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Day 31: My Gluten Story

At Day 10 of our challenge, we assessed the question of “Is Gluten Free Better For You?” We talked about how YOU are the only one who can truly answer FOR YOU, when it comes to these types of questions. And really the best way to find out is through controlled experimentation. 

Today, Day 31, I’m giving you my opinion on gluten from what I’ve read and what I’ve experienced. 

I have a horse in this race so you can label my testimony as biased if you want to. Actually, it’s not a horse, it’s my son, Dylan. 

Dylan was born on the autism spectrum. There have been many times over Dylan’s life where I’ve stressed about him having a normal life and have personally wondered if I’d ever get to experience the same emotional connection most father and sons get to have. 

Dylan is an incredibly healthy 8-year-old now and has completely transformed over the course of his short life. We owe this transformation to the diet and nutritional supplements we’ve given him over the years. I’m beyond grateful and happy to report he has the same emotional connection with us that any other child can have. 

My wife’s step-dad, who is a doctor and chiropractor that specializes in naturopathic methods, has been key in prescribing what’s best for Dylan. He has told us that the autism spectrum really should be labeled an inflammation spectrum.  People who are on the spectrum have trouble detoxifying the body like normal bodies do. Combine poor diet with inefficient detoxification and you have a recipe for an inflammation overload. 

We experienced these inflammation overloads first hand with our son Dylan. He threw tantrums and had night terrors where in less civilized times, we would have thought he was controlled by demons. It was scary. It was terrifying that our son might have to live like this forever. 

In Dr. David Perlmutter’s book, “Grain Brain”, he talks about how inflammation of the gut and autism are related. He writes, “As many as 45 percent of people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have gastrointestinal problems. Although not all gastrointestinal symptoms in ASD result from celiac disease, data shows an increased prevalence of celiac in pediatric cases of autism, compared to the general pediatric population.” This book was written in 2013 and I would say those stats have probably increased as awareness around autism and diet has increased. 

Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten. Over time this creates inflammation that damages the small intestine’s lining, leading to medical complications. It also prevents absorption of some nutrients (malabsorption). The classic symptom is diarrhea. Other symptoms include bloating, gas, fatigue, low blood count (anemia), and osteoporosis. 

When people consider going gluten free, they often wonder if they have celiac disease or ask their doctor to test them for it. Stats about the prevalence of celiac are all over the place and vary by region. Dr. Perlmutter writes, “As many as 40 percent of us can’t properly process gluten, and the remaining 60 percent could be in harm’s way.”  

There is another stat I found online that was most interesting, 80% of celiac cases go undetected. I think I know the reason why. It goes undetected because most people don’t know how good they can feel once they give up gluten. 

Between the inflammation gluten causes by causing trouble in the intestines, and the malabsorption of good nutrients it blocks, there’s many less than ideal symptoms and feelings that can come from that. But those feelings have become a part of normal life. We are used to feeling just ok to get through our days. 

A lot of us live with small mood disorders, and as many as 1 in 10 people could suffer symptoms that qualify for clinical depression. The connection between celiac and depression is far greater too.  Dr. Perlmutter writes, “A 1998 study determined that about one-third of those with celiac disease also have depression. How does depression relate to a damaged intestine? Once the lining of the gut is injured by celiac disease, it is ineffective at absorbing essential nutrients, many of which keep the brain healthy, such as zinc, tryptophan, and the B vitamins. The nerve cells in your gut are not only regulating muscles, immune cells, and hormones, but also manufacturing an estimated 80 to 90 percent of your body’s serotonin.”

Dr. Perlmutter makes the case that your gut is your second brain. The brain is in charge of so many signals relating to the chemicals and hormones in your body, but a lot of those signals come from the second brain, your gut. 

I’ve seen firsthand my son Dylan’s brain healed by healing his gut. I’ve also experienced it firsthand in my own health. I gave up gluten and dairy products about 13 years ago when they were making up a huge portion of my diet (think food pyramid). I experienced incredible changes in gut health that translated into no more heartburn, way less stomach/bowel issues, way less acne and injuries, and a much better mood and clearer thinking than I ever had before. 

I’m grateful for what diet can do. Not just in my life but also in my son’s. I’ve seen it work in my clients’ lives too. People have dramatically changed their lives by giving up something I promise they will barely miss. 

I initially fought against giving up bread and milk 13 years ago because it was such a big part of my diet. I thought, “C’mon, bread is in the Bible, no way it can be bad for us”. What I came to learn was that today’s modern version of bread and wheat products doesn’t look anything like the grains of old. 

One last quote from Dr. Perlmutter, “With modern hybridization and gene-modifying technology, the 133 pounds of wheat that the average American consumes each year shares almost no genetic, structural, or chemical likeness to what hunter-gatherers might have stumbled upon. And therein lies the problem: We are increasingly challenging our physiology with ingredients for which we are not genetically prepared.”

So if I decide to give up gluten, how long can it take to see results?  

Symptoms like less-bloating, higher energy, and lower inflammation can occur within weeks. Larger issues like depression and healing of the gut can take months. Dr. Perlmutter advises going gluten free for at least 3 months to get the best picture of how your life can change when you omit gluten.

As I recommended in the previous email about gluten, you only know how it affects you when you eliminate it for a period of time then reintroduce it. How you feel when you reintroduce it will give you a lot of important feedback. 

Only you can write your gluten story. 

1% Fitter Today and Every Day, 
-Coach Tony