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Gluten and Inflammation

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

Dr. Kelly Brogan, a board-certified psychiatrist, MIT graduate, and self-described psychosomatic-medicine and integrative holistic-medicine practitioner, writes in her book A Mind of Your Own:

“Gluten, from the Latin word glue, is a protein found in wheat, kamut and spelt, but you can also find gluten-like proteins, known as prolamins, in barley, rye and corn. These are among the most inflammatory ingredients of the modern world.”

My view of this seemingly innocuous ingredient is clear: Gluten has become a toxic substance that is creating an inexcusable amount of suffering in North America. The damage it causes compares to that of sugar. And, like sugar, it is everywhere, often hidden in foods.

In over two decades of clinical practice, I have witnessed the amazing recovery of patients when they eliminate gluten from the diets. Here’s a list of just a few:

· Cognitive issues

· Digestive problems

o deemed by allopathic, or conventional, medicine as chronic and incurable)

· Emotional disorders

· Headaches

· Infertility

o both male and female

· Joint inflammation

· Skin issues

If you eat gluten and suffer from any of those symptoms, it may help to cut back, or even eliminate, it from your diet as well. I’ve experienced these changes myself, and have been gluten-free since the 1980s. Back then I was running marathons and could not understand why some days I ran like an antelope and others like an old cow.

Over time, I noticed that the days I ate gluten—sandwiches, pasta, toast—I felt heavy and sluggish, my knees ached, and I was tired. After a disappointing race result, I started to examine what was going on.

I went to a little “hippie store” in my hometown, run by a lovely woman who sold crystals, herbs and gluten-free home-baked food. (Today, we would call her shop a health-food store.)

She explained that I was reacting to gluten. I had no idea what this was, so I went to the library—yes, in a time when there was no internet—and read up on gluten. Over the next six weeks I cut out all gluten, and on the morning of my next marathon I woke up feeling great. My previous times were three hours and 50 minutes. That race, run six weeks after the disastrous race, I posted a time of three hours and 30 minutes—20 minutes faster—and felt great.

I knew I was on to something big. I had learned an important lesson: Food has the power to either energize or deplete. Gluten depleted me.

I wish I could say I had permanently broken up with gluten after that epiphany. However, two months later, I was out with friends who ordered pizza. When it came to the table, I convinced myself that I must be “cured” and reached for a slice…and then two more.

The next morning, I awoke with that feeling of heaviness again and found myself in the kitchen making toast. It took three attempts over several months to finally stop eating gluten.

I learned my second food related lesson: Food can be addictive and we have been lied to regarding what is healthy food and what is not.

Today there are many gluten-free alternatives. Pick a food you love—cookies, muffins, bread, pasta—and you can find a version of that product without gluten. Keep in mind, though, that not all gluten-free food is good for you. A cookie is still a cookie, even without gluten, and it may contain other questionable ingredients.

These grains and starches contain gluten:

· Bulgur

· Couscous

· Farina

· Graham flour

· Matzo

· Rye

· Semolina

· Spelt

· Wheat

· Wheat germ

Below is a list of gluten-free grains. There is an asterisk (*) beside the healthiest ones.

· Arrowroot

· Buckwheat*

· Millet*

· Potatoes

· Quinoa*

· Rice*

· Sorghum

· Teff

NOTE: Soy, corn and tapioca are gluten free, but they are either genetically modified or poorly digested.

The following ingredients are often code for gluten:

· Caramel colouring (often made from barley)

· Dextrin

· Fermented gin extract

· Natural flavouring

· Vegetable protein

“These proteins (glutens) turn into substances with similar chemical structures to opiates, such as morphine and heroin […] These proteins were detected in the urine of patients with schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, post-partum psychosis, epilepsy, Down’s Syndrome, depression, and some auto-immune problems, like rheumatoid arthritis.”

So, how to begin?

1. Simply choose one food at a time. (The usual suspect for many is bread.)

2. Look for high-quality gluten-free bread.

3. Take along the list of good gluten-free grains and read the labels.

a. One brand I recommend is GlutenNull.

4. Go to the next food to be replaced.

5. Continue this process until you have phased out gluten.

Or, simply take the plunge, throw out all gluten-based foods, and replace them all with high quality gluten-free foods. This may sound drastic, but I promise you will not feel hungry or deprived. Instead you will likely feel less pain, more clear-headed and energized. Give your body two to three months to adjust.

Remember, keep it simple, one new habit at a time.

We all can achieve great Health.Simply.

Cameron Moffatt DOMP

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