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For the 98 percent of the population NOT diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, celiac disease or a wheat allergy, going on a gluten-free diet might actually do more harm than good. Before you go gluten-free, please read this article.
Gluten-Free Diet Increases Bad Bacteria and Reduces Beneficial Bacteria
In one study, 10 healthy thirty-year-olds were put on a gluten-free diet for one month. Analysis of their BM’s and food intake indicated that their numbers of healthy gut bacteria decreased. More surprisingly, the numbers of unhealthy bacteria increased.
Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that a gluten-free diet, even for just one month, could alter the microbes in such a way that it could cause the immune system to be compromised, not only in the gut, but also in the peripheral blood vessels. (1)
Gluten Boosts Immune Response
In another study involving 9 healthy individuals, five individuals were given 3 grams of concentrated wheat gluten per day for just six days, and four individuals were given a gluten-free diet. The gluten group saw a significant increase in NK cell activity. This is significant as NK cells (also known as natural killer cells) constitute our bodies’ frontline defense system. NK cell activity is also an important mechanism in individuals with autoimmune conditions and cancer. The group on a gluten-free diet saw no positive increase in NK cell activity. (2)
Gluten Lowers Cholesterol
While there are many studies that link a diet rich in whole wheat to lower cholesterol levels, the wheat fiber, specifically, has always been assumed to be responsible for this health benefit.
However, in one study, folks who ate a diet high in fiber and gluten saw lower triglyceride levels than folks who followed a diet that only increased fiber levels. (3) This suggests that the gluten, and not the wheat fiber, which is typically credited with cholesterol-lowering and heart health benefits, may be the factor responsible for lowering triglyceride levels.
Gluten-Free Diet Raises Mercury Levels
In one recent study, mercury levels were compared in three groups of people:
- Celiac patients on a gluten-free diet
- Celiac patients who had not yet started a gluten-free diet
- Non-celiac patients who ate wheat regularly
The group of celiac patients that had been on a gluten-free diet had 4 TIMES the amount of toxic mercury in their blood compared to the other two groups. (4)
As we can see, while removing gluten from one’s diet may seem like a healthy idea, there may be unintended consequences.
In another study of more than 10,000 adults in 14 countries in Europe, Scandinavia and Australia, researchers compared children who grew up on farms to children that grew up in suburbia or the city. They found that children who grew up on farms were: (8)
- 54 percent less likely to have hay fever
- 57 percent less likely to have nasal allergies
- 50 percent less likely to have asthma
The researchers found that the farm kids who were exposed to more dust, mites, and respiratory irritants had more white blood cells (WBCs) than urban kids, suggesting that the immune system does indeed respond to stimulation.
When we take all the digestive stimulation out of the diet by removing foods that are somewhat harder to digest, we may also be removing an immune-boosting stimulus that we have developed for millions of years. Remember, we have been consuming wheat and cereal grains for almost 4 million years – not 10,000 as is purported. (9)
The concept that our overall health and immunity is determined and boosted by irritants and certain toxins is called “The Hygiene Hypothesis.” Since the discovery of the microbiome, this theory is gaining much traction and certain harder-to-digest foods, like wheat, may turn out to be important immune-boosters. (5)
Gluten-Free Nutrition Concerns for Celiac Patients
For celiac patients, gluten-free diets have been linked to nutritional deficiencies, and even weight gain. Numerous studies have demonstrated that gluten-free diet products are poor sources of minerals (such as iron), vitamins (such as folate, thiamine niacin and riboflavin) and fiber. Therefore, the nutritional content of gluten-free foods is an increasing area of concern. (6)
In one study on adolescents with celiac disease, they found that following a gluten-free diet lead to greater nutritional imbalances, weight gain and obesity compared to the control group that did not eat a gluten-free diet. (7)
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