If you’ve been to the clinic and seen me for weight loss, you’ll know that I am a big believer of going gluten free for best results. Often, people ask me why getting rid of gluten is so important for losing weight? It’s an understandable question, since other sites and articles, or even your GP, say that there’s no need to eliminate gluten. Some in fact, go as far as to claim that going gluten free will actually cause weight gain.
So let’s take a look at why I believe, that a gluten free diet is such an important step for weight loss.
Gluten Is Inflammatory
There’s really not much dispute on this point. Gluten, and gluten containing foods, are inflammatory. The percentages quoted may vary, but the majority of people experience some level of gut inflammation and irritation after eating gluten. Not just celiac’s!
I’ve spoken about the differences between allergy and intolerance before. I regularly use blood IgG for food intolerance testing (medical skin prick tests are accurate for allergy testing but cannot identify IgG food intolerances) and find the majority of people have some level of immune and inflammatory response to gluten.
There’s a relationship between body fat and inflammation, high levels of inflammation cause growth and proliferation of fat cells and fat cells produce inflammatory chemicals. I see this all the time in the clinic, weight goes up and inflammation levels in blood tests increase, weight comes down and inflammation starts to reduce as well.
If you’ve got a highly inflamed body weight loss is going to be difficult, if not impossible! That’s not to say you can’t lose weight without going gluten free, but if you are trying – I mean seriously trying – to lose weight, then why not stack the deck in your favour by reducing inflammation as much as possible.
Gluten Free Diets Improve Insulin Resistance
I’m sure you’re familiar with insulin and insulin resistance by now. Insulin resistance and diabetes are amongst the fastest growing health conditions in the developed world.
Insulin resistance is a big problem for weight loss. Insulin resistance leads to problems with how your body processes, stores, and uses carbohydrates. Both the good carbohydrates from green leafy vegetables, sweet potato, and pumpkin, and the bad carbohydrates from refined sugars, cakes, pastries, breads, and pastas.
Insulin resistance tends to lead into bad eating patterns, sugary cravings for quick energy release, and fatigue. If you find yourself feeling empty and depleted by mid morning and craving for a biscuit or pastry, chances are you’ve got a problem with insulin resistance.
Eliminating wheat, the most popular source of gluten, helps you improve insulin control and start to avoid some of the lows and highs in blood glucose. If you are diabetic have you ever noticed that a slice of white bread can often spike your blood sugar levels more than a chocolate bar? In this case it’s one of the sugars in wheat, not gluten, that breaks down very quickly in the mouth and stomach causing blood sugar levels to quickly spike.
With poor insulin control and sensitivity any weight loss efforts are going to be seriously hampered. Eliminating gluten means eliminating wheat and improving your insulin sensitivity.
Gluten Can Be Addictive
Have you ever head someone say they couldn’t live without bread?
I know it’s often just a figure of speech, but for people with a compromised gut lining and poor digestive function it can be very true! Partially digested gluten fragments can escape through the gut lining into the blood where they bind with opioid receptors. The exact same receptors that opiate based pain killers and drugs bind to. This can generate addict like cravings for more gluten containing products.
Is this really that big a problem? The truth is that yes, it really can be. In the clinic, I see poor digestive function and leaky gut syndrome often in children with autism and ASD, anyone with prolonged antibiotic use, or as a result of parasite infection. This puts these people at risk of gluten addiction.
In others, a genetic trait can mean that it is the gluten protein itself that does the damage. If you fall in this group, it’s not antibiotics or parasites that causes the gaps, but gluten itself.
When you’re trying to lose weight the last thing you want is the very food you’re eating driving an urge to eat more! Especially when that urge has the same intensity as an addiction. Removing gluten from the diet ensures that if you are in that group of susceptible people you are not going to derail your weight loss efforts.
But, Why DON’T Gluten Free Diets Work for Weight Loss?
There’s an element of truth in every story, and I wouldn’t be entirely honest if I didn’t say that for some people gluten free diets don’t lead to weight loss. And it’s true, some people even gain weight when they eat a gluten free diet, I’ve seen this happen in our clinic.
But…. there’s two simple things you can do to ensure this NEVER happens to you!
1. Don’t Replace Gluten Containing Foods with Gluten Free – I see this happen regularly and it’s an easy trap to fall into. Just replacing gluten containing foods with a gluten free variety will cause problems every time. Weet-Bix for breakfast shouldn’t become gluten free Weet-Bix for breakfast, and whole wheat bread sandwiches shouldn’t just be swapped for gluten free bread.
Most gluten free alternatives to gluten containing products are higher in sugars than the original product. Regular Weet-Bix for example has 3.3g of sugar per 100g and 1,490kJ. Gluten free Weet-Bix has 3.5g of sugar per 100g and 1650kJ. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
To avoid this trap, replace gluten containing products with other whole foods. Swap your morning breakfast cereal for eggs, or sample some of the amazing paleo breakfast cereal alternatives that use nuts, seeds, and antioxidant rich berries.
2. Don’t Believe the Advertising, Gluten Free DOES NOT Equal Healthy – Some advertisers and food manufacturers want you to believe that just because it’s got a label on it saying gluten free that it’s healthy! This is simply not true.
Check ingredient labels and nutrition labels closely when purchasing products carrying a gluten free label. As you would with any product, if you see sugar listed as one of the first three ingredients, it’s not a good choice, regardless of what the manufacturer says.
More Than Just Weight Loss Though!
Even though I’ve spoken about why I believe gluten free diets are important for weight loss, it’s more than just weight loss though!
The side effects of gluten consumption damage every bodily system with symptoms ranging from constipation, bloating and weight gain through to brain fog, neurological symptoms and muscular aches and pains. If you want to know more complete this short form and we’ll send you our exclusive in clinic handout that lists the 44 most common side effects of gluten I see every day.