Reprinted with permission
Seems every tabloid in circulation has a “how this celeb lost weight” headline, but these days we don’t need to be on the cover of People magazine to get the word out about how we lost weight. We simply Tweet, Pin or update our Facebook status to “I’m down a dress size thanks to being gluten free!” And all of us looking for a super quick fix for our weights loss woes, are willing to eschew just about anything with the promise of losing 10 pounds.
But why all of a sudden is everyone talking about going gluten free to lose weight? It’s not a new idea, but with health information now widely available on the web, what has always been going on in natural health circles (discussing food allergens, digestion and diet) is now a common conversation – and of course, a celeb or two has lost weight recently avoiding gluten.
And it’s not just those looking to shed the fat that considering a life sans gluten, people with conditions that aren’t managed well in our conventional model (like Hashiomoto’s Hypothyroidism, PCOS or many a digestive ailment) often turn to nutrition for answers. Going gluten (and usually dairy) free is often espoused as a treatment for these and whatever else ails you. And most often when people give it a shot -voila! They feel better.
Is this avoidance of wheat a cure all? No, but it does work some wonders. Well, for many of us at least.
Gluten avoidance is something I do with most of my patients because I work with a population that has hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, PCOS, female hormone imbalances, infertility, acne and stubborn weight loss. Going gluten free may not the answer for everything under the sun, but the proof is in the gluten free pudding: although some do not feel as dramatically different as others and some don’t lose 20 pounds overnight, most everyone at least feels BETTER and loses at least some weight. However, most do have dramatic improvements and joyously shed the brain fog, the fatigue, the puffy look and several unwanted pounds within a matter of days.
Did you go gluten free and unlike your friend, you didn’t lose 7 pounds in a week? Was your experience less miraculous than your co-worker’s who dropped 20 easy pounds in a month and looks 10 years younger? What’s up with that?
Here are the big reasons why your gluten free plan didn’t result in big time weight loss:
Gluten Free Junk Food
A gluten free cookie is still a cookie. Many gluten abstainers fall prey to the vast array of packaged, high carb – but gluten free – foods in our health food stores. Everything from muffins to cereal to cake is available without gluten – but not without weight loss consequences.
These simple carbs are not fat loss friendly foods. But the fear of feeling restricted by being on a gluten free plan scares many straight into the loving embrace of a gluten free, sugar laden, processed food frenzy. Although they can help you feel like you’re not missing out, steer clear of the gluten free packaged foods like breads, pastas, cakes, etc except when you want a treat or a bit of a splurge – but not every day. Keep your diet focused on vegetables, fruits and lean, high quality proteins.
You Could Be Reacting To The Gluten Free Grains You’re Now Eating
A sensitivity to gluten increases the chances that you’re also sensitive to many of the foods you’ll turn to on a gluten free lifestyle including sorghum, millet, tapioca, amaranth, quinoa, rice, hemp, corn, and potato. These foods do not contain gluten but may still be a problem for you, this is called “gluten cross reactivity”. And if you’ve got a gluten issue, I’ve got some really bad news: coffee and chocolate are among the most common cross reactors. Tragic, I know.
Consider a grain free diet and utilize non-grain based starches such as sweet potato, pumpkin, squash, and legumes (note: autoimmune patents are also at high risk for reacting to the lectins in legumes, sorry! Best for you folks to leave them out as well.) Cyrex Labs offers a gluten cross reactivity panel if you’ve committed to gluten free and wondering which grains, etc might be good alternatives for you. Visit www.cyrexlabs.com and look at Array 4.
Gluten Is Hardly The Only Factor in Fat loss
You still have to balance your blood sugar, get enough sleep, not overdo your carbs, manage your stress and exercise in order to lose weight – and consistently keep doing all these things. Even for those people that drop some instantaneous pounds, this other work still need to be done to keep losing fat. Losing the inflammation water weight is the easy part…that is if you can stay off those foods that cause it! And rest assured, if you’ve lowered your inflammation you will have an easier time losing weight as inflammation mucks up the works for every hormone in your body.
You May Have Increased Intestinal Permeability (AKA Leaky Gut)
This means larger proteins are getting through a leaky intestinal barrier causing inflammation and winding up you immune system. A “leaky gut” is due to inflammation in the gut that has caused a bit of swelling in the cells of your intestines, damaging the junctions between the cells allowing larger proteins to get through. Normally only small things pass through such as a single amino acid or a molecule of glucose. When these larger proteins end up in our blood stream where our immune system sees them and attacks, causing inflammation, bloating, puffiness and trouble shedding fat.
This creates inflammation in and of itself, which makes it hard to lose weight, but it also increase the chance that you’re have any of those cross reactivities I just mentioned.
We can get a leaky gut from years of a bad diet, eating foods that we are sensitive to, taking antibiotics or doing anything that disrupts the delicate balance of probiotics in our gut, various medications, having hypothyroidism or being under high stress.
Gluteomorphins May Be At Play
You may be reacting to gluteomorphins, a byproduct of our own digestion of gluten which act in the brain on opiod receptors causing a “high”. When we take that away, you obviously feel worse for a period of time as you go through a withdrawal period. Crazy huh? Our food is literally medicine!
When people have this reaction, they not only feel pretty lousy when they first come off gluten but their cravings for it sky rocket. If they manage to stick to their gluten free guns, they will usually end up eating a lot of other carbs to satisfy the cravings causing weight loss to stall….or worse, causing a weight gain.
Despite your best efforts – you may still be eating gluten. Here’s a lengthy list of at least some of the more common places you’ll see it:
Gluten Containing Grains:
- Most processed cereal
- Oats (unless specifically labeled gluten free and note: oats are common cross reactors as well)
- Bulgar wheat
Short List of Commonly Used Gluten Derivatives:
- Alcohol made from grains: beer, whisky, vodka (unless purely potato), Scotch, most liquors and cheaper wines.
- Artificial coloring additives
- Chewing Gum
- Battered Foods (i.e. fish sticks, fried appetizers, occasionally sweet potato or regular fries) and foods fried in same oil as battered foods (French fries).
- Biscotti, pastries and any baked good made from flour, not specified as gluten free
- Many juices and fruit drinks
- Sauces in general, horseradish sauce and most premade salad dressings (unless gluten free)
- Canned meat containing preservatives, canned vegetables (unless in water only)
- Items containing hydrolyzed vegetable protein (often made with wheat)
- Caramel (other than from US and Canada)
- Imitation seafood (usually made with a starch, common in sushi)
- Instant hot drinks (coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc)
- Ketchup and most condiments (anything made with modified food starch has corn and/or wheat)
- Rice syrup (may contain barley malt)
- Soups (most commercially made canned or frozen soup)
- Spices including white pepper, curry powder, bouillon cubes or powder
- Soy sauce (except Tamari wheat free soy sauce) and most Chinese sauces
- Veined cheeses (may be made from molds that may be of bread origin)
- Mustards (unless specifically gluten free, read label for modified food starch)
- Flavor enhancers including MSG (monosodium glutamate), glutamic acid, monopotassium glutamate, ammonium glutamate
Note: gluten free grains include rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and teff.
And one final thing: gluten may simply not be as inflammatory for you as it is your friend who had the skies part and the heavens sing when they cut it out. In this case, there may be another reason why your weight loss has plateaued and some gluten containing foods on occasion will probably not make or break your health.
So, if going gluten free was less dramatic than you’d hoped, consider these things and take another pass accounting for the reasons above.
Dr Brooke Kalanick, ND, MS, LAc is a naturopathic doctor and graduate of Bastyr University, the leader in natural medicine education, research and the training of holistically minded primary care providers. Dr Brooke specializes in fat loss, PCOS, hypothyroidism, fertility and women’s health. Her knowledge of both conventional and alternative medicine helps her give patients back the control of their body and their hormones. Dr Brooke’s down to earth approach reminds us it’s not always about being perfect, but at least being better.
Dr Brooke is the co-author of Ultimate You: 4 Phase Total Body Makeover. She’s been featured in the NY Times as well as being a consulted expert for various print and online publications including FITNESS, Women’s Health, Prevention Magazine, Allure and iVillage. She is also a regular contributor for Martha Stewart’s Whole Living Radio and WholeLiving.com.
To contact Dr Brooke or to learn more visit www.betterbydrbrooke.com.