Monday, August 1, 2011

Top 10 Reasons To Go Gluten-Free (Part 2)

The following is Part 2 of the Top 10 Reasons To Go Gluten-Free:
(Click here to read Part 1) 

6) To prevent infertility- Infertility is an ever-increasing problem in our society today.  By some reports, as many as 1 out of every 6 couples is affected.  There is a growing body of research that links infertility to celiac disease.  In fact, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center states that, “Any individual who has experienced persistent miscarriage or infertility where a medical cause could not be found needs to be tested for celiac disease.”  Crazy, huh?

Why would gluten intolerance contribute to infertility?  Well, because undigested gluten in the intestines can damage the gut severely.  More specifically, the undigested gluten destroys the tiny villi in the intestines that are responsible for absorbing the nutrients from the food we eat.  If our intestinal villi are damaged, we cannot extract key nutrients from our food, and consequently, we suffer from malabsorption.  It makes sense that if you are in a state of malabsorption, you will not be able to nourish the lining of your uterus or your growing fetus properly.  For this reason, undiagnosed gluten intolerance has been implemented as the cause of spontaneous miscarriages, early menopause onset, absence of ovulation and menstruation, and other infertility complications. 

So is there any good news in all of this? YES! When these untreated celiac sufferers are put on gluten-free diets,  there is a "decrease in miscarriage rates, improvement of fetal nutritional support and overall perinatal outcome."  Here is a link to an abstract from 2001 with more information.

Worried about infertility?  Go gluten-free!

7) To maintain strong bones- In 2005, Dr. William Stenson conducted a study that found the gluten-free diet to be beneficial in halting and reversing bone loss in individuals with osteoporosis.  What's the connection?  Well, remember what we talked about above.  A gluten-containing diet will damage the villi in the intestines, leading to malabsorption.  If you are not absorbing necessary nutrients like calcium and magnesium, your bones will most certainly suffer.  Conversely, if you eliminate the gluten, you will allow your gut to heal and proper absorption will resume.  What's the end result?  Stronger bones!

Want to safeguard your bones?  Get rid of the gluten!

8) To have better teeth-  According to the blog, Living Gluten Free, "Gluten-intolerant individuals who continue to eat gluten frequently suffer from bone-related issues, including dental-specific problems such as loss or thinning of tooth enamel, bone loss in the alveolar process (the ridge of bone in the jaw housing the sockets in which the roots of the teeth nestle), abscesses and other root problems, decay, and fractured, broken, loose or missing teeth."  Just as the gluten-free diet can strengthen bones, it can also strengthen your teeth.  Afterall, your bones and teeth are made of the same material and need the same nutrients for optimal health.  Here is a link to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association explaining the connection.

Want a better smile? Just say no to gluten!
9) To obtain more energy- One of the most marked improvements I noticed immediately on the gluten-free diet was the gain in energy.  I was no longer relying on 5-6 cups of coffee to get through my crazy days of dealing with two young children.  I just felt better, lighter, more energetic.  There are many factors that contribute to this energy gain.  One is that when you eliminate gluten (and ideally all grains), you are eliminating a major source of blood sugar-spiking carbs that tax your energy levels.  Secondly, avoiding gluten makes for improved digestion, which in turn, leads to more energy.

I found it so interesting to learn that even elite athletes are now adhering to the gluten-free diet for improved performance.  In a recent Men's Journal article entitled, Winning Without Wheat, professional cyclists, Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson discussed the amazing results they've had on the gluten-free diet.  According to Danielson, "My performance really improved a lot — there was definitely a correlation.  I think that my digestion is better, and because of that my sleep is better and my recovery is better."  Also, there has been a lot of press surrounding tennis pro, Novak Djokovic's gluten-free diet.  Djokovic recently won the Wimbledon and has apparently been having a really stellar year.   In fact, the Wall Street Journal just published an article entitled, The Diet That Shook Up Tennis, which reported on the tennis star's ascendency in the tennis ranks and its correlation to his gluten-free diet. 

If eliminating gluten can help elite athletes perform better, do you think it might give you a little more energy too?

Gluten-free athlete, Novak Djokovic, recently won the Wimbledon. 

And, now for the final, and maybe MOST important, reason to go gluten-free (drumroll please):

10) To optimize your immune system- Okay, in simplest terms, gluten is bad because it is a pro-inflammatory food.  The word inflammation has a Latin root (inflammare) which literally means "to set on fire" or "to flame."  So basically if you are one of the millions of people out there with a sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy to gluten, imagine that tiny little sparks are igniting in your gut every time you ingest it.  These sparks, if left unextinguished, ultimately lead to full-blown fires that spread throughout your body.  Subsequently, your body goes into a state of inflammatory distress which weakens your immune system drastically. 

Dr. Daniel Kalish puts it this way: "If a gluten sensitive person eats gluten-containing foods for extended periods of time, over and over again, the low-grade inflammation can lead to a variety of problems. With long-term exposure, the results of this low-grade response to the gluten/gliadin molecule can be devastating to a variety of body systems." 

Most doctors today agree that inflammation is truly the root of all disease.  Furthermore, gluten has been thoroughly implicated in the cause of autoimmune disorders.  In her blog, Dr. Vikki Peterson states that, "Gluten seems to be an underlying root cause of autoimmune disease."  She goes on to say that, "(Family history of) autoimmune  disease is a definite red flag that should cause an individual to evaluate the possible role that gluten is contributing."  In other words, if you or someone in your family suffers from an autoimmune disease, you need to seriously consider the fact that gluten may be exacerbating your problems. 

The bottom line is this.  By eliminating the gluten from your diet, you are avoiding a major source of inflammation, and thereby, strengthening your immune system so that it can do what it was innately designed to do.  Keep you healthy.  I encourage you to talk to your doctor about the gluten-free diet and its possible health benefits for you.

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