High Levels of Arsenic Found in Rice Threatens Those Following a Traditional Gluten-Free Diet Plan
Arsenic exposure and subsequent toxicity is a health problem affecting millions of people worldwide. Exposure to arsenic comes from several sources to include – well water (arsenic occurs naturally in some geological formations), contamination from mining and ore smelting, and from seafood (a less toxic organic form of arsenic). Arsenic can also be found in the following: grains (and grain-based products), bottled water, coffee, processed juice, and beer. According to an investigation from Consumer Health Reports, the highest levels of this toxic metal are found in rice (especially brown rice) and rice gluten.
Most gluten-free food is made from either corn or rice. Both of these have been found to have arsenic in them. Particularly the rice is the higher of the two. Often times people believe that they are eating really well when in reality they are being exposed to arsenic.
Gluten-Free Rice Products = More Arsenic Exposure = More Disease Risk
Those going gluten-free initially tend to gravitate toward high levels of rice-based substitutes like bread, pasta, cereals, etc. due to their new gluten frees diet plan. If you aren’t up to speed on rice gluten and the potential danger it poses to those with gluten sensitivity, I highly encourage you to watch this video.
Beyond the problem rice gluten may pose, this new research shows that rice-based foods contain levels of arsenic that can create a significant risk to your health.
Who is at the greatest risk?
- Infants – often times infants are fed excessive riced based cereals, formulas, and cracker products. Especially infants who tend to suffer from allergies to milk, soy, and corn. Even beyond the arsenic danger, many infants have severe reactions to rice products. This condition known as FPIES (food protein-induced enterocolitis) is a serious problem. You can read more about this in my book, No Grain No Pain on pages 183 and 184.
- Gluten-Free Newbies – These individuals are typically already very sick with autoimmune diseases and suffer from malnutrition. When going gluten-free initially, these are the people who rely largely on rice-based products. Because they are already sick, they are more susceptible to arsenic exposure especially if they have pre-existing liver or kidney issues.
Why Is Arsenic Dangerous?
Arsenic was popularized as a murder weapon in the movie Arsenic and Old Lace. It is tasteless, odorless, and looks like sugar crystals. In large enough doses, arsenic is deadly, though most of my experience deals with chronic low dose arsenic exposure creating chronic health issues. Let’s differentiate the fact that arsenic comes in two flavors:
- Organic (arsenobetaine and arsenocholine) – these forms are relatively nontoxic and prominently found in seafood. They are excreted from the body via the kidneys.
- Inorganic arsenic (Trivalent or As III) – This form of arsenic is the real danger, and it is the form commonly found in rice-based products. It exerts damage by interfering with at least 200 different enzyme systems in the body. Many of these are critical in producing energy and regulating DNA. It is also a known human carcinogen (causes cancer). Chronic exposure to even low levels of arsenic can cause systemic multi-organ disease and damage including the liver, kidney, heart, lung, muscles, nervous system, and GI tract. Exposure to inorganic arsenic comes from rice (especially brown rice), contaminated drinking water, pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides. It is important to note that even organically grown rice can contain high levels of arsenic because it can be found at high levels in soil depending on where it is grown.
Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning – Many of the symptoms linked to arsenic exposure overlap the symptoms that gluten can cause. That’s why it is important to know them, especially if you are one of the “gluten-free newbies” relying on heavy rice products as a staple in your diet. Symptoms included: neuropathy, epileptic seizures, cardiomyopathy (heart damage), abdominal pain, nausea, severe diarrhea, skin rashes, and white bands across the fingernails (Mee’s lines – see picture on the right).
Is Rice Gluten Free?
Did you know that oftentimes people will purchase rice thinking that they are eating well? Even though rice is considered gluten-free based on the definition set forth by the FDA, rice does contain a form of gluten prolamin called orzenin. In my experience, those with known celiac disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity issues always do better when avoiding rice.
Is Rice Healthy?
Most people following a gluten free diet eat an abundance of rice and processed rice based products. Rice protein has been linked to intestinal inflammation. Processed rice is an overall poor source of vitamins and minerals, yet it contains large amounts of calories. Research studies have shown that those consuming white rice have an increased risk of type II diabetes. Additionally, research studies have found contamination of rice by toxic heavy metals to include arsenic, cadmium, and lead.
Arsenic, Pb, and Cd are among the toxic metals that pose serious health effects in humans. Exposure to these metals through diet is of concern, especially among rice consumers.
Is rice healthy? Should those following a gluten free diet use rice as a staple food? In my experience, celiacs and non celiac gluten sensitive patients have poorer outcomes and greater health issues than those who avoid rice. It is common to find high levels of arsenic, cadmium, and lead in patients consuming large amounts of rice. These heavy metals are often times a source of persistent inflammation and illness.
How is Arsenic Eliminated From The Body?
If you have a history of eating copious amounts of rice, you may be wondering:
- Do I have high levels of Arsenic?
- What are the symptoms of arsenic toxicity?
- How do I get arsenic out of my body.
You can ask your doctor to perform testing to determine whether or not you have elevated levels of arsenic. The symptoms of chronic arsenic exposure can include muscle weakness, muscle pain, nervous system dysfunction, hair loss, skin rash, and even cancer. These symptoms can also be caused by gluten exposure.
You can help support your body’s ability to eliminate arsenic naturally. Inorganic arsenic has to go through a methylation reaction in the liver before it is excreted by the kidneys. This means that those people who have genetic methylation problems are at greater risk for arsenic toxicity. A healthy methylation process combined with adequate protein intake, and antioxidants should be part or your strategy.
Healthy methylation can be supported by making sure you eat foods rich in B vitamins, methionine, cysteine, and choline. You may also consider supplementing:
It is also important to support liver and kidney function as these organs are necessary to assist your body in neutralizing and excreting arsenic from your body. There are a number of healthy foods that contain compounds that nourish the liver and kidney. These include garlic, cilantro, parsley, broccoli, eggs, cabbage, and onion.
Always looking out for you,
Dr. Osborne – The Gluten Free Warrior
Does rice bother you? Chime in below and let us know…