Or could it be a bad diet which raises the risk?
You may have seen media coverage claiming a gluten-free diet raises the risk of cardiovascular disease.
This Fox News article (LiveScience, 2017) claims that those who give up gluten are at higher risk of getting heart disease. The article cites (Lebwohl et al., 2017) interesting I thought. There are thousands of peer-reviewed articles and trials demonstrating how going gluten free can be great for your health. I also know from my experience and my clients how wonderful you can feel without lots of gluten in your diet.
Gluten is a substance made up of 2 proteins gliadin and glutenin. Our body cannot digest gliadin and glutenin, this causes a protein called Zonulin to be produced. Zonulin is responsible for breaking down the proteins in your gut wall, this breakdown leads to leaky gut.
Leaky gut can trigger conditions such as Type 1 diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus.
With that in mind, my clinical advice is to reduce, limit or even remove gluten from the diet.
Common symptom my clients complain about are:
- Brain fog
- Heavier menstrual cycle
- Joint pain
- Water retention
- General malaise
- Water retention
The Tricky Part
When going gluten free what do you have in place of gluten? With so many gluten-free options it is a minefield.
In the study by Lenwhol, we don’t know what the gluten replacement was. Did they use sweet potato, rice, quinoa and buckwheat or legumes? Or did they buy gluten-free products from the shops?
The gluten replacement is where the gluten free philosophy can come undone. It matters a great deal the quality of foods and types of foods you ingest. Being dairy free but drinking three large soy coffees each day is going to be worse than consuming milk. So, it’s about understanding what replacements are healthy and safe. Opting for a balanced whole food diet not processed alternatives.
Gluten-free products can be even more dangerous for your health.
They contain an enormous amount of inflammatory processed ingredients, that we humans are not meant to consume.
Here are some examples of gluten free products.
Gluten Free Country Life Bread
Water, modified tapioca starch (1442), rice flour, maize starch, vegetable oil, sugar, soy flour, egg white, iodised salt, psyllium flour, yeast, hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (464), preservative (282), vegetable gum (412), vitamin (thiamin).
The ingredients shown are also very harmful to the cardiovascular system.
Studies state processed vegetable oil intake leads to higher risk of Cardiovascular disease (Pan et al., 2012). Sunflower oil used a lot for dairy and gluten alternatives.
Refined sugar is another ingredient added to the gluten-free product. (Malik, Popkin, Bray, Despres, & Hu, 2010)
Most gluten free snacks have sugar added.
Take a look at some gluten free items I found at the supermarket today. The ingredients list is long and complex for what should be simple items.
These are located in the health food section of the supermarket along with lots of gluten free options.
These are examples of gluten free muesli bars, cookies and crackers. Notice even the savoury cracker has added sugar. These also contain corn, sunflower oil, E numbers, Palm fat and sugar. These are not things I’d want to eat let alone as part of my daily diet plan.
One final ingredient I see repetitive through all the gluten free products is soy. The effects of soy on health and wellbeing is huge. Particularly cheap processed inorganic soy.
You will find many studies pro and con for soy; this is to do with quality and also amount of soy. Eating a small amount of unprocessed fermented soy can be beneficial. It’s the high amounts consumed along with the addition of processed soy in the diet. Which leads to inflammation and adverse impacts on the gut and hormonal health.
What you can do next
Start by removing all processed gluten from your diet.
Swap out gluten with nourishing alternatives such as sweet potato, pumpkin, basmati rice, amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat.
If you eat gluten grains opt for Spelt sourdough and even better eat your foods organic as there is a real chance it is the pesticides and herbicides caused a lot of the other negative side effects.
If you have an autoimmune condition removing gluten will play a fundamental role in your bodies ability to heal and reduction in pain and inflammation.
Fasano, A. (2012). Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1258(1), 25.
Lebwohl, B., Cao, Y., Zong, G., Hu, F. B., Green, P. H. R., Neugut, A. I., … Chan, A. T. (2017). Long term gluten consumption in adults without celiac disease and risk of coronary heart disease: prospective cohort study. BMJ , 357, j1892.
LiveScience. (2017). A gluten-free diet may raise your risk of heart disease. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/2017/05/03/gluten-free-diet-may-raise-your-risk-heart-disease.html
Malik, V. S., Popkin, B. M., Bray, G. A., Despres, J.-P., & Hu, F. B. (2010). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk. Circulation, 121(11), 1356–1364.
Pan, A., Chen, M., Chowdhury, R., Wu, J. H. Y., Sun, Q., Campos, H., … Hu, F. B. (2012). α-Linolenic acid and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.