Gluten Free Diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
This is a comprehensive and very important article.
Why? Because I have seen first-hand the wonderful transformation for thousands of my clients who decided to eliminate gluten from their diets. While scientists and ‘experts’ may disagree with each other about gluten, the real proof for me has been the results for my clients and myself.
In my opinion, the major contributors to our health problems today are diet, lifestyle, and emotions. The biggest dietary problems contributing to illness and disease are gluten followed by sugar and dairy.
During my 28 years as a naturopath seeing more than 16,000 different clients (to date) I have treated nearly every condition with an adjunctive gluten free, dairy free, and low sugar diet, even if just for the duration of treatment, to help the body and immune system cope better and heal quicker.
In most cases, clients reported this made a huge difference to how they recovered and felt overall, generally with more energy and vitality, better sleep, less tummy problems, and often better moods, mental clarity, and motivation.
By going gluten free, most people feel a lot lighter, and foods are easier to digest.
People have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to go gluten-free as there are so many yummy substitute foods readily available. You have probably noticed how supermarkets, cafes and restaurants provide plenty of gluten free choices. It’s not a big deal to go gluten-free.
Some studies show that everyone is gluten intolerant to some degree. For some it can be very damaging to their health, especially with the celiac auto-immune disease. But there are many more people who have gluten sensitivities.
You don’t have to be allergic to gluten to benefit from removing gluten from your diet. Many don’t even notice the effects of gluten on their body and energy levels until they remove it and then later re-introduce it. To feel the full affects, you need to be 100% gluten free for some weeks before trialling a re-introduction.
While there’s plenty of research available about the pros and cons of a gluten-free diet, ultimately by far the best way to find out is to feel how your body responds to the changes.
What is gluten?
Gluten is from the Latin term gluten, meaning ‘glue’ (which is quite appropriate). Gluten is a mixture of proteins called Prolamins. Prolamins are joined to starch molecules found in wheat and related grains, including barley, oats and all their species and hybrids such as spelt, kamut, and triticale.
Within the grains, the combination of prolamin and the starch molecules, results in a sticky substance that is poorly digested.
Gluten is favoured by bakers for its elastic properties, helping dough to rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy but light feeling texture.
Gluten proteins have low biological and nutritional value. It’s interesting to note that the amount of gluten in grains is now 80% higher than the original wheat and similar grains of yesteryear. Could this hybridisation be a reason why gluten is now not tolerated by many?
A review paper in the New England Journal of Medicine states:
“55 diseases that can be caused by eating gluten have been listed. Some of these include osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anaemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many neurological and psychiatric diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage). It has also been linked to autism”.
Gluten sensitivity is actually an autoimmune disease itself (even without being celiac) that creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract and more.
It can be the cause behind many different diseases, but that does not mean that all cases of depression, autoimmune disease or any other health problems are caused by gluten. But it is important to consider removing gluten from your diet if you have any chronic illness.
There are various estimates of the number of people affected by gluten. On the one hand is the obvious severe conditions where celiac disease is said to affect about 1% of the population. Estimates for non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is around 6-13% of the population, but then it depends on who you speak to about this. Some say around 33% of the population, others say 75% and yet others say that everyone is sensitive and that it is just a matter of the degree of sensitivity.
This article is not about trying to convince people that they should go off gluten containing foods, but it is written to offer support to those who wish to improve their health. I believe that going gluten free is one of the best ways to help this to happen.
From time to time, various objections come up about eating gluten free, which I will address here.
‘If you stop eating gluten foods you cut out whole food groups which is dangerous to maintain good nutrition’
This brings a smile to my face because I wonder who makes or spreads this type of comment. Is it someone in the industry, or someone who loves gluten foods and doesn’t want to give them up, or perhaps someone who doesn’t realise you can get all the nutrients found in gluten foods in numerous non-gluten foods?
Foods like bread, pastries and pasta certainly contain fibre and B vitamins, which is why some people rave about ‘missing out’ on valuable nutrition. But these nutrients can be found elsewhere. Also, the fibre in grains are not as beneficial because they contain substances called ‘phytates’ that are classified as ‘anti-nutrients’, because they rob the body of nutrients.
The body must use up certain nutrients to clear phytates from our system. Phytates are a harsh irritating type of fibre that are not soluble and can create inflammation in our digestive systems. So they are not so good after all.
With so many gluten free alternatives today, there is an abundance of nutritional foods available.
‘Going gluten free is just a fad or trendy’
Fads or trendy means that something is short-term. Well I’m afraid that gluten-free eating has been around for decades and was certainly prominent when I became a naturopath nearly three decades ago. Probably the main difference is that gluten-free eating has been getting more publicity in recent years as people discover its benefits.
There is a trend happening now where people are becoming more interested and educated about their health and wellbeing. Many have cut out gluten foods and feel much better for it.
I listened to one researcher who said, “I don’t know why people are going off gluten, when there is no research to show its effectiveness”. But when asked if he had tried it himself, his answer was NO. How can you possibly make a comment like this when you haven’t tried it yourself?
I have had clients tell me that they tried a gluten free diet and felt no difference, which is fair enough. But on questioning, they were not 100% gluten free, or they had only tried gluten free for a short period of time.
That is not to say that everyone will feel a difference, as many of the attributes of going gluten free are occurring inside the body unbeknown to us (until a symptom becomes obvious) and it can take up to two years to fully clear the effects of gluten on our body.
‘Not enough research has been done to show that gluten really is an issue unless you are a Celiac sufferer’
This is a true statement and one that really needs addressing. The problem is that there is no money available to do these trials, particularly when there’s no money to be gained from the answer (unless you sold GF products).
There have been some studies and I wouldn’t say they were particularly scientific to the letter. One group of 60 volunteers recently ran a double-blind trial where half the group ate gluten free pasta for 4 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of eating gluten pasta. The other half reversed the procedure.
The volunteers monitored areas such as tiredness, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, joint aches, nausea, and headaches. By the end of the 6-week trial all but 7 of the 60 participants decided that they were going to continue with a gluten free diet as they felt much better without gluten. That’s good enough evidence for me 🙂
‘Why has gluten become a problem when it used to be ok?’
We don’t really know if gluten was ever ok for us, but what we do know from studies is that the incidence of celiac disease has risen by 400% in the past 50 years. Now that’s quite an alarming figure.
Some say that maybe we are now more aware of celiac disease and diagnosis is better, but that’s still a huge jump. This 400% jump was measured from a study on 10,000 armed servicemen over a 45-year period. Many who had celiac disease did not even know they had the disease until they were tested for the trial.
Some studies say that we now have more gluten in our grains due to hybridisation and genetic engineering, than in earlier times when wheat was first introduced as a food source. Others say that the grains are no different…but more gluten is being used in foods like bread to make it fluffier and rise better.
Gluten is now also being added to other foods in general, making our exposure to gluten higher and triggering the immune systems in many sensitive individuals who may already have gut disturbances such as Leaky Gut Syndrome, or poor levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut which is needed to support their immune system.
Even worse than the increase of celiac disease, is that many people who do not have celiac disease do indeed have inflammation because of gluten sensitivity. Those people are reported to be 70% more likely to die earlier than if they did not eat gluten foods.
When clients come to see me, no matter what their condition, I usually put them onto a gluten and dairy free diet and ask them to have a break from sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
At times, I would remove other specific foods, depending on their symptoms. This was to give the digestive and immune systems a rest, so the necessary healing could occur naturally. Sometimes I included supplements and/or herbs and suggested they remain on specific drugs prescribed by their doctor to support their condition.
About 95% of my clients felt much better and their condition was resolved faster than those who chose not to go gluten free. Now that is impressive!
Quite often, clients who initially opted not to alter their diet, after not getting the desired response from their treatment, decided to make the change to GF/DF and then they healed faster.
From my experience with thousands of clients, I certainly have sufficient anecdotal evidence to show that this way of eating is beneficial for us. My clients have been my teachers because a human body does not lie.
Some of my clients returned to their old way of eating after they felt better and were fine with that. However, many who went back to their old way of eating didn’t feel good and returned to ask about the diet again so they could get back on track.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance or allergy
- Digestive problems such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea and even constipation. I often saw clients with constipation, particularly children, after eating gluten.
- Gluten intolerance is commonly linked with autoimmune conditions such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Lupus, Scleroderma and Psoriasis.
- Brain fog, fatigue, or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains gluten. If you feel tired after eating non-gluten foods, there may also be other intolerances, or you could be reacting to any of the ‘cross-reactive’ foods (see list below).
- Keratosis Pilaris (also known as ‘chicken skin’ on the back of your arms). These are the little fatty bumps which tend to be a result of a fatty acid deficiency and vitamin A deficiency, because of poor fat digestion caused by gluten damage to the gut.
- Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or feeling off balance.
- Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility.
- Migraine headaches and toxic feeling headaches across the forehead.
- Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia (these diagnoses often mean that nobody really knows the reason for your fatigue or pain).
- Psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and ADD.
- Swelling or pain in joints such as fingers, knees, or hips from inflammation.
The difference between a sensitivity and an intolerance
An intolerance can give an immunological response in the blood and is easily tested by an antibody screen called IgG. Whereas a sensitivity is where you get a reaction to a substance like gluten (such as bloating) but no measurable antibody response with IgG testing.
However, it is very likely that a sensitivity will develop into an intolerance or allergy if you continue to consume reactive foods.
In just about every seminar I have attended over the last 30 years or so, irrespective of the topic, disease, or disorder on the agenda, gluten has been mentioned as a health issue.
At a seminar held by Metagenics in 2015, research was presented showing that everybody has some degree of gluten sensitivity. There is variability: some have minimal sensitivity to gluten while others have major reactions.
In my case, I don’t have celiac disease but my sensitivity to gluten is so strong that if I accidently have some (usually due to chefs not realising what ingredients do contain gluten, such as soy sauce) then I spend the next 6-8hrs in abdominal agony.
Now I am much more aware and ask the waiter to check with chef and I will double check on gluten in foods if I am suspicious. It’s just too painful to take any risks.
Gluten sensitivity and the immune system
Conditions that have been caused because of gluten sensitivity or allergy include mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, mood and behavioural issues, other auto-immune diseases such as Hashimotos thyroiditis, Lupus, Ulcerative colitis, diabetes and there is also a link to heart disease, which is referred to in the Cardiovascular Diet information.
Protein digestion and why we could all be gluten sensitive
We could all be gluten sensitive and intolerant. To understand why, further information follows about the importance of protein digestion.
When we eat protein from meat, beans, legumes, eggs, and nuts, along with proteins in vegetables and grains such as wheat, rye and barley, our body uses digestive enzymes to break these proteins down into individual amino acids.
These start off as chains of amino acids and then enzymes break them down into single aminos. Each different amino acid requires a different enzyme to disconnect it from its neighbouring amino. Under genetic instructions, the single amino acids are then joined back together into a specific sequence – a chain of aminos, known as peptides. The peptides are made into any tissue, protein (muscles) or enzyme that the body needs at the time.
The problem with gluten
The problem with gluten is that it does not get properly digested/broken down into single amino acids because it contains large quantities of two specific amino acids – glutamine and proline. Humans do not have the enzymes which are able to break down the glutamine and proline chains of amino acids into single aminos.
Glutamine and Proline are each very beneficial aminos needed by the body but when they are combined, as they are in gluten protein, they can’t be used and are instead aggravating to the digestive system, often creating inflammation.
So instead of breaking the long string of amino acids into singles, gluten protein breaks down into a peptide known as a short chain.
It’s not gluten that is the real issue, it’s these peptides – the short strings of amino acids that we can’t digest further. Each of these peptides create problems that increase the toxicity of the other peptides (the short chains we need for specific purposes throughout the body).
The more we eat gluten, the more problems are created, which is why gluten proteins are commonly linked to many different health problems that usually start as inflammation.
The body is generally very good at coping or compensating with inflammation and undigested peptides, but if there is anything else going on in the body, or extra stress, then it is harder for the body to deal with these peptides. Add some gluten to the diet and ‘whammo’ – extra stress, and you create unnecessary problems for your body to cope with.
We are potentially always having problems with gluten foods, but the body may deal with them up to a point so that it goes unnoticed (for a while).
It makes sense to unburden the stress on our bodies, particularly when it is now so easy to eat gluten free.
Testing for gluten sensitivity
There are many lab tests that can be done to determine if you have a sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy to gluten. It can become quite confusing, especially if your doctor only wants to run one or two tests and then you never really know if you have a sensitivity – unless you happen to test positive to one of the tests your doctor happened to do.
Doctors will typically do the gliadin or anti-transglutaminase antibody tests. The problem with these tests, when run alone, is that they often present an incomplete view.
Here’s a list of tests that can be performed:
The protein component of gluten has four different sub classifications:
- Alpha gliadin
- Beta gliadin
- Gamma gliadin
- Omega gliadin
Most labs that test for the gliadin antibody only test for alpha gliadin. But you may have a negative alpha gliadin antibody test, but a positive response against another form of gliadin. This can give many people the impression that gluten isn’t a problem for them, and they continue to eat gluten foods and slowly poison their bodies.
This test is used to rule out celiac disease, the autoimmune disease which is known for its severe reaction against gluten. The test is 98% accurate which means there will still be 2% misdiagnosed. For these people, a biopsy of the small intestine is the only way to diagnose celiac disease.
In many processed foods, wheat is put through a process of deamidation which makes it mix better with other ingredients. This chemical process also goes on in your intestines, which can further complicate the issue. Your body may be able to handle every other form of gluten except deamidated gliadins.
Within gluten is another compound called glutenin which was once thought not to cause an inflammatory response in the body. But recent research has shown this is not the case.
Many people feel worse when they first come off gluten because they are withdrawing or detoxing from gluteomorphins or gliadorphin. Gluteomorphins are opiate-like compounds that can make gluten withdrawal somewhat like an addictive drug. Withdrawal symptoms for many people coming off gluten can be accompanied by days of brain fog, headaches, irritability and lethargy.
Wheat Germ Agglutinin
Wheat germ agglutinin is the lectin (type of protein) component of wheat which binds to nutrients to make them unusable in your body. These lectins can also cause an immune response in your body, leading to chronic systemic inflammation.
luten cross reactivity can be the missing link for many people who are eating ‘gluten free’ but still have symptoms. When your body makes antibodies to gluten proteins, these antibodies may think that proteins in other foods also contain gluten and react to them as well. This is called cross-reactivity. You can test these foods with an IgG antibody test to see if you have any cross-reactivity.
IgG testing for wheat, barley, rye and spelt
This has some value in testing foods that you eat too much of, and how your body reacts to them. While somewhat helpful, this test does not provide the full picture.
Further notes on testing
Even though there are a lot of tests listed above, that’s not all of them. I could also include stool tests for ‘leaky gut’ or bowel inflammation, or a biopsy of the small intestine with a colonoscopy (which is a bit more radical). But if you are having a colonoscopy, it could be good to have a biopsy at the same time if your symptoms warrant it.
When getting tests done and your doctor says, “All the tests we did came back negative”, it just means that all the tests that were run came back negative. But not all tests would have been run, because that would be too many tests and far too much blood would need to be taken (not to mention the cost).
I saw this quite a lot in clinic when someone says, “I have had ALL the blood tests and everything came back normal.” But when I looked at their results, they only had the basic screenings done. When someone hears the words ‘Full Blood Count’, they automatically think that the word FULL means ALL tests have been done.
I know it’s confusing, but it is important to ask if there are any other tests that can be run to alleviate your suspicions. Alternatively, check with a different practitioner, such as an integrative doctor or naturopath, who may understand the variety of tests that are available for issues associated with gluten.
Many doctors are general practitioners (GP’s) who deal with all sorts of issues. However, some doctors, integrative doctors, and naturopaths specialise in these areas with additional understanding of the tests required.
While there are tests to help you decide if you should go off gluten, if you have a health condition it will be helpful to eliminate gluten for at least the duration of your healing process, to help reduce the impact on your immune system.
Deciding to go back onto gluten foods is more challenging, because you may not know what damage gluten is doing, or has done, to your body until you get symptoms. Symptoms often may not appear for a long time after gluten has damaged your body.
It is possibly true that only those people with gluten sensitivity need to go off gluten. But my question is, ‘How do you know whether you have a gluten issue if you don’t have a health imbalance?’ Perhaps you don’t need to remove gluten from your diet, but why not try it and discover if you notice any difference.
Most people do feel better and at the least, feel they digest gluten free foods much easier, which is not a bad place to start. All nutrients that you get from gluten foods can be readily found in gluten free foods. So, do you really have anything to lose by giving it a go…at least for the sake of your health?
Common foods that contain gluten:
- Oats (if not specifically gluten-free)
- Wheat germ
Foods that may contain hidden gluten:
(unless otherwise labelled Gluten Free)
- Artificial coffee creamer
- Bouillon cubes
- Certain ground spices
- Certain veined cheeses
- Chewing gum
- Cold cuts
- Flavoured teas
- Flavoured rice
- Fish sticks
- Flavoured crackers
- French fries
- Hot dogs
- Imitation seafood (seafood extender/sticks)
- Instant coffee and other instant hot drinks
- Matzo flavor
- Pasta side dishes
- Rice mixes
- Roasted nuts
- Soy sauce
- Salad dressing
- Seitan (wheat gluten, used in meat substitutes)
- Self-basting turkey
- Soy and teriyaki sauces
- Tinned baked beans
- Tomato sauces
- Vegetable cooking spray
- Veggie burgers
- Wine coolers
Ingredients to beware of that may contain gluten:
- Artificial color
- Baking powder
- Barley extract or lipids
- Brown rice syrup
- Caramel colour/flavouring (frequently made from barley)
- Citric acid (can be fermented from wheat, corn, molasses, or beets)
- Dextrins (primarily corn and potato, but can come from wheat, rice, tapioca)
- Fermented grain extract
- Fat replacers
- Food starch
- Gelatinized starch
- Glucose syrup
- Hydrolyzed malt extract
- Hydrolyzed oat flour or protein
- Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP)
- Hydrolyzed soy protein
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- Malt extract
- Maltodextrin (can be from corn, wheat, potato, or rice)
- Mustard powder (some contain gluten)
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Modified food starch (source is either corn or wheat)
- Natural juices
- Natural flavoring, fillers
- Peptide bonded glutamine (hydrolyzed wheat gluten)
- Rice malt (contains barleyor Koji)
- Rice syrup (contains barleyenzymes)
- Triticum aestivum (bread wheat)
- Wheat starch
- Whey protein concentrate
- Whey sodium caseinate
- White vinegar or white grain vinegar
- Yeast extract
Other ingredients that may contain gluten within foods:
- Amino peptide complex (from barley)
- Avena sativa (oat starch, extract, flour, or oil)
- Barley (extracts, lipids)
- Beta glucan (from oats)
- Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed
- Fermented grain extract
- Hordeum distichon (barley extract)
- Hordeum vulgare (barley extract)
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein (HWP) also seen as wheat hydrolysate, enzyme-modified gluten, or wheat peptides
- Phytosphingosine extract (fermented yeast)
- Pregelatinized starch (corn, wheat, potato, tapioca)
- Secale cereale (Rye)
- Sodium lauroyl oat amino acid
- Sodium starch glycolate (commonly potato, but can be starches like wheat)
- Stearidimoium (hydrolyzed wheat protein)
- Triticum vulgare (wheat germ oil)
- Tocopherol/vitamin E
- Wheat germ (extracts, glycerides, oil, protein)
- Xantham gum (may be derived from wheat)
Gluten in non-food items
Did you know that there is gluten found in many other items that are not foods such as shampoos, conditioners, creams, other personal care items, and even dental products? Some would argue that this is not relevant unless it goes into our digestive systems or into an open wound. But many people do in fact react to products that contain gluten.
Even though I don’t have celiac disease, I get an itchy scalp if I use a shampoo or hair care product with gluten in it and many of my clients are the same. It would be a shame to go to all the trouble with food ingredient avoidance, only to have irritations from personal care and other items.
Here is a list of common ingredients that may contain gluten. You will need to check the labelling to be sure, and some companies don’t list everything on the packet but may have details on their website or on the folded paper inside the original packaging.
Non-food items that may contain gluten:
- Dental sealants
- Dental plastics (some)
- Glue on stamps and envelope seals
- Laundry detergent
- Lip balms
- Low quality vitamins and supplements (unless they say Gluten Free)
Cross reactive foods
If you have a sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy to gluten then your body may also react to various other non-gluten foods such as cheese, chocolate, and coffee. The reason is that these contain proteins that are very similar to gluten and your body confuses them with gluten. When you eat these foods, your body and immune system can react just the same as eating a bowl of wheat pasta.
It is estimated that at least 50% of people with gluten sensitivity are also sensitive to dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk, and butter) due to its cross-reactivity with gluten.
Foods that may cross-react with gluten:
- Dairy i.e. milk and cheese (alpha-casein, beta-casein, casomorphin, butyrophilin, whey protein)
- Polished wheat (often thought to be gluten free due to processing)
- Rice (usually safe but some traces have been found if manufactured with wheat products on same equipment)
- Sesame (as above)
- Spelt (does have small amount of gluten)
If you continue to have health issues after removing gluten from your diet, try eliminating the above foods for at least two months and see if your symptoms improve. Also ensure you have healed your gut with the help of a natural health practitioner.
After two months, you may wish to reintroduce the above foods, one at a time, to determine which are causing cross-reactions. You may find that after doing a gut healing protocol (with help from your practitioner) that you don’t react to these other foods.
The best way to check for cross reactive foods is with an Elimination Diet.
After reading about the above foods and products that contain gluten, don’t despair, because there are so many foods that can be easily adapted and substituted in your diet – and no doubt you eat many of them now.
Following is a summary of gluten-free food groups (there are far too many to list individually).
- Gluten free pastas, breads, cakes, pastries – usually made from grains and seeds like corn, rice, quinoa and buckwheat. Heaps of gluten-free substitutes are readily available in supermarkets, health food stores etc.
- All fruits and vegies
- All meat and poultry
- Gluten free sauces, condiments etc
Before you commence your diet, see your medical or health care professional for qualified guidance about what foods and supplements are best for your body. While on the diet do not stop any medications or supplements previously prescribed unless advised otherwise by your medical or health care professional.
During the early stages of a new diet, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or body aches, which may occur because your body is detoxifying. However, if you are unsure about a symptom at any time, check immediately with your medical or health care professional.
Client name and identifying information changed
Kathy came to me with digestive problems and for pains in her knees and elbows, which she said had recurred many times over the years. She was often tired, but also ‘wired’ and couldn’t sleep well.
Even though she was on a great diet and symptom-free, she then went back onto her previous ‘normal’ foods and consequently, the bad pain returned in her knees and elbows.
Kathy had a family history of auto-immune issues, so I arranged tests for her which all came back clear…or so it seemed. There was a tell-tale sign of some sub-optimal thyroid issues, so I suggested getting her thyroid antibodies tested and a Transglutaminase IgA stool test to see if she had gluten sensitivity.
She did have low levels of thyroid antibodies, which would have become an issue if it was left for much longer. Her Transglutaminase IgA marker was very high, indicating that she had a strong sensitivity to gluten containing foods.
More than likely the parasitic infection highlighted her conditions, but the damage was already done. After another couple of weeks off gluten her symptoms disappeared again, and her thyroid antibodies also went down to a normal level. I also suggested to eat foods rich in selenium, zinc etc for thyroid health.
The result…a happy girl 🙂
Client names and identifying information changed
Caleb was so sick that he couldn’t make it to the clinic for his first consultation, so I first saw him via skype. He had gut pains, body aches, diarrhoea, foggy head, and depression. The depression bothered him the most as he was unable to work and could barely function.
Even though he was 48 at the time, Caleb had to move in with his mother so she could cook for him. Mum Janet was very stressed and worried about her son and was committed to doing what was needed to get him better as soon as possible.
We ran some tests and he had ‘leaky gut’ which was quite bad, multiple vitamin B6, B12, Iron and vitamin D mineral deficiencies, and he tested positive for celiac disease. He already had a strong feeling that he had an issue with gluten foods, but because he was so exhausted, he often ate two-minute noodles until he moved back to his mother’s house.
He also drank copious amounts of chocolate milk when he didn’t have much energy, as it was easy and filling. But the milk also tested reactive, along with most of the gluten cross-reactive foods and a few others.
His system was so sensitive that every time he tried to take any vitamins he would feel too sick, so we just needed to work with food to get Caleb feeling better.
Once we knew what we were working with, Caleb and Janet were instructed to go 100% gluten free and also be totally free of all the cross reactive and other reactive foods. We couldn’t risk any gluten or reactive foods in the entire house in case of any cross contamination, even down to checking all personal care items for gluten.
That might seem strange, but did you know that wheat protein is used as a thickener in many products like shampoo and creams? They all had to be checked and removed from the house.
I put Caleb onto a diet that was not only reactive food free, but also included foods that would help to heal his leaky gut and damaged microvilli, as well as being rich in nutrients to re-build his deficiencies.
Initially we started with some basic broths to help settle the inflammation in his gut. The broths felt very calming for Caleb’s digestive and nervous systems. Although he didn’t have much energy from the broths alone, he was happy to sleep a lot while his body healed.
It took about a month to settle his system from the inflammation. Then we added some good fats such as avocado to build up his calories and give his body more healing nutrients to help him feel better mentally and emotionally.
We also gradually added slow cooked meats to the broth and some low fibre vegetables. Note: high fibrous vegetables can further inflame an already inflamed, irritated, damaged gut lining.
As Caleb’s energy and appetite gradually increased, he added more meats and a broader range of vegetables (leaving the fat on his meat cuts). He ate low inflammation foods and stayed off foods he was reactive to, as well as foods from the nightshade and brassica families, and all legumes, to keep it simple for his digestive system.
Then after another month, with Caleb’s recovery going well, we introduced some small quantities of coconut milk/cream/yoghurt and oil (all unsweetened and plain at this stage) plus sweet potato which he craved.
Caleb was gradually getting better every week and by about four months he was eating a full range of foods except for the known reactive foods.
We left these out for 12 months and then tested him to see what was reactive. At that point only quinoa and rice showed reactive, along with gluten and dairy which will probably never be appropriate for him again.
Caleb left all reactive foods out of his diet for about 14 months as this felt right for him. He then re-introduced one at a time, feeling his body for reactions and energy drops, and he found he was fine. He did sneak in some dairy one day and felt so bad energy wise that he didn’t have it again.
It can take two to three years for a gut to heal from celiac disease, and Caleb was no exception. He had a stool check and a colonoscopy with biopsy after two years and he was nearly completely healed with back to normal microvilli. Inflammation markers in the gut were all good and his bacteria levels were reasonable.
It took a lot of work for Caleb to get back to where he felt ‘normal’ again, but well worth it.
After the initial 12 months of just working with the diet, his sensitivities were not so bad, so we introduced some probiotic bacteria to increase his levels of good bacteria (the ‘good guys’) along with some zinc and vitamin D supplements because he wasn’t getting much sun and his zinc levels weren’t increasing enough with the diet to help to fully heal his gut. It was great that he could tolerate the supplements.
He didn’t like to eat fish so we also used some omega fats to support his mental health. The combination of the above in the right sequence, worked to get Caleb feeling better physically, mentally and emotionally and he was back at work after 12 month’s recovery.
Many of my clients have recovered faster, but Caleb was in a bad way and probably had celiac disease for some time, but ignored the symptoms until his body couldn’t take any more.
It pays to listen to your body and get checked early, without delay.
Client name and identifying information changed
Martha had problems with pains around her body. These pains seemed to go from one location to the next, so there was no direct injury point or damage to one localised area that we could find. The doctors thought she might have fibromyalgia, which was of course possible.
The only test from her doctor that showed anything was her inflammation markers. She seemed to have a lot of inflammation in her body but at that point nobody knew why.
We needed more tests to see if we could find the source of her inflammation. We tested her gut, allergies, and auto-immune markers. She also had a scan that showed where she was hotter than she should be in her body. The test results showed marked inflammation in her small intestine, and the scan also showed heat in her intestines and random patches around her body in the arms and legs, lower back, and shoulders (where she was currently feeling the pain).
Even though we didn’t know the cause of the inflammation, we knew her inflamed digestive system was the source.
No foods tested reactive, but nonetheless I suggested that until we had more clues, she should follow an anti-inflammatory diet which was to avoid gluten, dairy, sugar and nightshade family foods.
After only three weeks on this diet, Martha’s pains had decreased by about 70%, so we continued with this diet for another three weeks. After this time Martha said the pains were completely gone.
However, I recommended she remain on the diet for a further three weeks to be certain, because she had a look that suggested there was still a tiny bit of pain, but she didn’t want to admit it so she could get back to her old way of eating. I impressed on her the importance of fully clearing the inflammation before doing a re-challenge and she was happy to do so after our chat.
After the three weeks Martha was still feeling good, so now came time to reintroduce each food one at a time (every 3 days) starting with the nightshade foods such as tomatoes (I asked her what she missed the most and tomatoes were it).
We then introduced the others, one at a time, provided she could go three days without pain. I advised to leave the gluten, dairy, and sugar foods to the very last, which she did.
When Martha got to trial dairy, she had a few twinges, so I suggested staying with her core diet for a few days till that settled before starting the next substance. Sugar was next and some more few twinges; she said it was vague and might not have been anything.
She chose to trial gluten on a weekend where she had some events that included eating lunch with friends on both days.
The first day she ate pasta and was in agony shortly afterwards. Ironically, she ate pasta again the second day (as if it was her last meal) and it really was (for pasta anyway) as she was so sick and in pain, that she vowed to never eat pasta again. I said that after she healed that she could possibly eat gluten free pasta, but because it left such a bad memory she said she won’t go back to any pasta at all.
So gluten was the culprit even though all Martha’s tests showed no gluten intolerance or allergy – but there was no doubt she was definitely sensitive to gluten.
Later, thinking her sensitivity may have only been to wheat, Martha tried gluten in a couple of other forms such as rye bread, but the consequences were just as bad for her.
She knew what she had to do. By going 100% gluten free, Martha had no more pain in her body (unless she bumped herself).
Client name and identifying information changed
At Amelia’s first consultation, she told me she had Hashimoto’s disease for which she was taking medication and her blood studies such as her TSH, free T3 and free T4 were fine. However, her highly elevated thyroid antibodies were just not coming down.
Amelia previously had various tests to find out why she couldn’t stop her body from destroying her thyroid gland, and because her doctor was threatening to remove it, she wanted to see if anything else could be done.
I ran tests to assess the condition of her digestive system, heavy metal, and mineral balance, plus for vitamins that are important for a healthy thyroid such as iron, iodine, vitamin D, selenium, tyrosine, B6 and B12.
I suggested that while waiting for the results, to go on a gluten and dairy free diet to see if it helped. Amelia disagreed as previous tests showed she had no sensitivity to gluten, dairy products or anything else.
The test results showed many nutrient imbalances as well as inflammation and leaky gut. Because Amelia refused to change her diet, we focused on supplemental nutrients and products to help heal her gut and reduce inflammation.
Amelia did this for a few months and then we re-tested everything. This time all her nutrients were in good balance, her gut still showed a little inflammation but her antibodies hadn’t significantly changed.
So once again the topic of gluten and dairy free foods came up and Amelia folded her arms, convinced it wouldn’t make any difference. I said she really didn’t have anything to lose, and possibly much to gain, so it was worth giving it a good try. She agreed.
I knew we had to do as much as possible with her diet in the shortest time possible, because I might not have her trust for long. So I put her right into the deep end by removing all foods that may be cross-reactive with gluten, as well as the top 10 allergenic foods, high FODMAP foods, high histamine foods, nightshade family foods, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and of course foods that contained gluten and dairy. In short, an Auto-Immune Paleo Diet.
We called it a detox to help Amelia ‘get her head’ around what we were doing and really that’s what it was, a detox from any inflammation producing food or substances that might be driving her condition.
I asked Amelia for a commitment of 12 weeks and during this time we used minimal supplements (just probiotics) now that her levels of nutrients were good. I made sure her meals were fresh and varied as possible, and to use organic produce for optimal nutrition without added chemicals.
We arranged another appointment in three months when we would retest again and in the meantime, to contact me if any questions.
Amelia was totally committed during her three-month detox, and when she returned, she couldn’t wait to go and eat the foods she missed from her previous diet.
We tested everything and discovered all her markers were excellent and her antibodies were now within the reference range for her thyroid (which she and her doctor were very surprised to see). She also admitted she felt much better than before.
Next it was time to re-introduce foods back into her diet, while observing any symptoms or changes to her body and energy. I instructed Amelia to leave the gluten and dairy products till last. We arranged for testing to be done at two-month intervals to ensure her antibodies weren’t sneaking up again.
The first foods re-introduced were the nightshade family foods, which seemed to be ok, then the histamine foods and FODMAP foods. Amelia noticed a few foods gave her gas and bloating and made her tired, so she left these out as she didn’t miss them too much, so it was no big deal.
Then she tried dairy products which seemed ok, but did give her mucus in the mornings, and for about an hour after eating them she also had mucus and a mild headache across her sinus areas. At this point we retested her anti-bodies and they were still good.
Amelia then had to go back to her core clean diet for two weeks to clear the dairy from her system before trialling the gluten foods. With each of the foods that contained gluten, including wheat pasta, bread, and soy sauce, she felt sick, aching and had a headache – even though these weren’t her normal symptoms previously.
She admitted that even though she spent the whole 12 weeks thinking about her next pasta meal or slice of bread, after eating them again she lost that desire as they didn’t feel at all right in her body.
Even though it was only two weeks since her previous antibody test, we re-tested after the gluten trial. Her thyroid antibodies were very high again as if we had not achieved anything with her dietary changes.
We then definitely knew that gluten harmed her body, even though her previous intolerance tests ‘showed otherwise’.
Amelia knew she only needed to remove the gluten for her thyroid’s sake, but because the trial proved to her what foods and substances did not serve her general health and wellbeing, she decided to live a gluten and dairy free lifestyle that was also low in sugar – which she removed because sugar made her feel lethargic an hour after the initial energy spike.
There were no more folded arms of resistance from Amelia, her experience and self-observations convinced her what was best for her body. Fantastic!