab report is superb in terms of basic heath markers. I see no reason to change my WOE that helps me stay healthy and manage my weight (at age 73, my thyroid hormones are the only Rx I take).

    Is it possible that our gut bacteria adapt to our eating patterns? That is, I have no digestive difficulties eating as I do, nor have I experienced any health concerns. All my doctors marvel at my excellent health.

    Note: Since I have Hashimoto’s which is auto-immune, I likely have at least a sensitivity to gluten, and I eliminated dairy, too, because I just felt better without it. So I think I’m following a WOE that works well for my body. Does anyone see a problem?

    Anita Gandolfo wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I’m not a doctor or a dietitian, but if I were in your position and I was feeling healthy and happy (and your doctor’s are happy with your overall health) I wouldn’t worry to much.
      If at 73 you are only on thyroid medication, you are certainly doing a lot better than the majority!

      Congrats on your weight loss! I have read about a lot of people who were considered obese and lost dramatic amounts of weight after giving up refined flours, as well as people going from diabetic to having a clear bill of health.

      Kudos to you!

      Alyssa wrote on July 24th, 2014
    • Heck, sounds like you’re doing just great! I wouldn’t change a thing- but keep reading and tweaking as you never know what bit of information might help you out.

      Felicia wrote on July 24th, 2014
  29. I’m wondering why there has been no “going back” for me? I probably consumed gluten every day of my life until I went Paleo 15 months ago, after a few months gluten free if I had just a little bit, and I mean minute, I have stomach pains that will keep me awake all night. Its not psycho symptomatic because I often don’t know I’ve eaten it and do the research the next day (i.e. read the label)

    Seems strange and I’d love to know why?

    Chris wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  30. Aside from the gluten and gliadin problems another factor to consider is that anything made with commercial (as opposed to home ground) wheat flour contributes to an iodine deficiency. The vast majority of Americans are deficient in iodine (iodized salt doesn’t do it.) Prior to 1960 flour was conditioned with iodine. About 1960 the industry started conditioning flour with bromine. Bromine (and chlorine and fluoride) compete for the same receptors that are supposed to grab iodine. An iodine deficiency affects your thyroid among other things creating a whole host of health problems. Another reason Americans continue to become less and less healthy?

    Island Girl wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  31. Here’s another “danger”: people who go gluten-free also go wheat-germ-free, and their arthritis symptoms might disappear! That’s what happened to me and my husband, anyway.

    DonnaE wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  32. How come nobody talks about the fact that the humans who were eating the “Paleo diet” or the Primal diet died off?

    markbo20 wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • Because that would be moronic?

      On the slight chance that you aren’t just a troll, it would be like asking why no one is talking about why all the Japanese who follow their traditional diet are “dying off”. Does that indicate that that particular diet is unhealthy, and that the Western diet must be better for the younger generation of Japanese?

      Jim T wrote on July 24th, 2014
      • You start your post by suggesting I am a moron then wonder if I am the troll?

        The hominids that lived during the Paleolithic era were most certainly NOT biologically identical to modern homo-sapiens. Nor was their lifestyle. They were cavemen. Further still, the very trendy “Paleo” diet is in fact, quite different than what those early humans ate. They were gatherers first. Less than 30% of their diet was animal based. This includes meat, as well as dairy and eggs. Homo-sapiens (we) were most likely the first humans to eat grains. Not surprising, we have flourished in part because we have the time to farm and feed many more people than those early humans could. Pre-homo-sapiens had to stay in small groups in order to support themselves because all they did was gather food. We have been consuming grain for 10,000 years and flourished. Are you really saying we have been doing it wrong for 10,000 years?

        Whatever the traditional Japanese diet is, it is still being consumed by modern homo-sapiens, not cavemen. Comparing the two doesn’t work.

        My question stands.

        markbo20 wrote on July 24th, 2014
        • I said the question was moronic, I said nothing about the person asking it. Reading comprehension goes a long way…

          You can debate when we became homo sapiens. You can debate what, exactly, our early diet consisted of. I strongly dispute that you can argue against the statement that we were essentially 100% human prior to the agricultural revolution. The fact that there were still many places and peoples that were living a pre-agricultural lifestyle 100-200 years ago – and that these people were indisputably modern humans – might even be considered proof. To a rational person, at least.

          Given that we became 100% human on a grain-free diet, I also don’t see how you can argue that we are not best adapted to a grain-free diet. Unless you believe that we were ‘created’ only 10,000 years ago, I guess.

          So, back to your original premise, did those grain-free humans “die off”? Or did they switch their diet over a period of time? THIS is the part of your argument that was moronic. You were implying that a grain-free diet is unhealthy, leading to those who eat it to “die off” in favor of grain eaters.

          No one disputes that grains are far more calorie dense, or that farming grains can support a MUCH larger population. No one disputes that peoples who ate grains either displaced or converted those who did not.

          Your difficulty is that you are confusing quantity with quality. Mark and other paleo supporters are arguing that grains are a poor quality foodstuff. You are (in your response) saying that argument has to be wrong, because grains are able to support a larger population and free up people’s time for other things, and they supplanted those who did not eat grains. This is a non sequitur.

          Did the Union army defeat the Confederates because the quality of their soldiers was better? I guess you could make that argument, but I think most people would disagree with you. The Union won because it had MORE – men, ammo, rail lines, boots, food, etc. As soon as Grant made it a war of attrition, the quantity advantage of the Union inevitably won out vs whatever advantage the Confederacy had in quality.

          Jim T wrote on July 24th, 2014
        • Anthropology disagrees with pretty much every one of your arguments — http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-evolution-timeline-interactive

          The Agricultural Revolution happened about 10-12,000 years ago. Homo Sapiens (we) came on the scene 200,000 years ago. The last of our cousins (other Homo species), Homo Floresiensis, died out about 17,000 years ago. Technically speaking, we didn’t really compete with them, because they only lived on a small, isolated island in Indonesia, and it’s speculated that a volcanic eruption made them go extinct. The Neanderthals, our primary cousin competition, died out 28,000 years ago.

          Also, the amount of meat that a given group ate depended entirely on their location and available food sources. The closer to the poles you went, the higher percentage of meat was consumed, up to as much as 90% of annual food consumption by the Inuit peoples, though there is also the Maasai people, who traditionally lived primarily or exclusively on meat, blood, and milk.

          Also, several researches do believe that we’ve been “doing it wrong” for the past 10,000 years, in a sense. Some believe that it was a double-edged sword, while others feel it was “the worst mistake in human history” – http://www.ditext.com/diamond/mistake.html

          As an aside, I’d argue that the reason agriculture has allowed us to “flourish” so much has more to do with the Industrial Revolution than agriculture, itself, given that high population density meant faster spread of disease (ie – the Plague in 6th century AD), and more susceptibility of food supply to factors that led to famine (ie – the Great Famine of 1315, which set the population up for the Black Death shortly after). This especially makes sense when you consider that the hunter-gatherer populations actually didn’t experience as much famine as agriculturalists.

          Shauna wrote on July 24th, 2014
        • For Jim T,

          Before I begin, I would like to point out that your answers to my inquiries have been tinged with a bit of anger. Why is that? Why do think it is okay to attempt to insult someone during a debate such as this?

          While you may not have directly called me a moron, you implied as much. That is what reading comprehension is, understanding the words and their meaning.

          While YOU may want to debate when we became homo-sapiens, few Anthropologists would bother to debate this subject. Suggesting that stone-aged people who happen to still be living this way during modern times somehow validates a diet choice is absurd. Nor is it proof of anything, as these people were surrounded by a far more advanced world. And more importantly, these are small, isolated groups.

          I did not actually argue that we are best suited to grain free diet. I merely noted that massive human development occurred AFTER we began farming and consuming grain. The fact is, the only hominids that lasted were those that started farming and consuming grains, homo-sapiens. All other hominids failed to advance. The grain diet allowed for cultural and societal growth that the gatherer or Paleo diet did not.

          We agree that grains support more people.

          I am not confusing quantity with quality as you state it. It is not a non sequitur. Sustainability of food and health is the crux of my entire argument. The Paleo diet only worked in small groups and simply was not viable with a whole society. The world population was just over 5 million 15,000 years ago. Today we have more than that in New York city. The world has changed and we must change with it, not revert. If grains are such poor “foodstuff”, why is that we have flourished since adding these to our diet? It is not just about how eating a certain way makes one person feel. The bigger picture that you seem unable to see is that we have to think about everyone on the planet, not just ourselves. We cannot fix famine in Africa with fruits and nuts. We cannot fix it with meat either. Balance is what we need. Reverting to a diet that worked for early man is backwards logic.

          We live in very big and crowed world. I would rather you argue for a vegetarian diet than a Paleo diet. At least in this case we are no longer wasting precious resources on ranches that destroy the land. At least with farming veggies, fruits and grains we can find the sustainability we need to feed all us.

          Your Confederate/Union army analogy is bizarre.

          Mark is a highly trained, former endurance athlete who has the time and the resources to live this lifestyle with ease. He also has the discipline that very few people have. The whole world cannot live this way.In fact, few humans have his abilities. I know that I do not. We do not have the time or the money to pick and choose as carefully as one should to make this work.

          Summary: If someone undertakes this diet and does not add everything they need, they are risking their health as much as they are continuing with their current diet that includes grain.
          This diet is NOT sustainable for the world we live in. And unlike you, I am concerned about feeding more than just me!

          markbo20 wrote on July 24th, 2014
        • For Shauna,

          In what way does this graph disprove something I have said? About 10,000 years ago, we (homo-sapiens) started farming. While the exact timeline might not be perfectly suited, the reality is that after we started farming and consuming grain, we advanced far quicker than any group that had come before us.

          What’s important is not the amount of meat consumed by early man, it is the amount that the modern Paleo diet calls for. The world cannot sustain itself eating as much meat as this diet calls for. And again, is this sustainable for the whole planet? No.

          I might concede the “double-edged sword” argument, except that I like my life. I like riding my bike. I like traveling to far off lands. I like using my computer. I like watching sports and movies. Why can I do all these things? Because I live in a world where we can feed many people. I do not have to go gather my food from the woods and fields I live near. I can go to a store and buy them. I can only imagine what would happen to so many of the folks extolling the virtues of this diet would do, if doing so involved more than going to “Whole Foods” to get it.

          As far as your aside argument is concerned, The Industrial Evolution happened BECAUSE we learned to farm. Yes, it meant more people. And more people means more problems. Is it not our responsibility to try to work on these problems rather foolishly revert to a diet that worked for a world population of less than 5 million people? Hunter-gatherers had no famine because there was plenty of food and no people! Come on, Seriously…

          What’s the biggest problem with this diet? It is those who selfishly insist that this diet is the best way for all, even though the whole world could never sustain itself eating in this way. As I made clear to Jim T, I am concerned about feeding more than just myself and my family.

          Food. What we eat and how we get it is the single most important issue facing the planet. How do we feed everyone in a way that works for all?

          markbo20 wrote on July 24th, 2014
  33. All I know is a life without gluten means better sleep, less painful joints (especially my feet) and no more stomach problems. And, since I eliminated all the gluten laden food I used to eat I now have room for lots real, fresh and delicious food. I also found I have less of desire for sugar-y foods.

    sac518 wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  34. The only other thing I can think of is that for those trying to lose weight or control diabetes through diet rather than having an actual problem with gluten, many ‘gluten free’ substitutes like rice flour might present as much or more of a problem as wheat. As with anything, you have to read your labels.

    cfb wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  35. I did not read all comments but I did not see anyone mention Einkorn! It has very low gluten and more protein. I took a class from jovial foods and it is amazing!! Ancient, non gmo, organic wheat! Awesome!!

    Fred wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I wrote a comment yesterday about Einkorn, but haven’t seen it published. I mentioned it was an ancient grain that was great tasting, and that it is even more healthful if first sprouted. I also mentioned that one can buy sprouted grains from “To Your Health” (www.organicsproutedgrains.com), and there is plenty of info on the website touting the health benefits of sprouted grains.

      Gail wrote on July 24th, 2014
  36. Yes gluten free diet is not the way to go. You need a little bit of everything to function, just limit your diet on certain foods.

    Felix wrote on July 23rd, 2014
    • I must say that this statement: “You need a little bit of everything to function…” is so vague it’s meaningless. Seriously, “everything?” It reminds me of the oft-heard phrase “everything in moderation.” This is fuzzy thinking that is useless. Nutrition is complex, unfortunately, and repeating vague generalities is pointless.

      Sorry to pick on you, but it is amazing how certain memes get picked up and repeated like mantras…”gluten-free is a fad…” being the latest one. Guess it’s easier than actually looking into the fact of the matter. No human that I’m aware of needs gluten to function.

      Energy! wrote on July 25th, 2014
    • No, you don’t need a little bit of everything to function. People with food allergies or intolerances and people with religious/ethical objections to certain foods and of course celiacs are proving this every day. You simply don’t need gluten to survive or function. Air and water are not optional, but you can take or leave gluten. Honestly, the foods you see at the supermarket are mostly not available to most people in most places over human history. Wheat is not part of many cultures. If you have no chronic problems eating the way you are eating, count your blessings but don’t ever assume everybody else can or wants to do the same.

      jwoolman wrote on August 1st, 2014
  37. speaking of burgers…when splurging on fast food burgers, order it with 2 bottom buns instead of a top and bottom for less carbs and wheat :)

    gerry townsend wrote on July 23rd, 2014
  38. Every time I’m told a “doctors” opinion I just reread pages 52 – 53 from the book

    Water Flowing Eastwards.

    Puts everything in a crystal clear perspective.

    Chris wrote on July 24th, 2014
  39. Mark, you must know different people to me; of course. As Allen Carr said about smoking, you either do or you don’t. Problem is, especially when asking other people to feed your children, most people think that the only reason you would abstain from a food, is if you will convulse, froth at the mouth and die in a matter of seconds if one atom of it should touch your lip. If you do consume said atom and people know and/or see you, your gluten free status is forthwith removed and you are seen as a fickle faddist doing things for attention and stupidly believing internet wackos. And as I said somewhere in the previous comments, you are fighting culture, not nutritional wisdom; it hurts people you won’t conform to the group (and it is dirt cheap, and you know how it tastes better when it is free – or almost so). You must join the pain to show commitment to the ‘tribe’. Mind you, there is then the lost benefit of people getting bonus ‘tribe’ points by ridiculing you enthusiastically in front of others (ensuring the ridicule is delivered with such gusto that you are not able to reply). I suppose it beats the ‘kiddy killer’ tag I get when I am found out for not immunising one of my children.I like to call wheat chicken/pig food as a joke, which most people don’t get as they don’t know what anything does/should eat, let alone themselves. Sorry, having a: most people in the world are useless and stupid day.

    Kit wrote on July 24th, 2014
  40. Mark you really hit the nail on the head.

    I have been living a gluten-free (and for the most part paleo) lifestyle for the last 7 months. After the initial 7-14 day withdrawal process, which is mostly from lack of cheese!, being GF is a natural choice.

    Personally speaking, I didn’t realize what it was like to feel this good! I haven’t been to a doctor about this, as most will go by the Heart & Stoke Foundations recommendation of eating “healthy” whole grains, but I now have come to the conclusion after a lot of trial and error that I have a mild gluten sensitivity. Even if I don’t, I have found out what works for me and what makes me feel good!

    I suppose the thing that bothers me the most is the ignorance that I sometimes encounter. I have done a lot of research on the pro’s and con’s of being GF and I don’t rely on the media to wash my brain with what I “should be eating” in order for large corporations to make their dollar.

    My point, I suppose, is that people need to look within themselves to find what feels good. One text or study shouldn’t be taken as gospel and intelligent discussion about all of the possibilities should be available to everyone.

    Thank-you Mark, for making this rational discussion available to so many people.

    Kindest regards,
    Alyssa

    Alyssa wrote on July 24th, 2014

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