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Athlete Improves Strength, Gains Weight on a Gluten Free Diet

Many looking into the gluten free diet are skeptical at first. This young man was no exception to the rule. Fortunately, he overcame his doubts because going gluten free for him led to remarkable changes. Prior to the diet he was losing weight (16 pounds total). The dietary change led to ability to regain weight, improved stamina, enhanced swimming, and clearing of facial acne.

Gluten Weight Gain Vs. Weight Loss

Many of those going gluten free lose weight, but as you can see in the example above, this young man was able to put the lost weight back on. There are multi-factorial mechanisms behind weight loss and weight gain. The diagrams below illustrate some of these mechanisms. It is always important to remember the law of biochemical individuality – people can have different responses to gluten (or anything for that matter). Some will gain and some will lose weight. It is this phenomenon that leads to the misdiagnosis of gluten sensitivity in many individuals. Most doctors are trained to look for wasting and severe weight loss before making a diagnosis of gluten intolerance.

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So when it comes to the big question – will I lose weight on a gluten free diet? The answer is complex. Some lose weight, some gain weight. My general clinical experience is this. For those who are overweight, we see weight loss occur with a gluten free diet. For those who are wasting, failing to grow, unable to put weight on, we see weight gain.

Mechanisms of Gain…

Gluten can contribute to weight gain via several mechanisms. Some of these examples include the following: The first is altered intestinal bacteria. Studies have shown that gut bacteria imbalance can contribute to a slower metabolism as well as diabetes. It is well established that gluten can alter normal gut flora. Additionally, foods high in gluten typically contain excessive Calorie to nutrient ratio. This in turn leads to an excess in insulin production by the body. The combination of increased Calories and increased insulin response is a recipe for gaining weight. Gluten foods have also been shown to cause B-vitamin deficiencies. The loss of these important energy producing nutrients contribute to slowed metabolism, poor energy, and subsequent increase in body weight.

Mechanisms of Loss…

The classic weight loss linked to gluten is the disease known as celiac disease. This process damages the intestinal lining leading to severe malabsorption of nutrients, diarrhea, and wasting. Additionally, the immune system becomes over reactive. In order for immune function to sustain itself, the body will borrow protein from the muscle to increase antibody protein production. It is this muscle wasting process (also commonly seen in cancer patients) that contributes to an inability to maintain body weight.

What is Your Goal?

Whether you are training to gain or lose, the following articles may be of great benefit for you:

2 Responses

  1. I had some sort of gut problems as a baby, when my mother tried to wean me I couldn’t hold any foods inside and nearly died as a result. She got me under the care of the man who was the leading child specialist in my country at the time, I spend three months in a hospital under some sort of elimination diet (I don’t know the details) and that saved me, but I started to steadily gain weight after a few years and have been overweight most of my life (severely underweight first, then a couple of years about normal, after that increasingly overweight). And I have had all kinds of digestion problems. When I was a bit over 30 years old I realized grains were, increasingly, a problem and gave them up, which helped some, but even after that I have never managed to lose much weight, and I gain very easily. If I stick to salads and some protein I don’t gain, and sometimes even manage to lose a bit, but since I have a rather low income I do tend to end up eating too much of the cheap stuff. Like rice. And bargains, whatever they happen to be, and most often they are some sort of ready or half ready meals.

    So my guess is gluten may have been at least a contributing factor if not the main culprit to my problems, but current problem is what can you do after your gut flora etc probably have already been thoroughly messed up after more than half a lifetime of using grains?

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