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Many holistic health practitioners recommend their patients avoid gluten for optimum health. But why? Here we dive into the current 'trendiness' of 'going gluten-free' and the research that supports a gluten-free lifestyle with nutritionist, naturopath, chiropractor and co-host of The Wellness Guys podcast Dr Damian Kristof.
Bridget: Hi. I am Bridget from Suburban Sandcastles and I’m here with Dr. Damian Kristof, Naturopath, Chiropractor and Co-host of The Wellness Guys. Welcome Damian.
Damian Kristof: Thanks Bridget. It’s great to be here with you.
Bridget: Thank you. So we are here to talk about gluten, it’s an incredibly topical subject at the moment. Seems that everyone is going gluten free and there is a little bit, I guess resistance to that. So let’s talk at first about why and a little bit of your view on the lay of the land.
Damian Kristof: Ok. Alright. Well it’s pretty trendy to be gluten free, let’s put that out there. If you are gluten free you are obviously pretty trendy. You are probably wearing pointy shoes and black pants. But apart from the trendiness of it, gluten free probably became fashionable back in the early 90s when we naturopaths identified that people got bloating and felt uncomfortable when they ate breads and cereals and so they said we need to go gluten free. So they take people off it. There is a bit of backlash from that because the dietitians at the time, the gastroenterologists at the time were saying well hang on a second, if people are coming off that food, what if it’s not just a sensitivity, what if it’s an allergy. So then the understanding for celiac disease came about. So we started to understand that there was people out there with a really significant disease related to this. It causes bone loss and malabsorption and liver and kidney issues, muscle wasting, heaps of problems as a result of gluten. So we needed then to work out, really to know who is safe to take people off gluten without the disease, or whether or not you had to actually have the disease before you come off gluten. So there is like do you want to just feel better and live better, or do you have to have the disease before you can actually come off gluten. So there was all of that.
So the lay of land kind of is now , we understand that the gluten is bad. The research says that every single human being on the planet, and even those not on the planet, so in space stations, they will all respond negatively to gluten is some way. Now based on our human genome as to whether or not we’ve got different genes that might code for inflammatory disorders, like autoimmune diseases, hashimotos disease, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, also with colitis crones disease, all those sorts of things, they’re now being linked. In fact there are 220 different autoimmune diseases now linked to the consumption of gluten. And that’s all through the research, the scientific Peer Reviewed research coming out of Italy that tells us that gluten affects every human being. Now not every human being has celiac disease, so just because you haven’t got celiac disease, doesn’t mean that gluten doesn’t affect you. So we are not understanding that there is different effects of gluten. Yeah it might affect you in the gastrointestinal system from celiac disease, which will cause the malabsorption profile. So that’s osteoporosis and the liver stuff and the kidney stuff. Or you might actually have a gastrointestinal dysfunction from the gluten that triggers inflammation and then the autoimmune disease. Or maybe both. So there is a lot coming out. So the long shot is that gluten is bad and we should limit it, try and reduce it as much as we possibly can.
Bridget: Some people will say even though there is a lot of evidence, we’ve been eating it for hundreds of years. I guess the point there to make is that wheat has changed, hasn’t it? The hybridization of wheat in this country has changed and in fact I do know some people who don’t cut out gluten completely, but if they do eat wheat products, they eat European derived wheat products. Durum wheat.
Damian Kristof: Durum wheat. Yeah, that’s right. Look if you go to Italy, or you go to France and you have a big French stick. They will never eat a big French stick because they eat little meals. So you go there you have the bread over there, you have the pasta in Italy, you feel different. And the wheat that we use in Australia and certainly also in the US is hybridized wheat and that’s different to genetic modified. This is hybridized where they have actually grown the wheat to be able to produce three times the yield of grain in the third of the time and that’s potentially the challenge because you get more protein in that grain which is the gluten. So there is a much more significant amount of gluten in the grain which is really good for manufacturing. So it’s great for manufacturing because you can use less wheat to get the same amount of bread. Then you are saving.
Bridget: Its brilliant from a food industry this point of view.
Damian Kristof: It’s great. Like its awesome because the cost of grain comes down but the cost of health is obviously increasing. So it’s the consumption of the quantity of gluten that we consume in these days. That’s more the problem.
Bridget: And it’s the hidden gluten too, you know like there is so many gluten based sweeteners, you know other kind of thickeners
Damian Kristof: Maltodextrin for example. That’s right. A lot of all those sort of things
Bridget: It’s not like you just cut our bread and you cut out gluten.
Damian Kristof: There are five grains that we need to be aware of right. And there is one grain in particular in there which is oat that many people think that it’s gluten free. And it is gluten free but there is a particle in there called avenin which behaves in some people similarly to gluten. So for celiac sufferers or for people with celiac disease, many of them can’t consume oats because of the avenin content and the avenin causes the same problem as gluten. So oats, spelt, wheat, barley and rye are the grains that we need to be aware of the gluten which is the protein.
Bridget: One of our members of our Suburban Sandcastles community asked what about soaking, or what about ancient grains which are obviously still gluten grains. They’re obviously easier to digest because of that processing and I guess I will put it to you, let’s say you are somewhere, you have nothing else to chose from. You’ve got a processed gluten free product or you’ve got an organic sourdough which is obviously still a gluten grain. Where do you go?
Damian Kristof: Great question. I would go the organic sourdough. I am not into the processed gluten free stuff. I mean that’s why we got Forage for example, right. So we got that range which is not processed, apart from puffs. But that’s just heat puffing, it’s not like I’ve done heaps to it. But gluten free is a great way to be, but you don’t want to find the alternatives, like a gluten free donut is worse for than a normal donut. Gluten free bread probably isn’t any better for you than normal bread. It’s just that its gluten free.
Bridget: And I think it’s wise to come back to the question is this real food that I am eating? Look at it. It might be processed but look at the back, Michael Pollan says if there is more than 5 ingredients in the ingredients list ditch it.
Damian Kristof: Yeah. I think the numbers are probably the best thing. But even just understanding the numbers. Like the Chemical Maze book that you and I both know very well by Bill Statham. The Chemical Maze book is great because you are actually getting an understating of what the numbers mean. Because some of these numbers are fine, like 330 for example. Why wouldn’t you want to have 330 on your food. Its vitamin C. So that’s a good thing. The colors of course, the 110, and 112 and 113, all of those, you don’t want those. And you definitely don’t want the 900s because the 900s are artificial sweeteners. So 960 which is stevia, 951 you don’t want that because that’s aspartame. So you are trying to avoid those sorts of numbers. But some of them like thickeners and emulsifiers, they can be like tapioca starch or something. You don’t need to worry so much about that or be so concerned about it. And I think we need to be concerned less because of orthorexia. Orthorexia is the fear of not eating healthy food. So people are so over analytic about eating on the food that they are now cutting out massive amounts of food on it that we can do really well with.
Bridget: And I think that’s a really good point. This thing that I’ve been exploring quite a bit is the kind of attitude or the kind of stress that we might bring to the food we eat can actually completely derail any benefit to eating that food if you are anxious and stressed. Our subconscious is enormously powerful for that and I think you start to realize that you are going a little bit too far when you are analyzing every possible thing that could be passing your lips and starting to judge other people for their food choices or judge if you are at a wedding and something is not perfect for your kind of diet philosophy, you know you’ve almost gone too far. I think we have to find that balance. And you talk a lot on 100 not out (a podcast) about longevity health and I think we can easily get caught up in it being about nutrition but I think nutrition’s a number 3 or 4?
Damian Kristof: It’s probably 4, maybe 5. In particular when Marcus Peace talks about the Exceptional Life Blueprint, and the way he has put that in terms of order I think it’s 5. You know nutrition is a factor but it seems to be one of the things that we feel that we can control the most right now so it’s the trendiness. You know oh I got food allergy, oh I can’t eat that, now I only eat this way, I am vegan or I am paleo or whatever. So being attached to something which is probably creating more stress and decreasing the longevity in the long term, so really keep it really nice and easy and really simple. Eating real food is the best way to go, but there is no doubt about it. Gluten causes problems with people`s bodies. Every single human on the planet has a gene called zonulin and every single person when they consume gluten triggers the gene zonulin and that’s what causes the leaky gut and it’s the leaky gut that drives this inflammatory process that might trigger in sensitive individuals or genetically susceptible individuals an autoimmune disease. And that’s what we need to be aware of. When someone goes, well I’ve been eating gluten my whole life and I am 95, that’s the sort of person that is not generically susceptible. They might have osteoporosis, but they are 95.
Bridget: That’s really, really good look at the whole gluten paradigm and thanks a lot for your time Damian. I appreciate it.
Damian Kristof: Pleasure Bridget. Thanks for making time for the interview. I love it.
Bridget: Awesome. Thanks.
Damian Kristof: See you later.
Bridget: See you