It continues to happen: I run into people who say to me “I follow the Wheat Belly lifestyle. I eat gluten-free!” When I ask them what that means, they tell me that they only eat gluten-free bread, pasta, pizza, cookies, etc.
I’m not entirely sure why this misinterpretation of the Wheat Belly message is so common. Let’s talk about this important distinction, as being gluten-free can be an absolute health and weight disaster, unlike the magnificent health and weight loss we enjoy on the Wheat Belly lifestyle when done right.
It’s perfectly fine to be gluten-free, i.e., avoiding wheat, rye, and barley that contains the gliadin protein within gluten responsible for celiac disease and other gliadin-induced reactions. People with celiac disease often argue “But I have to be gluten-free!” But the problem comes when food manufacturers try to get a slice of the action and recreate gluten-free breads, rolls, pizza crust etc. using one or more of four ingredients:
- Rice flour
- Tapioca starch
- Potato flour
Wheat and related grains raise blood sugar to high levels, higher than table sugar, due to the unique digestibility of amylopectin A. Very few foods raise blood sugar higher than wheat. So what foods raise blood sugar even higher than sugar, higher than wheat? Yup: cornstarch, rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato flour. Eat any gluten-free foods made of these ingredients and you will experience sky-high blood sugars. Do this repeatedly and you develop insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes. But it doesn’t end there.
What else do gluten-free replacement ingredients do to the hapless consumer who eats them thinking they are healthy and safe? Plenty. Among the effects of gluten-free foods are:
- Glycation reactions—High blood glucose alters the proteins of the body via a process called glycation, an irreversible reaction that essentially generates cellular debris. While you can detect glycation via the common HbA1c test (glycated hemoglobin), you won’t detect glycation of the proteins in the lenses of your eyes until they accumulate as cataracts, or in the kidneys until you develop kidney failure, or the heart as small glycated LDL particles accumulate as atherosclerotic plaque and heart attack, or in the brain that contributes to Alzheimer’s dementia.
- Zein corn protein mimics gliadin—The zein protein residues in cornstarch, while present in only small quantities, can act like gliadin in people with celiac disease and gliadin sensitivities (e.g., cerebellar ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, gastric autoimmune parietal cell loss). In other words, gluten-free foods can reactivate celiac disease and other conditions.
- Wheat germ agglutinin in rice—Although it’s in rice, it’s still called “wheat” germ agglutinin because the structure is identical to that in wheat. While also present in small quantities, there is enough to disrupt the intestinal lining in celiac-like ways (direct toxicity, rather than then indirect immune-mediated path of celiac).
- Weight gain—The sky-high blood sugars generated by gluten-free ingredients also provoke sky-high insulin that, in turn, leads to insulin resistance that, in turn, causes visceral inflammatory fat to accumulate. This is why people who consume gluten-free foods grow a “spare tire” around their waist that reflects accumulation of fat around abdominal organs and heart.
- Ignite inflammation—High insulin levels and visceral fat accumulation cause inflammation to increase, trackable as increased C-reactive protein, Il-2, TNF-alpha and other measures. Inflammation underlies numerous health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
- Disrupt hormonal status—As visceral fat accumulates, a variety of hormonal disruptions develop that cause, for instance, men’s breasts to enlarge and their testosterone to drop. It causes women to develop higher estrogen levels that correlate with increased risk for breast cancer. In women with PCOS, testosterone rises, blood sugar and blood pressure rise, and infertility develops.
- Dysbiosis and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth(SIBO)—Highly-refined carbohydrate-rich flours like gluten-free flours are like putting a trail of breadcrumbs out for ducks: they will follow the path of crumbs. Consuming the highly-digestible carbs of gluten-free foods is a setup for inviting colonic microbes up into the small intestine, the situation that defines SIBO. It also changes the composition of bowel flora species in unhealthy ways.
- Tooth decay—The amylopectin A carbohydrates of some gluten-free flours such as cornstarch hugely amplify potential for tooth decay, just as wheat does.
You get the idea? Gluten-free foods made with common gluten-free flours shouldn’t even be sold. Or at least should be recognized as no better than eating sugar out of a bowl. Nobody on the Wheat Belly lifestyle should be eating such foods with their disastrous consequences.
Really: Get the Wheat Belly lifestyle right and you will be rewarded with astounding health, weight loss, and youthfulness.