Giving up Gluten – Is it Really Necessary or Just a Fad?

One of the most common questions functional medicine practitioners hear is, “Do I really need to give up gluten??” As appetizing as that garlic bread or pasta may look, consuming gluten truly is not worth the consequences on your body.

Let’s start with what gluten is. Gluten is a protein used as a binding agent in many foods, and found in almost all wheat containing products. The history of gluten dates back millennia, referenced in the Bible and sources from the Roman Empire. Gluten is a staple and the majority of diets around the world. If you believe in our hunter/gatherer genetics and follow a “Paleo” diet, grains are a recent addition to what you are able to eat. It takes a ton of work to create just one loaf of bread, so without modern day advances, the amount of work going into making bread greatly outweighed the energy you would actually get from the bread itself.

But contrary to some people’s opinions, not everything is bad with grains! Grains store extremely well, are easily accessible, and have a high caloric content. Large populations of people are able to be fed with grain and the use of modern machinery.

The term gluten comes from the word glue in Latin. Ever make paper maché as a kid? Well, the only two ingredients in that were flour and water, and in the end it turned into a rock. The human body is comprised of more than 75% water, so I’m sure you can imagine why gluten may not be compatible with the body. Gluten has been implicated in many disease processes such as:

  • Autism
  • Fatigue
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Anemia
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Irritable Bowel Disease
  • Autoimmune Conditions
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Infertility
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Neurological Disease

As I’m sure you realized, this list is not only long, but these conditions aren’t just associated with one system of the body, they involve multiple systems. Studies have shown that even individuals without celiac disease can react negatively to as little as 4.5 grams of gluten per day. Some of the symptoms these people experienced are: brain fog, pain, intestinal symptoms, abdominal bloating and depression.

Another extremely common question we hear on a daily basis is “What should I eat to replace gluten?” Even though we understand gluten has been a daily part of your diet most likely forever, you cannot replace something that isn’t supposed to be in your diet in the first place. Good “replacement” foods are nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables, and starchy roots like sweet potatoes.

  • Here are some things and tips you can use right now to determine if eliminating gluten from your diet would be beneficial for you
  • Do not eat gluten for at least four weeks and keep track of how you feel
  • Don’t be surprised if you get gluten withdrawal symptoms from gluteomorphins
  • Research hidden sources of gluten you may not be aware of in your diet
  • When eating at a restaurant, there are gluten-specific enzymes you can buy to avoid symptoms from cross-contamination
  • Try elimination with cross-reactive foods if your symptoms do not improve
  • Replace gluten with more fruits and vegetables instead of “gluten-free” baked goods

If you would like to know more about eliminating gluten from your diet and how it can help you feel better soon, please contact Flourish Integrative Health at or 415.721.2990.