Is the Gluten free…as you are told


  • My 3am carrot and sweetcorn soup nightmare
  • Is kicking wheat really as healthy as they say?
  • The hidden poison in gluten-free diets

At 3am on Monday, our youngest daughter clambered into our bed.

“I feel sick”, she said.

She often says this because she has a milk intolerance and occasionally eats the wrong thing during the day.

It’s usually nothing more than a stomach ache and, sometimes it’s not even that – it’s simply an excuse to get into our bed.

So I didn’t give it much thought, letting her nestle in.

Moments later, my eyelids were closing.

….Blissful, blissful sleep….

Next this I know, my wife and I are being hosed with carrot and sweetcorn soup – a foul liquid coming out of my daughter like a torrent!

You know those old slapstick comedy films where someone stares into a pipe and then dirty water gushes into their face for about a minute?

Well, that.

You’d think after seven years we’d have perfected the art of avoiding milk in her diet.

But you’d be amazed at how difficult it is to keep her milk free.

You get it in all kinds of foodstuffs. Milk is in breads and buns, crisps and other places you don’t expect.

Yet it’s woefully under-labelled, and in restaurants, pubs and cafes you’ll find that they simply don’t always know what’s in the bread (something that is, technically, against the law if you run a food establishment – you’re supposed to know every ingredient).

Just to give you an example, we went to a food festival in our local town.

The kids wanted a burger, so we went to a burger stall, where there was a big sign saying PLEASE ASK ABOUT ALLERGIES.

I asked, “Do your buns have any milk or lactose in them?”

“Sorry,” the man said, “We don’t know.”

I guess the sign only suggested we ASK.

It didn’t promise any ANSWERS.

This is amazing when you think that it’s not only the many milk intolerance and allergy sufferers who get affected… but also the huge and growing number of vegans in the UK.

But what about gluten-free?

Oh, well now it’s a different story.

Why gluten-free is big business

While it’s sometimes difficult to get cafes and restaurants to offer assurances about milk, they’re really vigilant about gluten.

Gluten-free stuff is everywhere. On chalk boards outside hipster cafés. Filling the ‘free from’ sections of supermarket shelves. The menus of pubs- lots of gluten free options. It’s a massive industry now and so many producers and establishments are jumping on the bandwagon.

This is not to cast aspersions on gluten allergy sufferers or those who are wheat intolerant. You have my sympathies and it’s essential that you’re catered for.

But a lot of people, particularly in the USA, are adopting gluten-free diets as a lifestyle choice because it’s healthier.

A massive 29% of Americans report that they’re cutting gluten. [research by NPD Group]

Here in Britain 60% of adults have recently bought a gluten-free product… while 10% of households say one of their members avoids gluten. [Poll by YouGov]

These percentages are much higher than those who suffer from wheat allergies (around 1 in 1000), wheat intolerance (also around 1 in 10 and celiac disease (around 1% ‘may’ have it).

And this study in the USA shows that 86% of people who believe they are gluten sensitive are, in fact, completely tolerant of it.

So is this a good thing if you go gluten-free when there’s absolutely no physical need to?

On one hand, yes.

You probably eat too many carbs right now

Cutting down on carbs is a good idea in general. Wheat-based products are addictive and stimulate food cravings. Most of us eat too many carbs and too few portions of fruit, vegetables and oily fish (check out my recent blog post for more details)

Going gluten-free CAN help you do this.

But many people, lured in by the health promises of the gluten-free wing of the food industry, don’t swap carbs for more fruit and veg and omega 3s.

They go diving from one type of carb to another.

You see, the big business in the gluten-free market is in REPLACEMENTS for the carb products, such as bread and pasta.

So many people are swapping the wheat-based carb for a gluten free carb.

These gluten-free versions often use rice flour as a substitute. Too much exposure to rice-based products isn’t good for you as rice can contain higher levels of toxic metals like arsenic and mercury.

In a recent study, Maria Argos, an assistant professor of epidemiology, analysed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Her team discovered that people who followed gluten-free diets had twice the concentrations of arsenic in their urine. There was also a 70% higher concentration of urine in the blood.

What’s more, there are some good nutrients in whole wheat products that you’re missing out on.

Lilian Cheung, DSc, RD, a lecturer in nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health says: “You’re getting fibre, a healthy plant-based protein, vitamins, minerals, and a variety of phytochemicals that will improve your health”.

In moderation, of course, in moderation!

If you’re not intolerant, a little wheat in your life, balanced with other essential foods, is a good thing.

Of course, if you ARE wheat intolerant – and you could be one of them – then you certainly should take measures.

What’s more, there are thousands of people out there in the UK who are wheat intolerant without realising it, and it’s making them tired and poorly.

They’re the ones who really need to find out and make that switch.

But even when they do, they should beware of swapping carbs for carbs!

If you have any experiences in this area, do let us know and we’ll use them for future issues on the subject!

That’s it from me.

Until next time, check out what’s new on our website and the People’s Doctor shop.

Kind Regards


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