Gluten Intolerance

  cluten-free-label Gluten Intolerance Is The Latest Medical Fad. Is It Important, Or Is It Overblown? Probably Both.

Gluten intolerance affects between 5% and 75% of the population, depending on which bestselling book on the topic you consult. Celiac disease is an extreme form of gluten intolerance and affects ~1% of the population. There is general agreement on this number. But what exactly is gluten?


To understand gluten, we have to look a bit into the nature of carbohydrates—plant product. Largely, all carbohydrates consist of sugars, starches, and cellulose. Cellulose is the “fiber” we hear so much about and is basically indigestible packaging material for the sugar and starch. Paper is also made from cellulose. Glutens fall into the structural category as well, but unlike cellulose, glutens can be digested. They are, in fact, proteins. It is glutens that make dough “doughy.”

Almost all food allergies are reactions to proteins. The other components of food—fat, sugar and starches—don’t usually trigger such problems.

It is important to note that starch is, in fact, a string of sugar molecules. The intestines break the strings into individual sugar molecules. The only real difference is how long it takes to do this. The longer it takes, the lower the glycemic index, and the longer our body has to burn the sugar rather than storing it as fat.

Gluten is found in wheat, barley, oats, and some other grains. Corn, quinoa, buckwheat, and rice, including “glutinous” rice, are gluten free. (Glutinous in the context of rice simply means it is sticky.)

Celiac Disease Will Cause Major Problems

Celiac Disease is serious, genetic in origin, damages the small intestines, and creates numerous gastrointestinal symptoms and a whole array of symptoms, including peripheral nerve problems and depression, that are essentially from malnutrition. Those that have it might not know it. Those with difficulty digesting bread, should get specifically tested for Celiac Disease. The cure is to avoid all gluten.

To be sure, TTG (tissue transglutaminase) and gliadin antibodies should be measured. TTG and gliadin will each produce two numbers: IgA and IgG. All four numbers should be in single digits. If any are over 20 units, a doctor will most likely recommend a gluten-free diet and some retesting. At a practical level I consider even mid-range single digits as an indication to limit gluten in the diet.

A Simple Solution

The approach we obviously favor is to simply give up gluten, especially grain. This will “cure” gluten intolerance whether you have it or not, and go a long way toward curing a number of other things. Gluten is often added to packaged products; food labeling may not be accurate enough to be a definitive guide.

“Gluten Free” is the latest thing to show up on packaged food. Many people report significant benefits when switching to a gluten free diet. This could be due to three reasons:

  1. They are gluten intolerant.
  2. They are reacting to a diet reduced in sugar (or equivalent starch).
  3. Placebo effect.


Who knows? Who cares? Anyone that gives up wheat products will get healthier. Period. Wheat is largely pure sugar, even the whole grain product. If someone needs more starch in their diet (most don’t, some do—think Whistler’s mother), potatoes would be a much better choice. Potatoes have all sorts of important micronutrients, and vitamins. (Wheat has almost none, unless “fortified” in a manufacturing process.) Oh, for you fans of fiber, potatoes have that too. And be sure to eat the skin.

Note that though corn and rice are gluten free, both contain other structural proteins that may look enough like gluten to trigger allergic reactions. To make things more vexing, transglutaminase – a naturally occurring substance – is added to many foods to improve ‘mouth feel’ and this in excess can create an immune environment almost as bad as full blown Celiac Disease.

This Means War


The wheat industry, especially the processed food portion of it—breakfast cereal—is not at all thrilled with “Gluten Free.” The pushback is already started. While it is unlikely they will come up with anything as clever as “whole wheat,” the spin machines are turning.

A Brief Note on Whole Wheat

Whole wheat, with its increased fiber content is better for you than refined grain—slightly. And the food industry has spent a lot of money firmly establishing this slight benefit and ramming it down out throats, so to speak. The real issue is grain versus no grain, and that is an area the food industry does not want you to visit, and for good reason: almost without exception, everyone is significantly better off if they give up grain.



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