I have just been reading a post on Micki Rose’s Truly Gluten Free site in which she gives an update on her own health after three months on a totally grain/gluten free diet – and when I say totally, I mean totally. She has been tireless in tracking down gluten contamination to the second and third degree on the basis that if you are sufficiently ill, you will react to the tiniest molecule of a substance to which you are sensitive. This is of course no news to those of you who are really sensitive but, few people have the persistence or the knowledge (it does help being a nutritionist) to pursue their allergens with such forensic determination.
For example, one of her main problems was that her gluten sensitivity was such that she reacted to vast majority of the nutritional supplements which contain some, even if only small amounts, of gluten. She was therefore unable to address her own very poor nutritional profile as she was unable to absorb any of the nutrients delivered by the supplements. Her answer was an exhaustive investigation into supplements – see both the article she wrote for us and her own more detailed reports (click here for Report 1, click here for Report 2) – as a result of which she is now on a regime of nutritional supplementation which she can actually absorb and is already feeling significant benefits.
However, while we are all delighted at the progress that she has made and the difference this could make to other severely gluten-intolerant people who have failed to get better on traditional gluten-free diets, in the wider context of public health, the effect that her new diet has had on her weight is possibly more significant. We have only met once and while I certainly would not have called her fat, she was relatively ‘well covered’. But, as she says:
‘The other benefit (of the truly-gluten-free diet) has been a change in body shape and loss of about a stone without even thinking about it – this after years and years of trying my best to lose a stone to absolutely no avail. And I’m a nutritionist and know what I am doing!
Allergy sufferers are often overweight (and coeliacs contrary to popular belief) and this is partly because they have what I call the ‘stuffed cushion effect’. What I mean is that look of yourself when you feel you have a cushiony layer all over your frame. You think it is fat but invariably a lot of it is water retention, most likely as part of the inflammatory process in the body. Anyway, that water retention just went within a few weeks and I suddenly noticed my old self re-emerging.’
One of the accusations leveled at ‘fad’ gluten exclusion is that it is all about phoney dieting. But what if gluten sensitivity really did play a significant role in our current obesity epidemic? There is certainly no doubt that the foods on which those suffering from excess weight and obesity tend to max out are heavy in gluten – both ‘up-front’ in terms the high-gluten wheat content of cakes, biscuits, breads and snacks and in the hidden gluten in almost every processed food (and indeed nutritional supplement) that they eat.
There is much talk in the ‘freefrom’ food industry at the moment as to whether the current rapid growth in voluntary ‘gluten restricters’ (people who choose to eat gluten free because they think it is healthier/better for them rather than because they are ill) is just a fad and, like the Atkins diet will have disappeared within a couple of years. But if excess gluten really did prove to be a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic, what a future for ‘freefrom’ then!