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November 16, 2011

Ask John Douillard: Is Gluten-free a marketing ploy?

> photo by elana’s pantry

Q. What’s your take on gluten intolerance?

I recently visited an allergist as I wanted to see if I had an allergy to wheat, which I don’t. I don’t get bloating etc – but there’s so much in the media now about how we’d all be healthier if we ate gluten-free products.

Do you think this is a marketing ploy or do you suggest that your patients avoid too much wheat?

A. This is a great question! I think one of the easiest ways for a practitioner to offer quick symptomatic relief to their patients is to take them off wheat and dairy.  These foods are both hard to digest and since most folks don’t digest as well as they did in their early twenties, avoiding them often makes them feel better. But have we solved the problem of a weakened digestive system by just avoiding certain harder-to-digest foods?

Most people know that wheat sits atop the list of so-called “bad foods”, but there’s more to it than just that. So, to answer your question:

No, I don’t think gluten is bad.

Yes, it is a hard-to-digest protein than can present digestive symptoms if the digestive strength is weak.

Yes, it has a high glycemic index which tends to spike blood sugar and leave you feeling sluggish if you don’t have high enough digestive fire.

So why not boost the digestive strength instead of condemning a food that has fed humanity well for thousands of years? Because, there are studies that show that when  gluten  hits the villi of the small intestine, it will irritate, inflame and actually flattens down the villi causing what is called “leaky gut syndrome.” So it has to be bad, right? Wrong!

Gluten should never see the villi of the small intestine.

Gluten should be completely broken down in the stomach by strong digestive acid. The real problem is that many folks don’t have a strong enough digestive acid to break the hard-to-digest gluten protein down so it passes into the small intestine undigested where is spikes blood sugar, acts as a digestive irritant, and according to the media is Public Enemy #1.

So yes, if you just want to feel better – don’t eat wheat.

But if you realize that the symptoms caused by the wheat are  symptoms of a failing digestive system, then stop the wheat while you reset and re-kindle your digestive fire and digestive strength. While this can be a little tricky here are a couple tips:

• Drink a large glass of water 15-20 minutes before a meal to hydrate the cells beneath the stomach that produce acid.
• Add a little salt, pepper and lemon to that water to fire up the furnace. By the way, all of this is easy in any restaurant!

Wheat is a winter grain.

Also, remember wheat is harvested in the Fall and should be eaten in the winter. Wheat was never meant to be eaten everyday, 365 days a year.  Wheat is a winter grain. It is warm, wet, and gooey and helps insulate the body during the cold winter months. It’s not harvested in the spring and summer, but rather in the fall. According to Ayurveda, the digestive fire (much like the house furnace) is turned on full blast in the winter but much less so in the summer. So nature did it’s job (again) and harvested this hard-to-digest grain is a season when the digestive strength was strong enough to break it down.

PS. If you feel like eating gluten-free this Thanksgiving….there are plenty of foods that will most likely be on the table already:
Green Beans, The Turkey, Cranberries, Butternut Squash, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Carrots, and maybe even some gluten-free bread!

For more, read my video-newslettter: Secrets to enjoying gluten again

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