Category: Science


Top Researchers Reveal How Gluten Threatens Health

This week, Columbia University announced a “breakthrough” in our understanding of how gluten relates to health issues. Their findings, published in the journal Gut, revealed that the complaints gluten-sensitive people (those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity) experience are a consequence of a disruption of the gut lining – what has come to be called “leaky gut.”

As the authors concluded:

These findings reveal a state of systemic immune activation in conjunction with a compromised intestinal epithelium affecting a subset of individuals who experience sensitivity to wheat in the absence of celiac disease.

Co-author of the study, Dr. Umberto Volta, professor of internal medicine at the University of Bologna, summarized as follows

These results shift the paradigm in our recognition and understanding of non-celiac wheat sensitivity and will likely have important implications for diagnosis and treatment… Considering the large number of people affected by the condition and its significant negative health impact on patients, this is an important area of research that deserves much more attention and funding.

I am pleased to see reports like this making their way into the conversation. But to be fair, the idea that a breakdown of the intestinal lining plays a pivotal role in the various complaints of those suffering from non-celiac gluten sensitivity isn’t a new discovery. In fact, this exact mechanism is the central theme of Grain Brain!

What is newsworthy is the recent finding that the breakdown in the gut lining as a response to gluten exposure is, according to Harvard researchers, an event that occurs in all humans. That means that there is immune activation occurring in all of us when we consume gluten, whether we think we are having issues, or not.

When we understand the powerful relationship between this mechanism of immune activation and diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, coronary artery disease, and even obesity, it makes opting for a gluten-free diet the clear choice if you want to do everything you can to protect your health.

  • Emmalee

    Impressive research result. I’m not yet assured that all people should be on a gluten-free diet.. Being tested for what might end up being Celiac, non-gluten sensitivity or another health issue should, in my opinion, be done first

    • quiethinker

      I am not gluten intolerant but eat as my husband had to eat….no gluten. Big difference in how I feel!! It’s very easy to tell if it is a problem but we are hooked on wheat.

      • Emmalee

        Good for you for eating gluten free as well. Other celiacs and non gluten sensitive or gluten sensitive people I know found the gluten free diet easier to handle if others in household follow as well. I have been celiac for 25 years. Read everything I could find about it. A particular book written by a dietitian discussed that wheat was and is in everything. I had no symptoms so it was important to be tested. Back then only one antibody test…mine negative. Endoscopy showed flat villi high up in small intestine. I was spared with problems down the line.

        Gluten free diet won’t hurt you. My concern are those with symptoms or a family history of celiac or sensitivity. An older and younger sibling fine but youngest sibling also celiac.

        Nice communicating with you.

        • quiethinker

          Good to hear your success! I see a world of suffering overweight people. So easy to give up gluten.

          • Kenneth Giles

            It’s actually easy to give up all grains. There are plenty of alternative foods available

  • Charmaine and Linda

    I have recently learned that gluten is in all grains (seeds from grasses). The gluten in wheat, gliaden, is the most studied and the one implicated in celiac disease. Other grains have glutens (proteins) too, just other kinds. When the researchers above speak of gluten, I would assume that they means all glutens, not only gliaden? Perhaps Dr Perlmutter might clarify this for us? Thank you.

    • maria

      My understanding is that gluten is found only in wheat, barley, oats and rye. Quinoa, for example, does not have gluten.

      • David Perlmutter

        Correct, there are some non-gluten grains, like quinoa, that can be consumed in moderation. However, the thing to be aware of is that they still have a heavy carb load, so to keep the amount of these in your diet to a minimum.

      • mrkettle

        Quinoa is actually a fruit, not a grain.

  • Chalucch

    I am convinced that everyone’s life would be improved by going as gluten & sugar free as possible. I have my Mother’s arthritis and can easily tell when I’ve eaten gluten. Joint swelling increases to the point of a throbbing pain. I love bread, pizza, pasta & beer but know that if I cheat, I’ll pay the price. My wife & I are now absorbed with finding decent gluten-free recipes for the aforementioned; something that does not have a cardboard consistency and taste like dirt. We have found a quinoa pasta that is very acceptable so one down. Omission Beer is the best I’ve found but it is not technically “gluten-free.” Any suggestions as to good flour for constructing bread dough would be much appreciated.

    • Dale Anderson

      We make crapes with eggs, water, lentil flour and arrowroot. We wrap everything from meat, eggs, lunch meat to jam made from Costco organic frozen cherries and blueberries with bananas. We eat lentil crapes like we use to eat bread.

      • Jill Jolley

        wow!! thanks for that! Going to try that soon!!

      • Lorna Batten

        Like the sound of that Dale. How about posting the recipe? Thanks.

    • Emmalee

      Actually, being able to tell that you had gluten and have problems after consumption is an alarm system for you. Please don’t get me wrong……I don’t want anyone to suffer. There are people out there with no symptoms with ingestion or maybe a fuzzy idea that something is not right. Thus, my concern that people hook up with a health care provider so testing and/ or monitoring can take place.

    • Pamela Doroshuk

      Almond flour is a great alternative for baked goods. My grandkids and their friends love the raw cacao(chocolate) banana bread bread (no sugar added) and the mint chocolate chip cookies, brownies, etc. made with almond flour. (Enjoy Life chocolate chips are gluten-dairy-egg-soy-free.) The cookies have the consistency of shortbread. If you add an egg, it helps to hold it together–but we like the shortbread texture. Bob’s Red Mill, sold in stores, has almond flour. Or I use my Vita-Mix blender–throw in a cup of nuts, process for about 30 seconds or until flour-like. (If I need 3 cups, I repeat 2 more times.)

      Can you believe that after you are off grains for a few months, you will no longer crave/want them? It’s true. There are so many more nutritious “snacks”. Cooking is fast and easy and you have control of what is in your food. I have made many gourmet dishes/desserts for luncheons. Quality organic ingredients are a must. For one luncheon there were several guests, some who were not able to eat gluten, some no dairy, some no eggs, some no soy (it happens when you get older!). I made an Orange and Strawberry Swirl Cashew Ice Cream “Cake” with a ground nut crust. Everything was made in the blender, poured onto the crust and frozen — everyone loved it! (Took less than 30 minutes to make from start to clean-up.)

      You are just starting on what will be a tasty adventure. I have been doing this since 1973, and it is easier after the first few months. Glad you are taking the first step! You’ll be glad as you grow older and are able to be well, active, alert and with no pain!

  • Burlington

    I can’t imagine the push back researcher and adcocates are going to get from the USDA, Big Agra, Cargill, General Mills, Kellogg etc. when this movement and research gathers steam. You are talking about a threat to MAJOR MONEY which probably dwarfs BIG SUGAR, Coke and Pepsi. Look both ways before crossing the street

    • Emmalee

      Then we need to push back as advocates.

      • Burlington

        General Mills and Kellogg had some sales decline and Cargill did not grow. They will exert a lot of political influence to dry up research grants to anyone challenging the HEALTHY WHOLE GRAIN mantra. How do you feed the world? Not with grass fed beef that;s for sure.

        • Emmalee

          Read and agreed……still we can be advocates.

        • Diane M Chase

          Agree but we can vote with our dollars and choices. As we continue to educate and spread the word more and more people will make choices with their money.

  • Dale Anderson

    I have heard that it’s all or nothing with gluten. Is that true or is it ok to eat non gluten free oats for instance that has been processed in a facility that processes wheat and cannot be considered gluten free for the sake of those with celiac?

    • Emmalee

      Hi Dale. You are correct. It is all or nothing. There are some companies that have a dedicated facility for producing oats…..the oat fields are certified gluten free and transportation trucks, rail cars, etc. are washed thoroughly to remove any trace of other grains. One company I know of is Bob’s Red Mill………..certified gluten free oats as well as others like quinoa. A very thorough process in a separate gluten free facility.

      Hope this helps.

  • Jill Jolley

    so very helpful and encouraging to share this info with everyone I know!!

  • Jill Jolley

    changed my diet and now change my name to a ‘balanced’ name:
    Sussi Saber

  • Joy Brandys

    I’m wondering if gluten in a whole wheat form, whether it’s bread or pasta is different then a white flour food? And what if gluten does not seem to bother me if consumed in a whole wheat food. Is it still unhealthy? I have RA and try hard to eat healthy. But there are conflicting schools of thought on whole wheat versus processed white flour and eating grains at all. Help!!!

    • Burlington

      In addition to Dr. Perlmutter’s GRAIN BRAIN, you should read Dr. Davis’ WHEAT BELLY. Dr. Davis claims some patient’s RA went away. He has some interviews and lectures on youtube too.

      • Snooks

        My sister developed RA when in her early thirties. She is now 72. Last year she went gluten free and her last two blood tests have shown no RA markers. It has been like a miracle for her. Try cutting out wheat altogether. You have nothing to lose and everything go gain.

        • Burlington

          That was my recommendation to a friend of ours too.

    • Rob

      I was totally crippled with arthritis, unable to stand more than 30 seconds, needed help to sit down/get up/in & out of bed/reach things/get dressed/etc, in immense pain. After reading Dr Perlmutter’s & Dr Davis’ books I tried going gluten-free; found I needed to be totally grain-free (including things like chicken – they feed on grain) : the difference has been phenomenal. The slightest amount (eg from an ingredient in a handcream, or even from inhaling flour when baking for my husband!) means at least 2 weeks of excruciating pain again. I stopped dairy at the same time, & the grey fog of depression lifted – it had been my ‘norm’ for so many years, I didn’t realise just how bad it was. I no longer need any asthma inhalers – & have since found out that they use corn-based ethanol, so were part of the cause anyway…
      Just give it a go – you have nothing to lose, & so very much to gain!!

      • Dionne Wilson

        I found I had to go completely grain free as well. If I indulge, I can’t get my ring off and my joints swell and get creaky. I am fortunate that my symptoms weren’t as bad as yours but when you go grain free and feel normal for the first time in your life, you tend to notice every little thing that goes wrong. When I feel bad, I often ask myself “uh oh… what did I eat??” LOL it’s been a trip!

      • Josephine Later

        I elbow-walk-due to my arthritis-but my daughter refuses to help me go gluten-free–as she refuses to believe it!!Since she is my “butler”(I can’t stand for more than a few minutes.Thanksalot for your great post-Sincerely-Jo Laer(vinny152@yahoo.com)

    • Amar

      All wheat has gliadin since gliadin is a protein that makes up gluten. Therefore everything with gluten has the protein gliadin in it. In the Harvard study they showed that gliadin cause increased intestinal permeability in celiac patients on a gluten free diet and on a non gluten free diet, gluten sensitive patients, and non celiac controls. HOWEVER, the non celiac controls and gluten free celiacs showed significantly less intestinal permeability after exposure to gliadin than celiacs eating gluten and gluten sensitive patients, although they showed some (something dr perlmutter left out). In addition, the researches claim that gluten sensitivity diagnosis is highly subjective and, therefore, gluten sensitive people could be in the non celiac control group and vice versa. The researches also say that it is estimated that up to 30% of people have gluten sensitivity (not everyone) and when they say up to they mean that is the maximum estimate. Many experts estimate that around 5 or 6% or people are gluten sensitive, although it is unknown. Finally, non-celiac controls showed a high immune system IL-10 anti-inflammatory response after gliadin exposure meaning that non-celiacs have a defense mechanism against gliadins effects to a degree. Also this study was done in vitro meaning that it was outside the complexities of the actually human body, which could effect its implications.
      The researches were smart enough to know they can take things out of context and make huge conclusions like everyone is suffering from severe intestinal damage when they eat gluten (especially from one study). They also aren’t trying to sell you books and supplements.
      In sum, the majority of mainstream health advisory claims that the benefits of whole wheat outweigh the risks for most people. If you take anything out of context and focus on the bad parts it will look bad. Living a completely gluten free lifestyle for someone who does not need it is impractical and possible harmful. You should probably ask an in-person doctor before you actually make a switch to a very restrictive diet.

      • Diane M Chase

        Your statement of going gluten free is impractical or harmful is outrageously silly. Grains have no nutrition except for calories. It’s very easy to get fiber from vegetables and fruits what have most of your nutrients. In my practice as an Acupuncturist I encourage any of my patients with any signs of low level inflammation to give up gluten and it’s always a success. They feel better, lose weight as a side effect.

        • Amar

          Actually most dietitians would consider whole grains a good source of nutrients. This website: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whole-grains-an-important-source-of-essential-nutrients shows more details and shows that whole grains are a good source of protein, fiber, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, selenium, and B vitamins (an excellent source for some of these depending on the grain (up to 50 or 100% DV)) and a source for many other vitamins and minerals as well (this includes whole wheat). So claiming whole grains are only calories and some
          Fiber is completely bogus. However, I wouldn’t expect anything more than bogus science from someone who practices alternative medicine anyways. Again, from my research, experts and scholarly articles in science journals seem to claim around 10% of people are gluten sensitive although close to 30% or more go gluten free. The 20% of people on this diet are probably experiencing a placebo (just like some of your patients you put on gluten free diets). However, Dr Perlmutter sells his books and products by using fear mongering and trying to convince people that everyone should be on a gluten free diet or they will develop feared diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s.Finally, yes it is possibly to get enough nutrients going gluten free but for most people it is unnecessary, and from my experience it is impractical. I tried going gluten free and was limited to few resturants and had trouble eating out with freinds (and sometimes wouldn’t if it was too difficult to eat gluten free). And I being modest about it. I can’t imagine having to get only gluten free products like shampoo, and toothpaste,
          And conditioner, and having to be wary of this when you travel and visit freinds etc. To me that sounds extremely inconvenient.

          • amandaav

            empty calories, synthetic (harmful) vitamin wannabes and heavy metals……. Best fiber is the non inflammatory kind fruits & Veggies. Ridiculous that you come here and bash smart people who are taking charge of their own health by being pro-active and don’t want to support the pharmaceutical industries.

          • Amar

            First off, I just explained why they are not empty calories. The right type of grains (whole) have lots of macro (protein, fiber, fats) and micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals).

            You may get more fiber from fruits and vegetables than from grains per weight but there is no “best” non-inflammatory fiber. There is soluble and insoluble fiber and grains and fruits and vegetables all have both.

            I’m not sure what you mean by synthetic vitamin wanabees but there are no synthetic vitamins added to whole grains. There are some vitamins and minerals added to non-whole grains but this is only to make up for the vitamins lost from making them not whole. Again, I am claiming that whole grains are healthier than non-whole grains. And with all due respect, I believe Dr. Perlmutter probably makes most of his money selling synthetic (harmful) vitamins to people, just look at his website.

            I have never heard of heavy metals being in whole grains. If they are, there is also heavy metals in your water and in the fish you eat and probably many more things. I guess you have to stop drinking water and eating fish despite their health benefits.

            Finally, I have nothing against people taking charge of their own health and being pro-active but that has nothing to do with supporting pharmaceutical companies. And I don’t doubt the people here are not smart, they are just heavily misinformed. They are seeing the smallest section of diet, nutrition, and health care and blowing it out of proportion a hundred times, and people like Dr. Perlmutter sometimes facilitate this happening (and make money off it too).

  • Barbara B. Powers

    Modern wheat has been modified 15 times. The original chromosomes have been changed from 8 to 42, and what has increased in the modification is “gluten”. To this add the way wheat is grown with chemicals and then how it is processed, then you can understand fully the malaise we have been subjected to. In order to see if whole wheat does not affect you it is important that you buy wheat products made out of the ancestral grain “einkorn” and then the process of turning them into a flour or pasta is respecting ancient wisdom. You may find this ancient wheat at JOVIAL.

  • Bing Gibbs

    In the early 1970’s an allergist told me from the results of food allergy testing that I was very allergic to wheat. I ignored this info and kept eating wheat until a couple of years ago after I read Dr. Davis’ book, Wheat Belly and Dr. Pearlmutter’s book, Grain Brain. I eliminated wheat in about 2015, and my appetite has reduced to half of what I used to eat. I haven’t lost any weight, but I’m not really overweight in the first place. I do believe that the gliadin in the wheat is the primary cause of obesity in our society. My understanding is that the new wheat introduced in the 1960’s had the gliadin in it, which is probably one of the main reasons why the wheat industry transitioned to it; so people would eat more wheat. When gliadin goes to our brains, it causes the brain to stimulate us to feel hungry and to eat more food.

    • Burlington

      The yield went way up.

    • Christa Miller

      Also include in the list of our obesity and autoimmune epidemic causes: huge increase in sugar consumption and introduction of vegetable oils used to replace healthy saturated fats.

  • C. Scott

    I was a wheat bread – whole grain kind of guy. Whole grains because they were so good for me! Back in March, after reading “Grain Brain” (can’t remember the exact date) I stopped eating bread and any gluten product (bread, cereal, pasta, etc.). I have since dropped from 192 to 174 and my blood sugar (I am (was) type 2 diabetic) dropped in May from 7.8 to 6.4 A1C. My recent readings have been in the normal range. I avoid all breads and wheat and have gone to gluten free. I can’t see going back (although I really miss a nice baguette).

    • Lynn Dell

      Congratulations on your success!

    • Christa Miller

      it may seem strange right now, but with time and continued learning of the ill effects of gluten, you will begin to look upon your “nice baguette” with a completely different set of eyes. Eyes that understand how damaging the glutens are to every system in your body. Keep reading and watching You Tube to learn about your health, it will prove an amazing time investment!

  • Zuzu

    Hi Dr. Do you have an opinion on the helpfulness of consuming food grade diatomaceous earth for health issues? Would it wreak havoc or help the gut biome?

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