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Category: Nutrition


Is Gluten-Free Toxic?

I’ve been getting a lot of e-mail and social media messages over the past few weeks about a recent publication that purports that going off gluten-containing foods will increase a person’s risk of arsenic and mercury toxicity.

The report, appearing in Science Daily, has clearly caused a stir amongst the gluten-free community. I mean after all, who wants to be poisoned, and from the sound of things, going off gluten might be doing just that!

Well, let’s take a step back and first focus on the report’s title: Gluten-free diet may increase risk of arsenic, mercury exposure. It’s the last word that should tell you something. After all, how could avoiding something increase your exposure to toxic chemicals?

Indeed, the study did find higher levels of these toxins in gluten-free individuals, but it was because they ate more of other potentially contaminated foods in place of gluten-containing grains. Rice, for example, is a popular choice for people giving up gluten, and the data clearly shows a powerful risk for arsenic exposure in folks who eat a lot of rice.

In addition, we do know that fiber does help the body rid itself of toxins. And going off gluten might lead to a reduction in fiber consumption.

So the take-home message here is that you’re not going to increase your risk for arsenic or mercury toxicity by eliminating something (gluten-free foods in this case). But you may well increase this risk by consuming foods higher in toxins, or by limiting your fiber consumption.

  • gutch03

    What is the best way to get your fiber intake without gluten?

    • Braaainz

      There’s several sources. Legumes (beans), seeds, nuts and veggies are all good.

    • Christina Baber

      Banana flour that has 43% fiber in 3.5oz serving should go a long way to giving the daily fiber intake? Right?

    • Judy Lefebvre

      Lots and lots of fruit and vegitables.

    • Yvonne Forsman

      Raw Food diet.

    • AnnieLaurie Burke

      Grains are not the huge fiber sources they are made out to be. Vegetables (non-starchy), legumes (if you tolerate them) and fruits contain fiber: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948

    • Dani

      Leafy greens! Fruit! Nuts!

  • Christina Baber
  • Christina Baber

    How about using green banana flour and if its made using organic bananas including its peel?

    • Angusdarlin

      I’m allergic to bananas.

      • Yvonne Forsman

        I sometimes make pancakes using coconut flour and cooked cauliflower. For pizza dough there is an online recipe using cauliflower (don’t remember the other ingredients). For bread and cookies there are recipes with cassava flour (cassava is a high carb tuber). For any kind of flour food recipe check out Paleo and Raw Food diet recipes for substitutes.

  • Judy Lefebvre

    One sign of Arsenic toxicity is a lateral line in the finger nails. Those appear, change your rice producer, & stay away from rice grown & produced in the U.S

    • Lien Nguyen

      I have these lateral lines but tested below the normal limit for arsenic

      • Tan

        Normal these days does not necessarily mean healthy.

  • Judy Lefebvre


  • Kate

    What about having organic rice, does anyone know if this has arsenic in it as well?

    • Gaston

      I have read that rice should be soaked overnight, then rinsed and only then cooked to avoid the arsenic. Also there are certain variety of rice containing less arsenic than others. One should focus on purchasing rice from India or California. These are arguments I have read. We practice it in our home but I really cannot confirm any difference in terms of chemical exposure.

      • Yvonne Forsman

        I am very suspicious of any food from California b/c the Fukushima radiation has reached the US west coast. Radiation causes cancer. Also in southern California, in San Diego, b/c of shortage of drinking water, they are pumping the Pacific ocean water through desalination plant and Reverse Osmosis industrial filters, for households. The problems is that the Fukushima radiation in that water does not get filtered out by RO filtration, only distillation machines do such job, so everybody drinking municipal water in San Diego should have a distiller on their kitchen counter for drinking and cooking water, or they will all die in cancer!!! But then there is bathing/shower water, the skin is our largest organ!!! I don’t know if there is any help to filter out radiation in shower water. I also do not know if farmers use this kind of water on their crops and then the radiation ends up in all the green food they ship all across the country??

        Re the soaking of rice, other grains, nuts and seeds, ppl do that to remove undesirable elements (oxalic acid, tannins, enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid) which rob the body of minerals. There are 300 chemical reactions going on in the body every single day and those reactions needs minerals, so these foods rob you of minerals and you will get sick in the long run. I was a vegan for 15 years and that’s how I got sick. Soaking does not remove all the inhibitors.

    • J. Franklin
      • Yvonne Forsman

        Their website says 4.2 mcg arsenic per serving. Wow. That is crazy!!! Why would anybody eat any amount above zero arsenic??????? This is comedy!!!!!!!!! But I am going to email them and ask why farmers do not use phytoremediation which removes metals from agriculture soil. Plants prefer minerals but if soil is mineral deficient then plants will use metals, then we eat the food and get poisoned.

        Also rock dust is rich in minerals and so using rock dust in soil will increase the mineral amount. I guess large scale farmers do not use rock dust.

        The whole chemical industry and all farmers should be in prison for crimes against humanity! They are constantly poisoning us, knowing they are poisoning us and not giving a fork! Criminals!

        • Yvonne Forsman

          My email to Lundberg:


          Hi Lundberg’s customer service,

          an online group was discussing gluten free products which are mostly made out of rice flour. Somebody posted link to your website so I read there is “only” 4.2 mcg arsenic in one serving of your rice. It is amusing to me. Why would anyone want to eat any amount of arsenic above zero??? I have bought your brand in the past, b/f I learned about the arsenic. I don’t use any grains anymore, I am on Paleo diet now.

          I have seen youtube videos talking about phytoremediation to remove
          metals from soil. Why are American farmers not removing arsenic and
          mercury from soil b/f they plant rice?

          I learned from organic growers that plants prefer minerals but if soil is depletedand only metals remain then plants will use metals. We then eat the plants and get sick. I also learned that rock dust is rich in minerals. Why don’t farmers use rock dust?

          In my opinion the whole chemical industry and large scale framers all should go to prison for crimes against humanity. They are poisoning us, they know they are poisoning us and yet they continue. This is MURDER!!!!

          • peggy

            Boy am I glad I stopped eating rice about 8 years ago. I agree

            Yvonne, some of these people (farmers and agricultural product manufacturers and retailers who knowingly peddle this poison and only because THEY WANT HEAPS OF MONEY no matter who gets hurt, they should be prosecuted and sent to jail for a very long long time same as for murder and then some, because some of these poisons are passed down to the children through breastmilk and possibly the reproductive organs of the (unwitting) parents. So the poison is passed along for a very long time just as it deals in the soil for a very long time. None of this nonsense Monsanto was peddling that roundup became inactive (they meant safe ha) upon contact with the soil. What a straight out lie and they knew it. Their scientists should also be clapped in jail along with those others. And probably some of the Govt officials who knowingly allow and support these devilish practices. It is not money that is the root of all evil – it is the greed of these sort of people ruthless callous and greedy. What does everyone else think?
            Or am I just ranting because our foodstuffs are being poisoned?

          • Yvonne Forsman

            You are so right!!!! I have several friends on FB who think the same! I also know ppl who are terribly sick and have no clue that food is making them sick. I just told one person b/c she is again in the hospital posting FB pictures of tears running down her face (b/c of pain). I asked if her doctor ever suggested she talks to a dietitian b/c changing diet may alleviate her pain. If I won on a lottery I would buy an RV and drive her to Cleveland Clinic to see a functional medicine doctor! They are so smart at the Cleveland Clinic, they even have a successful program for Alzheimer’s, imagine that! Millions of ppl around the world die in Alzheimer’s (but that’s another story). I just admire smart ppl, Dr Perlmutter is one of them. Unfortunately there are not many such doctors out there. Anyhow, I follow Moms Across America organization, they are helping families with sick children to get their health back with cleaning up the environmental toxins (food, water, air, EMF waves, detox).

    • peggy

      Well, I believe Dr Perlmutter said quite a few months ago that rice is a bio-reactor to gluten as I understand it the body “sees” it as gluten. But I do not feel well eating rice (bloated and stomach cramps – same as with gluten/grains) so I avoid it and rice flour .

      • Jal

        Peggy, I think you may have greater likely problem with the rice’s carb-sugar content “over feeding” your gut -bug eco-system for your symptoms than gluten per se, unless you are coeliac or known VERY intolerant to gluten. Gluten intolerance leads to inflammation, allergy and auto immune reactions, i.e. affecting systems linked to gut disturbance.

        Your symptoms seem to be still centred at the digestion level ( a good sign that is easier to manage before longer term damage occurs..) By all means stay gluten free but don’t overlook the necessity to balance out gut bacteria by feeding them mainly resistant carbs and not easily fermented carbs like processed sugars starches e.g. rice flour and its products…It is the fermenting in lieu of digesting that produces gases and cramps, in the gut,,,

    • Yvonne Forsman

      I would think organic means the farmers do not add more toxic pesticides (which all cause cancer, btw), but if the arsenic already is in the soil, then that’s what is then in the rice when you eat it. But all soil can be remediated (all toxins extracted, there are specific plants which suck up toxins from soil, it is possible to make soil healthy again, all organic farmers know that, but unfortunately 80% of food in the grocery store comes from non-organic farmers and contains toxins. 1 in 2 Americans get a cancer diagnosis during their lifetime!

      • Jal

        I believe that Organic Certification requires soil contaminants to be maintained below specified levels and are routinely tested for to maintain the certification…

  • Karen M Hanna

    So in addition to the cautions above here is another seldom discussed challenge if you limiting or giving up gluten and if you are also night shade sensitive. You will have a tough time with a fair amount of the “gluten free” producs as many substitute potato starch- and potato is not only a night shade , it many times is the night shade to which people have the most severe reaction. So read labels carefully ( for example label may not say potatoe but will say modified food starch, I have found several time this is potato based ) Be diligent or you will be feeling much worse !

    • Yvonne Forsman

      I stopped eating grains 3 or 4 years ago after a chiropractor did different tests and said I was in a bad shape. I was thinking: yeah, I know t-h-a-t! He advised me to stop grains which I did and I am not missing those foods. There are various alternatives within the Raw Food diet and also within the Paleo diet. And yes, you are correct about the nightshades, I am limiting those too. The most amazing result for me was that the drumming in my left ear went away! What a relief!!! And all the various gastro-intestinal problems went away also. I still have a high pitch sound in the right ear but that is probably b/c I haven’t given up dairy just yet (and milk has a molecular structure which resembles gluten and the immune system may confuse it with gluten). But I am trying home made berry and fruit sorbet instead of dairy ice cream from the store (organic, of course). I have even blended juiced carrots, beets and apple, juice and pulp combined, added banana and frozen berries, lemon juice, cinnamon and stevia, in a blender, then put into the freezer, and it tasted heavenly, I was so surprised! I make pancakes occasionally, with coconut flour and also tried cassava (a root/night shade) but I put veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, sometimes carrots) into my pancake batter so I am using less flour. I bake bread very seldom but if I do I put zucchini into the dough, and use less flour. I make muffins with fruit or berries, and have a recipe for pizza dough with cauliflower but i haven’t eaten pizza in years and not missing it. There are raw food and vegan restaurants around here, and the food is to die for! I wish I could cook like them! My health is not back 100% yet but I am getting there, slowly.

      • Jal

        Give up dairy ! you won’t look back 🙂

      • Jean

        I’m from Wisconsin….a big dairy state. I have given up all dairy and I never thought I could do it. I thought I would miss it way too much and my bones would suffer, etc. After I educated myself that dairy (not organic raw grass fed dairy) is junk food I took the plunge and never looked back! I also gave up gluten, grains, sugar, etc. a few years ago. I had a blood test done and my calcium levels are fine from getting lots of calcium in veggies and organic raw goat cheese. In fact my chiropractor told me I was way too healthy to be in his office. You won’t regret giving up dairy…..I was a big milk and cheese eater. Now I would never dream of eating regular dairy. Junk food!!!

  • calle

    Hi all, I just read an article from an MD who wrote a book on Thyroid and a huge bit on Histamine Intolerance.
    She mentioned no Bananas as they reduce the amount o DAO which breaks down histaimines.
    As for legumes and others beans, they are now all sprayed with Roundup to even out the moisture content for harvest.

    So anyone of them is not safe unless organic.
    DR Stephane Stennt from MIT as explaining how glyphosate messes with glycine and the sulfer pathways.

    There are other grains, but causing leaky gut etc is never a good thing. Just learned that NSAIDS all cause leaky gut.

  • Yvonne Forsman

    I always thought that ppl from India have dark circles under their eyes b/c rice contains arsenic. I had no idea rice also contains mercury. Wow! And yes, I do mean that ppl from India eat a lot of rice and rice contains arsenic and therefore, I believe, ppl from India have dark circles under their eyes caused by the arsenic.

    I totally understand the headline: is gluten free toxic. To me it doesn’t have to be spelled out b/c I know that most gluten free products are made out of rice flour. I have read a lot of food labels in the grocery stores. The headline is correct. Yes, you can break it down, Dr Perlmutter, and claim the headline is nonsense, like you did, but it doesn’t take the arsenic out of the rice or the rice out of the gluten free products, so your effort in this case is kind of un-necessary. And amusing.

    I stopped all grains 4 years ago and am not missing grain foods at all. I do not buy commercial gluten free products b/c they are made of rice and rice contains gluten, just not wheat gluten, and I am gluten intolerant. There is plenty to eat on Paleo diet in combination with Raw Food, and none of these 2 diets uses grains.

    • AnnieLaurie Burke

      Rice does NOT contain arsenic and mercury naturally. Some soils in which rice is grown contain contaminants. If the soil has been poisoned with arsenic, rice is efficient at pulling it from the soil. Many food crops will preferentially take up minerals from the soil, and some of those minerals may be toxic. Not only do crops end up contaminated because of soil contamination, but any livestock that has eaten grains/grasses grown in contaminated soil can take up the contaminants as well.

      • Yvonne Forsman

        So true about animals fed the grains! I buy organic meat, grass fed and grass finished.
        Re arsenic in soil, what is funny to me is that sellers of rice products say: well, arsenic is in the soil n-a-t-u-r-a-l-l-y. Who cares how the arsenic got there, the goal must be to get it out of there and stop growing food in poisoned soil, remediate the soil first! Everybody should eat ZERO arsenic! It is a poison!!! And rice also contains mercury, which I did not know b/f, that is a shocker! Mercury causes autism, it destroys the brain!!!

        • AnnieLaurie Burke

          No, the arsenic of concern in rice is not from the natural soil content. Arsenic was widely used as a crop treatment, as a pest control in poultry operations, and as an anti-rot treatment for wood.. There are many areas with contaminated soils from such operations. However, rice that is not contaminated is widely available, if you want to eat rice. And, just because of my chemistry background, I must point out that there is no such thing as zero arsenic or any other element. It is never possible to say that there is zero X in anything. You can get down to the limit of detection by chemical analysis, but that is never zero. Your body has evolved to deal with naturally-occurring toxins at the levels they are naturally encountered. I wish that US consumers would get better informed on contaminants in their food….

        • Daniel Oberholtzer

          Arsenic is very important for the heart! Better do your research before you make a statement like that! http://healingtools.tripod.com/herbstoxic.html

          • Yvonne Forsman

            And your next post will read: Glyphosate important to health, says Monsanto.. lol

            In the following link, as in hundreds of other Google links about arsenic and heart, it clearly explains that scientific studies show arsenic is detrimental to health even in small doses.

  • Colby Charmayne Jenkins

    This is the biggest waste of time article I’ve ever read. It’s absolutely fear mongering those who follow a gluten free diet (which by the way the majority of the population could benefit from) gluten products are a minuscule source of fiber compared to many other foods, and as far as your argument of consumkng more mercury contaminated rice when dojng gluten free? That’s just a very terrible and weak argument. So many homes in this logic and can be torn apart by actual science.

    • Yvonne Forsman

      You must be a stand-up comedian! I applaud you! That was really funny!

  • SSE

    Once I went gluten-free, the next step for me was grain-free/lower carb diet. That leaves lots more room for vegetables and lower glycemic fruits. I get plenty of fiber and have started baking again (after years of not baking) using almond or coconut flour. There’s little reason to lower your dietary standards after leaving gluten behind,
    other than staying with sugary or high carb foods. Why do that? I eat to be healthy.

    • peggy

      well said SSE – I too am grain free dairy free and soy free and never felt better in my life.

  • Courtney Thomas

    I am curious about Dr. Perlmutter’s thoughts on the recent articles linking gluten free diets to an increased risk for diabetes. Is this just another warning to increase our fiber intake? Or is there more to consider?

    • AnnieLaurie Burke

      Possibly, some people going gluten-free are eating too many refined carbs that don’t contain gluten? Generally, Americans eat far too much carbohydrate in their diets, especially refined ones, like sugar and processed flours. Many that go “gluten-free” use that as a reason to OD on other refined carbs. I think it’s like the “low fat” craze when that was all the rage — folks would eat a whole box of “low-fat” cookies and think they were doing something healthful. Now, they do the same with gluten-free cookies. Folks do vary in the amount of carbs they need, but most can get all they need, and more, from veggies, fruit, nuts, and occasional tubers and legumes. These are also great sources of fiber — note that grains are not really the richest sources of fiber, and that fiber is technically a carb (a resistant carb). But making carbohydrate-heavy grains the “base” of your food pyramid is not a good thing for most people.

  • Angel

    Wow!! Are these people that these “studies” were conducted on, have amalgam/mercury fillings in their mouth? Did they have have impaired genetic detoxification pathway issues?

  • Dani

    I think the take home should be replacing high carb “junk” foods made with wheat with high carb junk foods made with rice is NOT the way to go. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods, fruits, vegetables etc…foods in their natural state. And I’m sure we will all be just fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if that study was funded by the wheat industry to hamper the ever growing popularity of the gluten free “diet”.

  • rily

    So, in 73 people of the 7,471 people who completed the survey, that said they eat GF…..that’s 0.0097, or 0.01 percent of the total surveyed. They said they found higher blood concentrations of arsenic, 2 times the amount, and mercury content 70% higher. 2x, and 70% higher than what?
    Where were the people in this survey living? Did anything happen in the environment, such as volcanic activity, or nuclear accidents that would affect quality of water or air? We should worry about this, when we got more obvious stuff going on in this world, that’s life threatening, like the possibility of nuclear war?

  • rily

    Aside from all the other stuff just mentioned, I read an article in the April 2017 Issue of ‘delicious living’ magazine “the climate issue” from my local health food store. In it there was an article titled “Food for Change”, “How–And Why–Your Food Choices Can Assuage Climate Change”. I read this article, and there were so many contradictory statements in it, ….it was just absurd.
    First the author writes “Sustainable eating is complicated. It’s time-intensive and confusing to compare the carbon footprint of, say, and organic apple grown a thousand miles away and tracked to your grocery store versus an organic cereal brand that participates in a carbon-offset program.”
    Then the author asks “So is there an easy way to eat from the sea without contributing to excess carbon emissions? Yes!” (Seaweed!!)
    Then the author states “Climate-friendly eating is complex.”
    and then again:
    “But eco-eating doesn’t need to be difficult”
    At one point the author stated that “One, plant-based foods had the smallest carbon footprint.”
    And yet those plant based foods that are blasted with Round-Up on a regular basis, that are frequently used to feed livestock, are the same environmentally unfriendly grains, like rice, and cornmeal, and whole wheat bread crumbs, that are used in the recipes in the article following on page 31. What a bunch of contradictory myopic stupidity!!

  • Gabrielle Heard

    So encouraging to read the comments below… Reminds me of my mother’s adage of “I eat to live, not live to eat.” I have bought the ingredients to bake but have not done so yet. Thought I would have a go at the cranberry chocolate tart!

  • Truth59

    If you eat a grain-free, pasteurized dairy free, Primal or keto diet (saving your few carbs for veggies, low-sugar fruits, and a few nuts), you won’t have any problems. Do stop eating dairy if i is bothering you.

  • BBG

    It is very interesting that many people here believe there is only one way to eat. People’s bodies are very different. As an example, many folks cannot handle dairy in their body at all, but folks like me handle dairy very well. My body is not able to handle grains well or even some meats and many nuts. I try to stay in touch with how my body feels and how my physicians evaluate the effects of what I ingest. Personally, one diet for all does not make any sense. That is not too say that some foods should not be eaten at all. Getting educated about what you eat should always be encouraged. I try to read reputable sources weekly, but I always try to put it to the test with my own body to make sure it works for me. I am a huge fan of Dr. Permutter (mostly because he makes me think), but I do not do everything he says simply because he says it. I test it all out in my own body. There is an old saying that my mother used to tell me ” Eat completely healthy, die anyway” So, the message is that I try to listen to my body (which, by the way is an amazing organism and can deal with far more than we imagine) — I neither live to eat or eat to live, but I am somewhere in between and enjoy my life — and after all isn’t that the most important thing?

  • gc11530

    I have just removed numerous amalgam fillings from my mouth and began to feel better almost immediately after removal. I have again tried gluten and no longer have the reaction I used to have. My personal research leads me to believe that in most people, gluten sensitivity is a SYMPTOM of another problem and eating gluten-free is just a temporary solution, a band-aid. I do notice that I react better to older type of wheat (einkorn) and to dough that has been fermented for a prolonged period of time (2-3 days).

  • At 60ish I’ve been gluten-free for over a decade. And doing really well, seemingly. I eat organic millet, quinoa, amaranth, teff, buckwheat. And occasionally, little bits of organic rice. All part of my mostly-organic, plant-based, whole food diet.

    Dr. Perlmutter, should I be concerned about toxics in my choices?

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