Gluten-Free Foods Dangerous?

As a physician who works with diabetics and pre-diabetics I was dismayed by the November 4th Nightline broadcast regarding the “dangers” of gluten-free food, of the type recommended for those with celiac disease.  The type of gluten persons with celiac disease should not eat is found such grains as wheat, barley, rye and spelt.

In the context of millions of years of human nutrition, grains are a recent addition to the human diet as of only the past 10,000 years, when agriculture emerged. The advantage of agriculture was the ability to form settlements rather than migrate with animals for food. But our hunter-gatherer bodies, which persist to this day, never adjusted to grains; for example, with the introduction of grains came dental decay. As grain-based foods became more refined we began to suffer from diabetes as well.  We continue to have no nutritional requirement for grains.

A diet rich in wheat is promoted by the USDA as a way to fulfill it's mandate to promote agriculture; there is no scientific basis on which to promote a high wheat intake from the standpoint of public health. A gluten-free diet is of benefit not only for persons with celiac disease, but millions upon millions of Americans who would never qualify for that diagnosis. Whole wheat is poor in calcium bioavailability (contrary to the Nightline report), and it’s contribution of fiber to the diet does not necessarily confer a health advantage. In fact, the "advantages" of high fiber diets are greatly exaggerated--ask any traditional Eskimo who never saw grain and rarely encountered vegetation yet lived entirely on animals without constipation, tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease or cancer.  Moreover, in our modern society grains are not properly prepared to neutralize phytates.  Phytates in grain fiber rob the meal, and the body by extension, of nutrition.  Grains should be soured (fermented) or soaked ("sprouted") to neutralize their anti-nutrients.  

Grains can be replaced with non-starchy vegetables.  Add high quality protein sources like eggs, meat, poultry and fish; add whole fruits (no juices) in moderation (berries are a good choice); eat fermented foods for probiotics (kefir, yogurt, e.g.); infuse dishes with soup stock (mineral-rich bone broth) daily; make every bite nutrient dense (difficult to accomplish when eating primarily wheat products), and you blaze a path to wellness, sans gluten.

For instruction on neutralizing phytates in grains, legumes and nuts, along with great bone broth recipes, read Nourishing Traditions (see reference under Recommended Reading, to the right of this column).

For a low grain food pyramid, see Laura Dolson's Low Carbohydrate Food Pyramid (under Nutrition Links, to the right of this column).