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  • Kim Hopkins
    Kim Hopkins

    Gluten-Free Diet May Lead to Poor Gut Health

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 06/05/2009 - Recently, the British Journal of Nutritionreported that following a gluten-free diet may be detrimental to guthealth, which may also affect immune health, according to a new studyfrom the Spanish National Research Council. The Spanish researchersanalyzed the gut microflora of ten healthy subjects with an average ageof 30 assigned to consume a gluten-free diet for one month.   Analysisof the participants’ feces showed that populations of healthy gutbacteria decreased following the gluten-free diet, while populations ofunhealthy bacteria increased.

    It has been previously documented that gluten can cause leaky gut, evenwithout celiac disease.  Chronic gluten exposure has been shown toactivate zonulin resulting in increased intestinal permeability (orleaky gut) even in the absence of celiac disease. Intestinalpermeability with malabsorption has been described in celiac patientsand their relatives who don’t have atrophy of the intestine on biopsybut only increased inflammatory cells.  An imbalance of intestinalbacteria has been cited as one of the main causes of leaky gutsyndrome.  This study could be the beginning of discovering the missingcomponents of the known link between celiac disease (and foodsensitivities), leaky gut syndrome, inflammation, and immune health.

    If you have celiac disease and/or other food sensitivities, your riskfor a bacteria imbalance is high.  What can you do to protect yourhealth?

    • Know the signs of bacteria imbalance: abdominal pain, asthma, chronic joint pain, chronic muscle pain,confusion, fuzzy or foggy thinking, gas, indigestion, mood swings,nervousness, poor immunity, recurrent vaginal infections, skin rashes,diarrhea, bed-wetting, recurrent bladder infections, poor memory,shortness of breath, constipation, bloating, aggressive behavior,anxiety, fatigue, feeling toxic.
    • Consider dietary changes: Limit foods that feed bad bacteria – all forms of sugar, vinegars, andmoldy foods like mushrooms.  Eat foods that promote intestinal healing,including high fiber foods rich in antioxidants (cabbage, cauliflower,beets, and onions) and omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon andflaxseed.  Healthy bacteria found in yogurt (read the label to ensurethat it contains live cultures) has also been recommended.
    • Think about chemical exposure: Eliminating or reducing substances that promote intestinalpermeability, such as avoiding antibiotics, nonsteroidalanti-inflammatory drugs, pesticides, herbicides, and meat contaminatedwith hormones.
    • Talk to your doctor: More research needs to be done, but it seems as though probiotics maybe protective against leaky gut and bowel inflammation.  Clinicalresearch shows that oral supplementation of probiotics enhances theimmune system's ability to fight foreign organisms.  Digestive Enzymescan also help to restore intestinal permeability.  Herbs and botanicalswith anti-inflammatory properties, and those that reduce congestionand/or eliminate waste may also be helpful.
    Sources
    • autoimmunedisease.suite101.com
    • About.com   Leaky Gut Syndrome/Intestinal Permeability, Cathy Wong, July 23, 2007
    • www.Foodnavigator-usa.com
    • Crook, William; Dean, C.; Crook, E (2003).  The Yeast Connection and Women’s Health
    Author's Note:  I apologize for the confusion a poorly-worded sentence caused - it has since been removed.  Obviously, this study is very flawed - it can barely be called a study.  What prompted me to write about it was the very small glimmer of hope it gave me, and many of the people I work with...so many celiacs feel good on the diet for a long time, then don't feel good anymore.  Many are told that it's in their heads, or they must be consuming gluten.  Come to find out, it's a yeast overgrowth due to bacteria imbalance.  The relief that I, and many that I know, have felt from the suggested steps in the article has been incredible.  I'm just glad this connection is being looked at!  I'm hopeful more in-depth, meaningful research is to come!

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    This report by Kim Hopkins is absolute nonesense. There is no such thing as a yeast which is also a bacteria. Candida is not a bacteria. Anything which follows from the logic that they are is not just suspect but dangerous. The content provided by Hopkins is extremely vague and not backed up with references (I would challenge Hopkins to provide ample evidence that consumption of meat derived from animals that have received hormone treatments results in humans with a leaky gut when compared to humans fed non-hormone treated animals).

    Anyone frustrated by their celiac disease who is further flummoxed by the additional load that Hopkins implies they should take on should simply ignore the article and make something good to eat.

     

    The study in Spain is damn near irrelevant to celiacs...10 healthy normal volunteers. Anybody here healthy and normal?

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    Informative...and my personal experience adds credibility to the ideas presented. I am Celiac and have Fibromyalgia. It has become obvious to me that my body needs supplementation at a higher level than normal for me to see improvement in symptoms. Particularly helpful are the probiotics, omegas, antioxidants, vitamins and enzymes. Of course, it goes without saying that all supplements must be gluten free!

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    Guest Phyllis Morrow

    Posted

    This is an alarmist article that could lead celiacs to think that a gluten-free diet is not good for us. Brian's comment about candida (yeast, not bacteria) is absolutely correct. Also, we do not know what the study subjects were eating, just that they were not eating gluten. And a month-long study gives no information on how digestive systems might adapt after more than a month on a balanced gluten-free diet. The article does not explain why gluten would be necessary for 'helpful bacteria' to grow in the gut - there needs to be some good hypothesis for me to consider the validity of the research. Finally, the list of 'symptoms' is so broad and typical of the kinds of things that celiacs may experience that it is not very helpful. Nothing wrong with eating yogurt and probiotics and a lot more veggies and fruits than most folks eat, but no reason to start worrying about the gluten-free diet without some more rigorous evidence here.

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    The experience of healthy subjects may have no bearing on people who go on the gluten-free diet after developing symptoms. Also without knowing what the subjects DID eat it is meaningless to know that their gut flora became more imbalanced. Many people eat more refined starches on a gluten-free diet and this alone can cause gut flora to become imbalanced, but this is not an intrinsic problem with a gluten-free diet. My family follows the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which is gluten-free but also cuts out the starches that feed the bad gut flora. Our gut flora has improved significantly on this diet and our leaky gut is healing. The GAPS diet takes into account all of the info given here about enzymes, probiotics, malabsorption, and EFAs.

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    I think she brings up a good point...just because it's gluten free doesn't mean it's healthy. If we're changing our diet to be gluten-free, why not also cut out the other bad stuff...sugar, junk carbs and beef up on the better choices? After years of gluten abuse our immune systems probably need every boost they can get. Also, years of gluten damage can't be good for our flora balance, and many of us have had to take lots of antibiotics and/or steroids because we got sick more than most.

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    The listed signs of bacterial imbalance sound a lot like my pre-gluten, dairy, soy, corn starch, potato, green solanacea, and beet family free situation. (Yes, I can find food to eat but no more picnic baskets for me Boo-Boo! Lots of nuts & berries: Nuts!)

     

    After 8 months into gluten-free and shorter periods away from the rest, my blood pressure rises and I feel different if I have eaten something that is a known issue for me.

     

    Radical changes in diet are bound to cause some issues. Try eating a lot of plums, and see what happens. Many have reported issues early on when going gluten-free.

     

    Before going gluten-free, we ate more, fish, fruits, yogurt, and vegetables and prepared many more meals from scratch than our friends, though we are neither vegetarian nor vegan. (meat is something I can eat.) It is possible that was preconditioning and helpful to going gluten-free. I suspect the poor absorption of nutrients, made us crave nutrient-rich food.

     

    Avoidance of dairy, potato, and corn starch eliminates almost all gluten-free baked goods and desserts other than what little I make from scratch.

     

    If gluten is not very digestible and lines the gut, it is not unreasonable that as it clears, digestion changes and/or other intolerances make themselves known. It may be essential to avoid an excess of sugar and refined carbohydrates that might tax the system even though the sources are 'gluten-free', aside from any cross-contamination issues, until a new intestinal flora balance is developed.

     

    Before the casein and whey sensitivities were found, I consumed a lot of yogurt and Activia. the active cultures may also have helped more than the allergens they contained, hurt. I also noted that mushrooms in quantity did not make me feel well though they did not give an intolerance reaction and had been fine before going gluten-free.

     

    The study is WAY too small, of too short a duration, and with inadequate outlines of the diets used. It is a nice pilot study, though. At least someone is giving the issue some attention.

     

    Now they can repeat it with control, celiac going gluten-free, and non-celiac gluten-free groups of different periods of time for more publications! Publish or perish!

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    I think she brings up a good point...just because it's gluten free doesn't mean it's healthy. If we're changing our diet to be gluten-free, why not also cut out the other bad stuff...sugar, junk carbs and beef up on the better choices? After years of gluten abuse our immune systems probably need every boost they can get. Also, years of gluten damage can't be good for our flora balance, and many of us have had to take lots of antibiotics and/or steroids because we got sick more than most.

    Um, grass fed beef is by far one of the healthiest foods you can eat, and is a pretty important part of any gluten free diet.

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    There is much truth to this article! 6 years into a gluten free diet for our celiac---and my husband and I have been sicker than ever!!! I was finally starting to accept that there was simply gluten in everything. Until a friend told me about the GAPS diet. Wow! Gut dysbiosis is very real and very damaging. Because you start to 'react' to just about every single food you eat, thinking there is gluten, where in reality you have severe leaky gut. So you are 'reacting' to everything, with your immune system on high alert and attack mode. GAPS and SCD provide much needed relief for those of us who need MORE than just Standard American Gluten Free.

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    This report by Kim Hopkins is absolute nonesense. There is no such thing as a yeast which is also a bacteria. Candida is not a bacteria. Anything which follows from the logic that they are is not just suspect but dangerous. The content provided by Hopkins is extremely vague and not backed up with references (I would challenge Hopkins to provide ample evidence that consumption of meat derived from animals that have received hormone treatments results in humans with a leaky gut when compared to humans fed non-hormone treated animals).

    Anyone frustrated by their celiac disease who is further flummoxed by the additional load that Hopkins implies they should take on should simply ignore the article and make something good to eat.

     

    The study in Spain is damn near irrelevant to celiacs...10 healthy normal volunteers. Anybody here healthy and normal?

    I think you misunderstand. Gut bacteria help to regulate yeast in the intestines. Nobody said yeast is a bacteria.

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  • About Me

    Kim Hopkins is the founder of Food Sensitivity Resources. She is a licensed social worker and someone that "lives to eat" despite having multiple food challenges. Her mission is to combine her thorough, personal knowledge of food safety concerns with her lengthy counseling, training, & consulting experiences to help people live fully despite dietary restrictions. She offers personal coaching, an informative blog, the Safe Suppers Dining Club, as well as consultation for businesses & schools.

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