December 19, 2012

Gluten and Weight Loss

Our pantry from 2011, and we thought we were doing so well.
I came across an article put out by Prevention Magazine this morning called "50 Ways to Loose 10 Pounds." In it, one of their ways was to go gluten free, at least for a while. I always laugh out loud when I hear going gluten free listed as a quick way to drop weight.

Let me explain myself. As more is discovered about the effects gluten has on someone whose immune system reacts to it and the genetic component of this, scientists are beginning to suspect up to two thirds of the population is gluten sensitive. It's not just Celiac's Disease. Gluten sensitivity can be best thought of as a spectrum, like we've come to recognize in those with Autism. For some, it's barely noticeable. For others, their body starves even though they have plenty of food to eat. The symptoms can vary widely, and the diagnostic tests for gluten reactions are notorious for throwing up false negatives. This is why doing a thirty day gluten elimination followed by ingesting something with gluten is the current golden standard for testing with experts on gluten sensitivity.

One of the first things most with gluten issues notice after going off of gluten containing foods is an increase in their weight, whether they are the classic portrait of someone suffering with Celiac or overweight. This happens, because in most instances, the reaction to gluten was inflammation somewhere in the digestive tract if not throughout the entire system. When any of the digestive organs, from the stomach to the large intestine are inflamed, absorption of nutrients is strongly hindered and toxins from the gut can be leaked into the bloodstream. So, once the gluten is removed and the body starts to heal, a spike in weight as the body begins to absorb more nutrients from the food ingested is perfectly normal.

All four of us gained weight within weeks of going gluten free.

In fact, rapid weight gain was one of the first clues I had an issue with gluten too when we went off of it for Hubby's sake. I won't lie and say it wasn't depressing to see every single pound I'd worked so hard to loose since Sneak's birth pack back on, but it does give me a bit of information about why loosing has been so difficult since I started having weight troubles back in high school. 

It was the same time I'd go through phases where it seemed everything I ate caused all sorts of abdominal pain. I'd been treated for everything from stress induced indigestion to IBS and even came close to being tested for ulsers a few times. At the same time, I started going back and forth with my weight even though I became almost afraid to eat at all from time to time.

Judging from the results of my test, it's pretty obvious all that pain I was feeling was actually a reaction to gluten. You see, I had a sandwich as my test and spent the entire day following curled into the fetal position because it felt like someone had set fire to my stomach lining. It was terrible, but it was also a light bulb moment. If that's what gluten was doing to my body, I've probably only been absorbing half the nutrients in the food I've been eating all these years. So the more I cut back in trying to loose weight, the more by body would hang on to trying to keep itself from starving.

Thankfully, after the first six weeks or so, I stopped gaining. I haven't lost anything yet, but I've at least stayed steady. I can feel my body healing, but I know from the research I've done, I can't expect it to be a quick process. According to Dr. Vikki Peterson, it usually takes at least six months for the body to fully heal from years of gluten exposure for someone who is sensitive to it. Already I've noticed a huge change in myself from the disappearance of the neck pain that's plagued me for seven years, to a massive increase in energy and mental clarity, and even my skin clearing up considerably. I mean I still get breakouts, but they're about a third of what they were in years previous.

And I'm still a couple of weeks away from being gluten free for three months, so there's a long way to go yet before I reach total recovery. I have hope I can revive my metabolism in the coming months now that I'm no longer putting undue stress on my body and causing it to have a freakout. The reduction in pain and increase in energy certainly can't hurt in that regard. Lord knows it's been a gigantic help in keeping up with the holiday rush this year!

So in short, yeah, I think it's kind of a cruel joke to tout a gluten free diet as a fast way to drop weight. It will work for people who have no issue with the protein, because foods made with wheat, barley, rye, and oats, especially refined ones, do contain a lot of calories and starch. However, for the many more folks who have a sensitivity to it, it's more likely to cause them to gain ten pounds than loose it, which can be disastrously disheartening. 


  1. I can't wait to share this with my sister. She was recently diagnosed with a sensitivity and her weight shot up rather than going down. But she did notice she lost inches around her waist. I'll reassure her it should all stabilize in a few weeks.

  2. It's different for everyone from what I can tell. Get her to check out Dr. Vikki Peterson's videos on YouTube. She has tons of good information and answers viewer questions.