Nutritious Bytes

Dr. Debé's blog on metabolically tailored nutrition and wellness

When Eliminating Gluten Does Not Help

Eliminating gluten-containing grains from your diet can have dramatic health benefits, especially if your immune system reacts to this protein. However, if you stop eating gluten and don't feel great after a reasonable period of time, something is wrong.

One possibility is that you have not totally eliminated gluten from your diet. You need to be 100% diligent in avoiding gluten. Immune activation can last for months after consuming gluten one time. You could possibly be suffering from exposure to hidden sources of gluten. Do you lick the seal on envelopes? There's your source of gluten exposure. Do you use a toaster that has been used for gluten-containing food? There's your source of gluten exposure. Whether you are currently eating gluten or not, I believe the most definitive test for revealing immune activation related to gluten is Cyrex Labs Array 3: Wheat/Gluten Proteome Sensitivity and Autoimmunity.  



Another possibility is that you are suffering a gluten-associated cross reaction to another food. A person can totally eliminate gluten from the diet but continue to suffer the health effects caused by gluten - as if the diet still contained gluten. A number of foods can cause the same immune response as gluten. What are these foods and how do you know if they are a problem for you?

The list of foods that may initiate the same immune response as gluten includes: cow's milk, American cheese, chocolate (milk), rye, barley, Polish wheat, spelt, yeast, oats and coffee. How do you know if your immune system is reacting to these foods? A blood test from Cyrex Laboratories measures IgG and IgA antibodies to these foods. If you have abnormal or equivocal results on this test then you should eliminate the food from your diet- at least for six months. The name of this test is Array 4 - Gluten-Associated Cross-Reactive Foods and Foods Sensitivity.

In addition to the gluten-associated cross-reactive foods (which also include the milk proteins casomorphin, casein, whey, and milk butyrophilin), Array 4 tests for antibodies to fourteen other foods that people tend to eat more of when they eliminate gluten from the diet: sesame, millet, buckwheat, sorghum, hemp, amaranth, quinoa, tapioca, teff, soy, egg, corn, rice, and potato. Again, if you have elevated antibodies to any of these foods, they should be avoided for at least six months. At that time another test can be done to see if the antibodies are now in the normal range. If they are, the foods are added back to the diet and, if tolerated without causing symptoms, followed by another test after about 8 weeks to see if the immune system is still tolerating the food.

There may be other reasons why a person still has symptoms after gluten elimination. Perhaps your body needs some help to fully recover from the damage gluten has done. For example, if gluten has triggered your immune system to destroy your thyroid gland then thyroid support is needed.

Of course there is another obvious reason that a person may not feel great after gluten elimination. Gluten is not the only cause of un-wellness! Perhaps you have other significant health challenges that need attention (such as other food sensitivities, stress, lack of exercise, inadequate sleep, toxicity, hormone imbalance, infection, nutrient deficiency, and more advanced conditions). A thorough evaluation should always be done.