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  • Paul Smith
    Paul Smith

    A Gluten-Free Diet May Cause Constipation - Tips to Stay Healthy for Life

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 12/23/2009 - One of the main and largely unrecognized health problems facing the Western world and people on diets of highly refined, processed and starchy foods, which are often low in or devoid of dietary fiber, is that of constipation. This is a particular issue with Celiacs where the gluten-free flours they use are largely starch based and often low in protein and dietary fiber. Unfortunately, we live in a world where it is often considered normal and acceptable to empty the bowels perhaps 2 -3 times a week, rather than the more desirable 2 – 3 times per day.

    What are the difficulties in this you may ask?
    Firstly the lymphatic system drains through the bowels and if the bowels are clogged and constipated the lymph system, which is a major part of the human body’s excretory system, does not function properly.  This means that instead of continuously draining, as it should, the lymph system becomes a long term storage system for the body’s waste matter when confronted with a constipated digestive system, which provides a home and breeding ground for bacteria and perhaps becoming a precursor for infection and many chronic health problems including cancer. Constipation also leads to dry and hard stools which are difficult to pass and may contribute to the development of hemorrhoids or “piles”, as they are commonly known, and possibly longer term issues leading to colon and rectal cancers. Constipation also leads to greatly increased and undesirable residence time for waste matter in the body which solidifies and putrifies in the process possibly contributing to various forms of gastric and bowel cancer.

    Other parts of the body’s excretory systems including the sinuses; the lungs and the skin, the body’s largest excretory organ, can also become overloaded if the bowels and lymph system are not functioning correctly. Sinus overload can be reflected in having heavy mucus discharge via a cold or the flu, glandular fever and in nasal, eye and ear infections, from infected, stored mucus. Lung overload may be reflected by mucus discharges associated with a cold or influenza, pleurisy, pneumonia and various other forms of mucus containing fluid which may also become infected by hostile germs and bacteria. Skin overload can be reflected in rashes, eczema, psoriasis, measles, hives, shingles, chicken pox and the like: all symptoms of an acidic body condition and an overloaded elimination or excretory system. If the body cannot dispose of its waste matter by other means, it often resorts to throwing the waste matter out through the skin. Chronic fatigue syndrome is possibly another manifestation of this same issue.

    Sadly, the vast majority of the human race, end their lives with all of their excretory organs, lungs and blood circulatory systems overloaded with stored waste matter with significantly shortened life expectancy and diminished quality of life as a result.

    None of the latter problems have anything to do with or need to be part of the aging process. For example, I have a very spry, mentally alert 90 year old father, A blood group type, who still works on a daily basis, drives a car, is totally medication free, has no prostrate, heart or cancer problems and has a good head of hair; clear skin, eyes, arteries and lungs. He should be the model of normality. Sadly, he is not typical. How and why? A fairly spartan diet based mainly upon fruit and vegetables with very sparing consumption of meat, dairy products, fried foods, salt, sugar, animal fats, cakes, lollies, convenience foods and alcohol. He has never smoked. He drinks mainly water and fresh juice with fresh citrus juice first thing every morning. He eats slowly and chews his food thoroughly. He never overeats. He remains curious, physically active and engaged with the world. My paternal grandmother, Daisy, was still walking around without the aid of a stick at age 106 – 107 with all her faculties and complaining about all the other “old chooks” in the nursing home on their walking frames etc: many of them 40 years her junior. Adequate sleep and minimizing stress is also critical to maintaining good health.

    Most of the chronic health problems facing our community are mainly unnecessary consequences of over indulgence and the accumulations of a lifetime’s bad habits and, in most instances, with a little care these habits are largely avoidable. Fevers and colds are natural processes. They are part of the body’s armoury of natural defense mechanisms for dealing with a cleansing crisis. All too often these and other natural processes are medically suppressed rather than being allowed to run their natural course. They are one of the body’s ways of saying it is overloaded with waste matter and that it needs a chance to deal with this problem. Antibiotics, taken orally, also tend to indiscriminately kill both good and bad gut bacteria often inadvertently disrupting the long term performance of the digestive system to the long term detriment of the patient’s health especially when no restorative probiotics are prescribed as part of the process: which is mainly the case.

    How do we avoid these problems? By a host of small, simple and easily implemented strategies over a lifetime: by a little self discipline and the formulation of good eating and nutritional habits which enable our bodies to function effectively, naturally, healthily and sustainably for a lifetime, as they are intended to. Ill health is not our natural state but one we impose upon ourselves, or otherwise, through our dietary and lifestyle choices, both individually and collectively.

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    Perhaps it is more the way the gluten free diet has been taken over and a surplus of starches have been promoted to replace the gluten we once ate. I am going gluten-free because of constipation. Funny huh? But my main focus is eating adequate veggies, fruits, nuts, beans, and proteins before finding ways to replace the grains I once ate.


    This truly how the gluten free dieters need to look at their food but alas in developed countries temptation to as everyone else is so strong.


    I have done the gluten free diet focusing on whole foods before and was able to stabilize my bowl movements to daily or more than daily. I was wonderful but very hard living with my loved ones note understanding that I eat healthy to not have gas, bloating, and pain.


    They all tend to think that I have some kind of bad self image and am trying to lose weight. Which at this moment would be dumb for I am pregnant.


    Overall it is difficult to eat healthy and face up to the constant criticism that folks flippantly toss out. I know many folks blabber comments because of personal guilt but it would be helpful if they would just leave well enough alone.

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    After trying to go gluten free, I just can't be successful. I always feel bad. I just think is not normal. Something must be wrong with us. Maybe is the lack of exercise! I am also tired of people saying that is Candida. As I said something is wrong with us, many people is sick. Some people go gluten free, other are 100% vegans, and others take hormonal replacement, metabolism medication, and medication for autoimmune diseases. But none of these people get 90% better, they just get 70-75% better and pay a high price for this. It is just not normal. I still think maybe is the lack of exercise and big portion of meals. People from other countries don't have this problem. THEY JUST DON'T! I know this very well. I have been in different continents and they don't have this problem. They live in poverty, take antibiotics, and sometimes don't even have food to eat. And they still don't have all these health problems.

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    Five steps to constipation-free living. (1) Go gluten-free (2) If gluten-free doesn't work, cut the processed foods, including gluten-free breads, cakes, etc. (3) Up your water intake - say bye-bye to alcohol, juice, soda, etc (4) Embrace a low-fibre diet - google "Fibre Menace" for a detailed explanation (5) Still constipated? Learn to squat on the toilet or buy a squat (oriental) toilet. Westerners are constipated not only because of sugary diets, but also because of our incorrect toilet posture which prevents us from fully emptying our bowels.

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    I was recently diagnosed with gluten allergy and shortly found I am also lactose intolerant. I eat several servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily (real ones, not corn and green beans). I eat plenty of legumes and nuts for protein and occasional lean meat. I avoid bananas, cooked carrots, cooked apples, and of course cheese. I used to avoid starchy foods like rice and oatmeal and ate mostly whole grain whole wheat foods with low glycemic index and high fiber cereals full of gluten (No wonder breakfast always made me sick). While I have always had difficulty with my bowels (we are NOT all born the same), it was always controlled with my fiber intake. Most of me feels MUCH better and I will forever be grateful to my Ophthalmologist for this step in the right direction, but now I can not use the restroom for anything.

    As a physician, I know there is always Miralax (now over the counter) that I could use daily, but I would rather find something more natural that gluten/lactose and latex intolerant people could regulate with. When extra flax seed, probiotics and omega 3's don't help- it's frustrating for us crunchy granola earthy people to settle on an unatural cure. Any actual suggestions.

    I am actually a physician, and personally take offense to the arrogant nature of this article. There is actually no helpful information, and most of us that bother to actually follow the advise, live gluten free, and do our research, are likely already not living like the millions of glutonous, slothful Americans that we sit next to daily.

    Please remember your audience next time you write.

    I found the original article very helpful for diagnosis, but missed treatment advice. So I appreciated your personal comment.

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  • About Me

    I am 60 years old. An Architect and Landscape Architect by training, graduating in both in 1974. I have an MBA (Master of Business Administration Degree) from Melbourne University in 1990. My family have owned FG Roberts (a gluten free/soy products factory in Melbourne Australia) for 54 years. I have been employed by the company full time since 1980 in various technical, management, operational, product development, research and marketing roles. My Web site is: www.glutenfreehealth.net

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