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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Six Dirty Secrets of Gluten-free Food

    Celiac.com 06/19/2014 - Congratulations, you’ve begun to eat gluten-free! However, just because a product is gluten-free doesn't mean that it is automatically healthier than gluten-containing counterpart.

    Photo: CC--RestrictedDataSo, before you go patting yourself on the back for embracing gluten-free food, keep in minds that many gluten-free products are no healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts. Like many regular commercial products, many gluten-free foods are hiding one or more of these dirty secrets in plain sight on their labels.

    Many gluten-free products, especially baked goods, are made with high amounts of sugar, salt, refined ingredients, fillers, fats, and even gluten contamination. Here are a few common offenders:

    1. Sugar—Many gluten-free products are high in sugar. In fact, many gluten-free foods contain more sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts.
    2. Salt—To make up for what they lack in flavor, many gluten-free foods contain as much or more salt than their gluten-containing counterparts.
    3. Refined ingredients—Just like many regular commercial food products, many gluten-free products are contain highly processed ingredients.
    4. Preservatives—Just like many regular food products. Many gluten-free products contain preservatives.
    5. Fats—Because gluten-free flours don’t bind with fats the same way as wheat flour does, many gluten-free products, especially baked goods, include vegetable oils or other refined fats to try to mimic their gluten-containing counterparts. This can make them no better in terms of nutrition.
    6. Gluten Contamination—In a recent test of grocery products claiming to be gluten-free, a number of products actually showed levels of gluten that were above the federally allowed maximum of 20 parts per million.

    Check the label, especially with prepared, processed or refined foods. Meantime, I’ll be thinking up a list of examples to go with these categories. Share your own examples or comments below.

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    These generalized condemnations are not helpful. If you have information about what is healthy and what contains more than acceptable percent of gluten please tell what they are. This article just leaves one wondering and does not give useable information.

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    That would explain why I often get bloated after eating processed gluten free foods. I believe it's the preservatives and additives that are the problem. I try to eat fresh foods and bake my own bread.

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    In my opinion if there is dextrose or wheat fiber in gluten free products how could it be gluten free as these are derivatives of wheat?

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    These generalized condemnations are not helpful. If you have information about what is healthy and what contains more than acceptable percent of gluten please tell what they are. This article just leaves one wondering and does not give useable information.

    I agree, give examples!

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    We have also found that the dough conditioners like guar gum can aggravate digestion and gut disbiosis. When we cook gluten-free at home we never use these gums or carageenan and our foods turn out great. I wish manufacturers would stop using them.

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    I see this article as a note for those needing/choosing the gluten-free diet that being gluten free is not the only thing we need to know about the more readily available commercial products. Considering the healthy "extras" that I have to add to my own baking, it doesn't surprise me that commercially prepared foods find the cheapest/easiest way to produce and sell a food in demand for today's markets. A good reminder that not all gluten-free foods are not always the "healthy" choice. Read the labels and not just the ingredients!!! Stay healthy!

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    Guest Sandra Christine

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

  • Related Articles

    Rick Lenger
    Celiac.com 12/04/2009 - It’s been ten months since my diagnosis of celiac disease.  The foggy thinking is clearing.  I remember more and more details of the misery of living a life with gluten poisoning.  Can you imagine having leg cramps so severe that when they finally subsided your legs were bruised?  That was by far the worst pain I have ever experienced. And I would have those cramps four or five times a week. I was prescribed quinine and it didn’t help a bit, however I did not contract malaria.  People would say to me, “You just need to eat bananas.  You have a potassium deficiency.”  They didn’t know I ate bananas everyday to no avail.  The dull pains in my gut I had learned to ignore even though they were constant.  The leg cramps that would come in the middle of the night I could not ignore.
    Other symptoms included extreme fatigue, lightheadedness, vision loss, anemia, and heart papaltations. Throw in depression, panic attacks, and a feeling of impending doom. My blood work was always a frightening revelation.  It even scared my doctor and he’s not even me!  You know it’s bad when the doctor is reading your lab results and both of his eyebrows arch up to the middle of his forehead.  I also had vertigo and balance problems.  The weight loss was extreme.  Gluten had robbed me of nutrients necessary to live a normal life.  I was suffering from malnutrition, although I ate constantly.  Life wasn’t really working out like I had hoped.
    Can you blame me when I say I really hate gluten?  I hate gluten as much as I hate Adolph Hitler.  It is insidious. All of that pain was caused by that little protein called gluten.  It almost killed me.  I won’t ever consciously eat gluten again no matter what drugs are developed to neutralize it.  I feel like the classic jilted lover when it comes to gluten.  I wouldn’t take gluten back for any amount of money.  I would take the drugs only to insure myself in case of accidental ingestion when eating out at a restaurant or something to that effect.   When I am at the grocery store I will not even walk down the bread aisle.  I hate the smell of fresh bread.   I really believe everyone would be better off if they went gluten free.  However, it’s not going to happen. 
    The best thing about celiac disease is that once you eliminate gluten from your diet you start getting better in a hurry. What an exciting journey these past ten months have been!  I have gained 58 pounds.  I feel so strong that sometimes when I walk down the street I hope someone will take a swing at me! Unless he’s a professional fighter I don’t think he’ll knock me to the pavement on the first swing. Maybe I exaggerate a bit, but what I am trying to say is that I have a feeling of well-being that I never knew possible.  I feel so good I want to shout out to the neighborhood, “I FEEL GOOD!” (cue the James Brown song here) “I KNEW THAT I WOULD NOW!” 
    What is exciting is that some of the research is very optimistic.  I recommend reading some of Dr. Ron Hoggan’s articles on the cutting edge discoveries that could possibly neutralize the toxic effects of gluten in celiacs.  Larazotide Acetate could be the miracle drug celiacs and other autoimmune sufferers are hoping for. I think you will be hearing a lot more about breakthroughs in the near future.  I am so grateful for Dr. Hoggan, Scott Adams, Dr. Peter Green, the research team at the University of Maryland, Dr. Alessio Fasano and many others who are lending their brilliance to this puzzling malady.  I marvel at the depth of their knowledge and passion for discovery.  Unfortunately, I am not so gifted.  I can only thank them and reap the benefits of their work.
    Reading Recommendations:

    If you aren’t already familiar with The Journal of Gluten Sensitivity you can subscribe through a link here at Celiac.com. You will find much information and you will be encouraged at the current work being done in this field.  I highly recommend the following books for the newly diagnosed celiac:
    -Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free – Jules E. Dowler Shepard (a great personal story honestly told by a smart author, and lots of recipes)
    -Celiac Disease a Hidden Epidemic – Peter Green. M.D. and Rory Jones (lots of science and answers to your questions here)
    -The Gluten-Free Diet – A Gluten Free Survival Guide – Elisabeth Hasselbeck (another honest personal testimony and lots of graphs, charts, and recipes)
    All of the above have done much research and have exhaustive indexes. Well worth the investment.


    Tina Turbin
    Celiac.com 07/25/2011 - Celiac disease, according to estimates, affects approximately three million Americans and as of yet, 97% haven't been correctly diagnosed. As staggering as these statistics are, celiac disease remains largely poorly understood by the medical community. It's no wonder, given its lack of research as compared with other autoimmune disorders. However, there is research being actively conducted in the U.S. and internationally in a quest to understand the pathogenesis, or the cause and development of the disease. With this information, more about celiac disease, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment can come to light.
    According to the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA), the pathogenesis of celiac disease consists of three factors: "genetic, environment and immunologic." With regard to genetics, the CCA points out that more than 97% of celiac patients have the genetic markers HLA DQ2 and/or HLA DQ8. Celiac disease is now known to be a hereditary disease. The Canadian Celiac Association tells us that "first-degree and to a lesser extent second-degree relatives are at higher risk of having unrecognized celiac disease."
    Next, is the environmental "trigger," as Dr. Alessio Fasano, professor of pediatrics, medicine and physiology at the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, calls it. This is gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. According to the Canadian Celiac Association, sometimes severe physical stressors can also trigger the immunologic reaction to gluten that is characteristic to celiac disease. Such sources of stress include pregnancy, infection, surgery, or even severe emotional stress.
    In his article, "Surprises from Celiac Disease," published in Scientific American, Dr. Fasano describes a different triad of factors involved in the pathogenesis of the disease. The first two factors are the ‘'trigger" of gluten, which sets off the immune response, and the genetic predisposition, as previously described. Fasano proposes that "other genes are likely to be involved as well, but these additional culprits may differ from person to person."
    The third factor, according to Fasano's research is an "unusually permeable gut." In fact, the author proposes that these three factors also underlie the pathogenesis of other autoimmune diseases, with of course triggers and genetic elements unique to those particular diseases. Fasano tells us that most non-celiacs have "tight junctions [that] 'glue' intestinal cells together." On the other hand, in celiac patients, these links come apart, resulting in a small intestine from which pieces of gluten leak into the tissue and stimulate a response from immune cells. Fasano's research regarding this third factor of pathogenesis offers hope of new prevention and treatment methods. He says, "Treatments that reduced leakiness could potentially ease not only celiac disease but also other autoimmune disorders involving unusually permeable intestines."
    This research into the leaky gut of celiacs can explain a question that has been perplexing researchers regarding the disease's pathogenesis: Why do some people not develop celiac disease until later in life? According to Dr. Fasano, this issue could be associated with the microbes in the digestive tract. The microbicrobial population varies among individuals and groups and even over the course of one's life.
    "Apparently they can also influence which genes in their hosts are active at any given time," he says. "Hence, a person whose immune system has managed to tolerate gluten for many years might suddenly lose tolerance if the microbiome changes in a way that causes formerly quiet susceptibility genes to become active." Should this prove true, we may be able to prevent or treat celiac disease with probiotics.
    A better understanding of the pathogenesis of celiac disease is certainly needed, but as of yet, researchers seem to be on their way to developing a full picture of what is involved in the origin and onset of the disease. By raising awareness and allocating more funding to celiac pathogenesis research, we may find ourselves with the ability to delay or even prevent the disease or with a new treatment option.


    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 09/30/2013 - The negative impact of celiac disease on the sexual health of celiac sufferers is one of the great undiscussed aspects of the disease, according to Phil Zimbardo, a prominent psychologist and professor emeritus at Stanford University in California.
    “No one talks about the sex part in celiac disease,” Zimbardo says, no one tells people that celiac disease can destroy their sex drive and challenge "their very manhood." This and other of Zimbardo's views on celiac disease and its impact on sexual health can be found in an excellent article by Lisa Fitterman in Allergicliving.com.
    For Zimbardo, life before his celiac diagnosis was a dark place. As his body suffered the effects of celiac disease, Zimbardo grew so depressed that he lost all interest in sex and intimacy. This, in turn, had a negative impact upon Zimbardo's marriage.
    This negative impact of celiac disease on sexual health is not unique to men. Many woman with celiac disease see their own sex lives suffer.
    In the case of Alice Bast, founder and president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), celiac disease had a number of adverse effects on her health and well-being.
    Bast acknowledges to Fetterman that symptoms of undiagnosed celiac disease pushed sex far from her mind, and that her libido did not make a miraculous return upon diagnosis and going gluten-free. Even after she was diagnosed, her physical recovery was slow, due to chronic malnourishment that contributed to multiple miscarriages and a stillbirth. In fact, when it came to sex, Bast says that the return of her sexual health came slowly, almost imperceptibly, until she realized that she was enjoying intimacy again after years of avoiding it.
    Echoing Bast's experience, Zimbardo points out that, "as a psychologist, I’m always analyzing behavior and I just couldn’t understand what has happening to me until I was diagnosed.”
    Once he was diagnosed, however, Zimbardo cut gluten from his diet and started taking anti-inflammatories and probiotics to regrow his gut flora. It took a full year for his gut to heal and for his full health and vigor to return, but now he is healthy, both physically and sexually.
    For Zimbardo, and many others, giving up the gluten is the key to returning to good health, and healthy sexual activity. Giving up gluten was "nothing short of transformative.” Now, he says he "can’t wait to be 80."
    There is a great deal of anecdotal information to suggest that celiac disease can have adverse impacts on sexual health, yet very little actual data exists. It will be interesting to see if and when researchers begin to look for answers. 

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