Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mark Hyman on Why Everybody Should Avoid Gluten (almost)

Today's Huffington Post features an article by Mark Hyman, MD. You might recognize Dr. Hyman from his "UltraMind Solution" program on PBS, or his books on the topics of wellness & prevention.

In today's Huffington Post article, Dr. Hyman suggests that many more Americans are sensitive to gluten than we realize. He explains that gluten sensitivity is not limited to those with Celiac Disease, but that many people have elevated antibodies to gluten, and many of us who have chronic illness, particularly autoimmune, are sensitive to gluten.

Dr. Hyman's article reports what many have heard anecdotally: that for patients with a variety of ailments, eliminating gluten seems to reduce inflammation and the associated symptoms- such as fatigue, pain, allergies, asthma, and some even say autism. Inflammation is also associated with heart disease, which is where the editors came up with the "gluten might kill you" line in the title. That's a shame, because there is some good information in the article, and it is worth reading without the alarmist title.

If Dr. Hyman's theory that gluten affects many more people than we thought is true, the good news is that the solution is easy: eliminate gluten from your diet. Isn't it liberating to know that you may feel better with one simple dietary change? No ongoing doctor visits, no long term medication, no shots or pills. Simply a dietary change. More good news: you can eliminate gluten on your own, and see if it helps. Most people who are gluten sensitive tend to feel better after two weeks of being completely gluten-free (although it may take longer). A two week elimination diet is an easy trial- imagine if this one step helps reduce or eliminate symptoms you may have been struggling with for years. Two weeks is nothing. This is just my opinion based on what I've read, researched and experienced; as always, you should consult with your health care provider regarding your specific case.

I will add something more from my own experience. My physicians have told me that many people who are sensitive to gluten are ALSO sensitive to soy and/or dairy. So, if eliminating gluten from your diet (and that includes all hidden sources) does not seem to help, try also eliminating soy and dairy before you give up. In my opinion, you might as well do this all at once. Try eliminating gluten first. If after 2-3 weeks, that doesn't help, remain gluten free and also eliminate dairy for 2-3 weeks. If that doesn't help, stay gluten and dairy free and also eliminate soy for 2-3 weeks. If that doesn't help.... there is one more ingredient (now we're getting challenging...)

From what I've experienced and since learned, many more people are sensitive to corn than anyone -perhaps even the medical community- realizes. At times, it seems to me that corn is present in even more foods than gluten- we consume it in everything- and that is no exaggeration. If you happen to be sensitive to corn, it may be contributing to your symptoms. Dr. Tanner once told me that in all of her patients who have gone through provocation-neutralization testing for foods, she has only found one patient who was NOT sensitive to corn. So, that may also be something for you to consider. For me, personally, I had first eliminated gluten, then dairy, and then soy, and still felt lousy. I was sure my symptoms were not related to diet, and was beginning to wonder if I was wasting my time with the food challenges. It wasn't until I also eliminated corn that things really began to turn around (I was also following other therapies, but corn turned out to be a big answer on the dietary front). Should you decide to challenge corn, you can learn more about hidden corn ingredients here.

If you find that some combination of staying gluten-dairy-soy-corn free works for you, you can always add one of those ingredients back, and see if your symptoms return. You might be sensitive to one or two but not the others. It takes some trial and error to tease it out.

Take a look at the HuffPo article and see what you think. Should everyone avoid gluten?


  1. Save yourself 6-9 wks and just eliminate them all at once.

  2. I suppose you could do it either way, but whether you do one at a time, or all at once, you are still going to go through time it takes to re-introduce ingredients to see which one it was that you react to.

    Also, from my experience, it is much more difficult for someone who is eating even a healthy version of a standard diet, to suddenly eliminate gluten, dairy, soy, and corn ; ) Just one of those is challenging enough! Suddenly eliminating all four at one time is probably setting most people up for failure. I'd recommend one at a time- but I do think it's easiest to do it all at once- if you've already gone through 2-3 weeks of eliminating one, and it doesn't help, you might as well keep going...