Gluten Intolerance: Do You Need A Gluten Free Diet?

Maik Wiedenbach
Written By: Maik Wiedenbach
July 10th, 2013
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Nutrition
21K Reads
Can you benefit from gluten-free living even if you don't have an intolerance? Find out why this might be harming your pocket book more than it's helping your health.

It seems that everyone is going gluten free these days. It has become "the best thing ever."

I have so much energy that I climbed Mt Everest in 20 minutes straight.

It would be appropriate to take a very sober, clinical (German) look into the whole affair.

A look at gluten inteolerance and celiac disease

What is gluten? In short, a naturally occurring protein found in wheat product, nothing more. It is used in baking, helping the dough to rise. Gluten also adds viscosity.

That doesn't sounds so bad. So why is it being proclaimed as a public health threat? Honestly, I am not sure.

People with celiac disease or gluten intolerance simply can not handle gluten. Symptoms would include anemia, diarrhea, skin rash, dental damage, fatigue, headaches... the list goes on.

Here is the thing though: less than one 1 % of the general population has celiac disease or are allergic to wheat. Both are very testable diseases. In other words, saying that you think that you have celiac disease is like like saying " I think I am 8 months pregnant." You would know.

Many people claim that they have poor gluten absorption which makes them hold on to body fat which then gets "flushed out" (as Dr. Oz calls it) when they go gluten free. Frankly, I am not buying it.

Maik WeidenbachIs celiac disease on the rise?

Gluten has been consumed for thousands of years, and I do not see a reason why the numbers of people suffering from celiac disease would have multiplied over the last 5 years. What has multiplied, however, are the profit margins of gluten free diet products, which grew 28% a year between 2004 and 2011.

This is certainly great news for people with celiac disease, since they now have access to many more and tastier foods than in the past. But they are still only 1% of the population. The other 99% have no reason to buy those products.

Going on a gluten free diet without running the necessary tests seems absurd to me, especially when you consider that gluten free products often contain more sugar and fat in order to create the viscosity the gluten was used for.

Vilifying gluten goes hand in hand with two trends in the fitness industry.

  1. Anything that contains carbs or is not "paleo" must go.
  2. Always look for one ingredient to fix a much bigger issue.

I am not a huge fan of the paleo diet but I can see its benefits since it leads to an almost automatic caloric restriction. It is simply very hard to consume large amounts of calories via lean meats and vegetables. What I do not agree with the cultish character of its followers. There are simply no absolute truths when it comes to diets.

Paleo diet - have you met a caveman?

Scientifically speaking, the paleo diet stands on very shaky ground. Since most of us haven't met a caveman it is tough to know what they really ate, and how healthy they were. So to make any absolute statements as to what goes in a paleo or not is ridiculous.

But it does fit the current carbophobic mood, so anything that is in bread must be evil. This is the other point I do not agree with: carbs are not evil. They are needed for performance and to build muscle, at the very least they should be cycled into a diet.

Secondly, we all love simple fixes, especially when it comes to weight loss. Yes, I am not really overweight. It is just all that evil (insert substance of the month here) that makes me hold on to all that weight.

Now, some people really do lose weight when going off gluten. The reason being that they stop eating pizza and burgers. However, these people have much bigger worries than gluten.

Where things really do fall apart is people start thinking that there is no caloric value attached to gluten free products since they are "good for me". A 2 year study shows that 81% of the patients following a gluten free diet gained weight.

Often, words such as "organic", all-natural or gluten free off-set the laws of thermodynamics in the minds of the consumers. Calories still matter and so does personal responsibility.

Weight gain is not caused by chemicals the government puts into the water to control your Christmas shopping, alien radio waves or gluten, but by over-consumption of calories.

What bugs me most is that people are being pushed into an expensive lifestyle change that really has no health benefits for the vast majority of them. Gluten free products have become a huge industry and someone has to buy them. You are smarter than that.

Posted on: Sat, 12/28/2013 - 23:30

Malik I gotta say you have owned every person who has tried to tell you were wrong in some way, shape, or form, and I love it lol

Maik Wiedenbach
Posted on: Tue, 07/23/2013 - 21:16

Jason, IBS is an actual disease which comes with its own set of restrictions which were not part of the article. I did not say you burned fat, I said gluten does not burn fat nor does it put it on. calories matter. case closed. If getting rid of gluten caused a caloric reduction in your diet, this might have been just the fix....
As for the paleo diet cutting out processed foods= obviousness factor 12. But eating quinoa, rice or potatoes for performance is still a good idea.

Posted on: Fri, 07/19/2013 - 20:29

Maik... I think I would know being my body and all. First thing in the morning I have abs. Later in the day they are gone. By the evening I look fat as hell, pregnant almost. Once I cut the gluten it stopped happening immediately. And when did I say it burned fat? I said all the bloating went away.

And Richard I am diagnosed with IBS which causes severe bloating. Eliminating gluten, flour, and wheat has helped significantly. The pain I experienced all damn day is dramatically reduced and I am in the bathroom less. Some people DO actually have health issues and are not self diagnosing.

Posted on: Thu, 07/18/2013 - 14:19

Come on Maik is right. All I hear now is about how everyone is gluten intolerant, how about too much of anything is bad. I have a friend who has the disease and its not an 'I think I have it' kind of disease. People just aren't happy unless they jump from one extreme to the next. Bandwagoners!

Posted on: Thu, 07/18/2013 - 02:16

While I agree with much of what is said in this article it's only a very small part of the paleo concept. Scientists have already done and presented studies that cavemen didn't eat what is termed paleo. Loosely the term is probably be represented as not eating highly processed junk food. Eating more raw and healthy foods. While not everyone is gluten intolerant eating lots of starchy sugar foods messes up your digestion and in turn can kill your ability to absorb nutrients. As for the gluten intolerance on the rise, that's only one part of the equation. Many people go for many years without it being diagnosed and they live in an unhealthy state. Time and time again the doc says there's nothing wrong. I know many people who have adopted the paleo diet but can't name one that didn't have serious benefits particularly in digestive health. And of course without digestive health all else is a waste of time.

Maik Wiedenbach
Posted on: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 21:34

"Hormones out of whack" are often caused by obesity btw, insulin resistance, low testosterone, not the other way around. chicken- egg

Maik Wiedenbach
Posted on: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 21:26

joe, hormones matter in regards to fat storage, muscle gain etc but nobody beats thermodynamics. you can not gain weight if you under eat and vice versa. sorry.

Posted on: Thu, 07/18/2013 - 02:45

This is the major part of the formula but not the only part. To say that someone will not gain body fat if they don't eat is erelevant. Calorie intake is part of the equation not all of it. Sure eat nothing loose weight. Then there are those who can eat huge calories and not gain weight. This clearly show calories while being a constant are absolutely not the only factor.

Posted on: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 00:55

You are telling me calories in calories out model is accurate. Were not robots. I believe hormones are more significant in determining weight gain. Hormones out of whack, good luck loosing weight. Look at feed efficiency in cattle?

Maik Wiedenbach
Posted on: Sun, 07/14/2013 - 07:18

again, removing wheat/gluten does not magically decrease bloat. if that means you stopped eating too many carbs that will be the for the nutrient absorption, very thin ice. since you asked for a source . the study states clearly that many people diagnosed with CD were overweight. if there was malabsorption, they would have started with at least an normal BMI.
Point being: gluten does not cause America to be obese and has been vilified for no good reason.
Adding fresh ingredients has nothing to do with going gluten free, you should do that anyways.
Jason: seeing your abs is not a scientific fact, I can see my abs all day. Does this mean that gluten is a fat burner? No, it just means my body fat levels are low.

Posted on: Sat, 07/13/2013 - 08:00

Removing wheat/gluten from my diet as the ONLY change I made caused quite a bit of bloating to away and now you an see my abs beyond first thing in the morning.

George Foster
Posted on: Sat, 07/13/2013 - 02:01

I was diagnosed with coeliac disease a matter of months ago but am very clued up on it.
The numbers of people with coeliac disease aren't increasing the number of people being successfully diagnosed is as it is hard to identify.
Going gluten free does not mean using gluten free products. I'm totally gluten free and don't use any substitues because cooking everything from fresh is easier and I think it's safe to say better for you.
Many athletes go gluten free as it is a hard protein to digest and many people find it can make them sluggish.
You should state sources, many people who swap to a gluten free diet will gain weight as if they have had coeliac disease one of the side effects is weight loss since you cannot absorb nutrients from the internal destruction that is included.
I do agree that gluten free will not mean you lose weight but adopting a completely gluten free diet often means you have to cook from fresh ingredients which is better for you then processed food.

Posted on: Thu, 07/18/2013 - 02:17

Excellent points

Maik Wiedenbach
Posted on: Fri, 07/12/2013 - 21:20

Hi Bob, thanks for the note even though accusing someone of laziness isn't a good way to start. I agreed that I should have put in abdominal cramping, apologies. I assume that by enzymes you mean trypsin which is required to breakdown protein, not carbs. CD is an auto immune response, whereas wheat allergy is an immune response to gluten protein sequence. both very measurable. Gluten intolerance is a rather un scientific term my guess is you mean non-celiac gluten sensitivity., this often relies on self reporting, which poses a problem in itself.
as for the DNA change in foods, that is lazy. foods have been crossed for millenniums by humans and bees, so why the sudden outbreak.

Posted on: Sun, 07/14/2013 - 00:30

I think what Bob is talking about is the rise in GMO wheat as well as soy and peanuts. That makes these wheat products much different than the wheat use over the lst 1000 years. Wheat today isn't the simple bee pollenated wheat of the 1980's. There may not be a lot of research done on the affects of these foods, but the rise in allergic reactions to these foods since the introduction of GMO, can't be overlooked. The food source has changed and I don't need a study to tell me the affects anymore than a need a Garmin to tell me that I've run 5 miles when I'm listening to my body. Though, a study done correctly would be nice. Cheers.

Posted on: Fri, 07/12/2013 - 09:32

You need to do your research. "I do not see why" and "I do not know why" show laziness. Two things stand out. First, not everyone who is gluten intolerant has celiacs disease. Second, the rise in gluten intolerance coincides with the use of artificial enzymes in wheat products. The intolerance results from the change at rhe dna level of wheat and that is why it is more widespread today. Also, you omit the main symptom, abdominal cramping.

Posted on: Sun, 07/14/2013 - 00:14

haha owned