Grain Free Diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
About a grain free diet
There are many reasons why people decide to go ‘grain free’. Those who wish to follow a Paleo way of eating will find this diet suitable.
Many health practitioners say that grains increase inflammation in the body, so for anyone wishing to reduce pro-inflammatory foods, a grain free diet is a great place to start.
For further information to support the reduction of inflammation, go to the Anti-inflammatory Diet.
Some find that eating starchy foods, like grains, are difficult to digest, often resulting in heartburn, indigestion, or constipation, so a Low Grain diet can be very helpful. You might also find the information about the Low Starch Keto Diet to be very helpful.
Because grains contain loads of lectins (plant protein) that many are sensitive to, a grain free diet can be a great option. For more information about lectins, check the article about the Low Lectins Diet.
If you have an auto-immune condition, you may have been prescribed a grain free diet to help reduce reactive proteins and to help support your immune system. The Auto-Immune Diet is grain free, with other features that you may wish to read about.
There are many articles in our website that include ‘grain free’ as part of the overall diet (see the list below). If you have one of these health conditions, or have been prescribed one of these diets, click onto the relevant link.
Because whole grains contain a lot of fibre and vitamin B6, ensure you include other fibre rich foods in your diet, such as:
- plenty of vegetables
- nuts and seeds
- B6 rich foods such as Pistachio nuts
- sesame and sunflower seeds
- egg yolk
- herbs and spices
Benefits of a grain free diet
A grain free diet can support many health conditions, including those listed above. Your digestive system, and all conditions that stem from the digestive system, can benefit from a grain free diet.
Healthy digestive system
A grain free diet has been shown to help difficult digestive system disorders, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. People with Crohn’s disease have a lot of intestinal inflammation, and studies show that removing certain foods like grains can help support the healing of their digestive symptoms.
The overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine can cause increased gas and acid production through fermentation from foods that don’t digest well. This can lead to toxic waste accumulation, discomfort, and problems absorbing nutrients properly. Symptoms can include constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and changes in appetite.
Removing the foods that ferment the most, such as grains, can eliminate the source of the problem and allow the gut to heal.
Healthy nutrient absorption
The harmful toxic by-products caused by fermentation of grains affect enzymes produced in the digestive tract which are needed to metabolize food and absorb their available nutrients. Consequently, the wrong type of bacteria increases, along with toxic waste, which blocks normal vitamin and mineral absorption and reduces important digestive enzymes and friendly bacteria located on the surface of the small intestine.
The mucosal layer of the small intestine then produces an extra layer of protective mucus coating, which further inhibits normal digestive processes and the absorption of nutrients. This extra protective mucus coating becomes what is called a ‘Biofilm’ that traps the bad bacteria to protect the lining of the intestine. But by doing so, it also protects the bad bacteria from attack from the immune system, so the bad bacteria can thrive even better.
Reversing this process with a nutritious grain free diet, reduces toxicity, improves digestion, and facilitates nutrient absorption.
Along the lining of the mucosal layer within the gastro-intestinal tract are tiny micro-villi, which are there to give greater surface area for the absorption of nutrients. The microvillus can get damaged by the fermentation of starchy grains, and this then reduces the absorption of certain nutrients such as folate and B12.
The longer this goes on, the more the villi get damaged and the barrier created by the microvilli breaks down and allows for more gut permeability (leaky gut) which allows particles to enter the bloodstream where they shouldn’t be. This signals the immune system that something is wrong and consequently inflammation increases in the body.
By reversing this process with a nutritious grain free diet, research suggests systemic (whole body) inflammation can be reduced or even eliminated.
The brain can also be impacted by bacterial fermentation and the resultant inflammation. Gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction is commonly seen in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the role of the gut bacteria in ASD is still being researched. Some evidence shows that lactic acid produced during bacterial fermentation within the gut can affect brain function and behaviour.
Many who go grain free with their eating have reported reduced or eliminated feelings of ‘foggy head’, along with improved concentration, focus, creativity, and effectiveness with their work or study.
Healthy neurological system
Studies have shown that those who experience epileptic seizures, often have a reduction in seizures after they go off grains, especially wheat.
Symptoms related to conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, multiple sclerosis and other auto-immune disorders have also shown improvement after a period off grains. For some, it can take two or more years for the benefits to show, but alongside other therapies, going grain free can certainly help.
Before you commence a new 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.