Gluten Causes Weight Gain
You hear about it over and over again. The gluten-free diet is officially here to stay. Dr. Oz, Oprah, Jimmy Fallon, The View, and every major news outlet has featured the gluten-free diet is some form or fashion – gluten causes weight gain, gluten causes autoimmune disease, gluten causes migraine… So what is all the hype about? Why do so many people gravitate toward this gluten-free diet? Why are so many talking about it? The simple answer is – The Diet Works for weight loss.
Many people wonder, “does gluten make you fat?” Now many will argue that gluten causes weight loss, and they are also right. For some people, gluten damages the GI tract causing diarrhea, malabsorption, and wasting, but for others, gluten causes weight gain and obesity.
If you remain skeptical, consider reading on and making a more informed decision about whether you would benefit from changing what you eat and figuring out what food can contain gluten.
Food Is The Ultimate Drug
Gluten sensitivities, celiac disease & weight gain or weight loss can be correlated. While weight loss is more common, you can still be overweight and experience painful symptoms related to gluten.
Before delving into gluten, it is important to first sidetrack a moment to discuss a fundamental component of nutrition. FOOD IS A DRUG. Yes, you read that correctly. As a drug is defined as a chemical that can make us change the way we think, feel, or act, food falls within this category. Ever see a baby eat sugar for the first time?
We have been conditioned to think about eating as a social grace and a form of entertainment, and I can certainly agree that social eating can be a joyous occasion. The problem with focusing on food for pleasure comes with the ignorance of the fact that eating food is a battle. Every time you eat, a war in your gut ensues.
The job of the gastrointestinal tract is to rip, tear, and chemically break down the food you eat into smaller parts so that it can be absorbed and used to make proteins, carbs, fats, hormones, and other key elements your body needs to survive. The job of the gut is to extrapolate vitamins, minerals, and other nutrient compounds for absorption so that your body is nourished. This is done through the use of mechanical shredding (teeth), chemical acids, and digestive enzymes whose main purpose is to break food components down.
Realize that some foods have the ability to fight back. Many foods are resistant to human digestion (ever get gas when eating beans?). Some foods can inhibit the release of enzymes, some have elements that make them hard to break down. Some foods simply don’t get along with the chemical composition of our body, and the outcome of eating them is an immune response that can damage the gut.
Negative effects of food:
There are a variety of different types of reactions people can have to food. A general breakdown of these reactions are as follows:
- Acute allergy
- Delayed allergy (hypersensitivity)
Some food reactions like intolerance are obvious, acute and the effects can be immediate. For example, peanut anaphylaxis (swollen lips, hives, airway constriction) is quite obvious. This is what we would typically refer to as an acute allergy.
Some food-induced immune reactions are delayed. These reactions are not quite so obvious or immediate. They are called delayed hypersensitivity reactions. These foods reactions can cause chronic inflammation. The damage of this inflammation can build over time causing a breakdown in your GI tract (leaky gut AKA intestinal permeability). Additionally, these types of food reactions can trigger a process called molecular mimicry and lead to autoimmune disease. See the image to the right ==>
Food sensitivity reactions are less well defined. Many believe these to be reactions caused by a different part of the immune system (innate immunity) than delayed allergies (adaptive immunity – AKA antibodies). This is thought to be one of the main culprits behind gluten sensitivity reactions.
Food intolerance is loosely defined as the inability to appropriately digest food. The most common example is dairy intolerance. Many lack the enzyme to break down the sugar in dairy called lactose. This leads to excessive gas and bloating. This can also cause gut dysbiosis (an imbalance in the type of bacteria that live in your gut). Intolerance symptoms are typically doses dependent – i.e. the more you eat, the worse you can feel.
In today’s world, the importance of food has been minimized by the plethora of misinformation and marketing hype. We are told to eat a balanced diet without being told what exactly a balanced diet is. We have been conditioned by doctors to believe that the onslaught of pizza, cake, fast foods, genetically modified foods, sodas, etc are all just fine and don’t have anything to do with health and disease. The problem with that is they do. Food has everything to do with the development of and the prevention of disease. The failure to recognize this (in my humble opinion) is one of the main reasons we have one of the sickest countries in the world.
All that being said, let’s delve into the realm of gluten…
Gluten Can Cause Universal Inflammation
Gluten sensitivity is a very real condition. It is different than celiac disease (for a breakdown watch this video). Many are under the false impression that celiac disease is the worst manifestation of gluten sensitivity. It is not. There are about 190 medical conditions that gluten can cause or contribute to. Celiac is just one outcome of many possible outcomes for those who eat gluten. The diagram below illustrates some common disease outcomes of gluten ingestion over time.
Gluten Destroys Muscle
In more than a decade of treating patients and dealing with the consequences of gluten, one of the most common side effects I see gluten cause is inflammation in the muscle and joints. The gluten proteins can create an inflammatory reaction in these tissues that over time leads to many negative outcomes:
- Muscle pain
- Muscle atrophy (loss)
- Joint pain and arthritis
- Gluten causes weight gain (increased visceral fat – AKA belly fat)
- Weight loss (due to muscle atrophy)
- Restricted mobility
- Increased risk for injury in those trying to exercise
Gluten consumption causes weight gain and leads to muscle atrophy (loss) in two primary ways:
- Inflammation – Gluten can cause the immune system to literally attack the muscle and joints leading to chronic pain and inflammation. A prolonged immune system attack contributes to chronic degradation of these tissues and subsequent atrophy of the muscle and arthritis in the joint.
- Hormone Release – In order to deal with this chronic damage, the body produces cortisol as an anti-inflammatory hormone. As shown in the diagram below, cortisol leads to increased visceral fat (belly fat)…
The problem with muscle deficiency
It is estimated that 60 of Americans are overweight or obese. There are literally hundreds of diseases and health issues related to being under muscled.
Because they are intrinsically related. The more grain we eat, the more insulin we release. The more insulin we release, the more cortisol we make. Both cortisol and insulin promote belly fat storage. Ergo – gluten causes weight gain. The more fat we store the less muscle mass we have proportionately to our total body weight. When this happens, we have a tendency to start developing chronic degenerative problems like the following: accelerated aging, arthritis, heart disease, dementia, cancer…
Loss of muscle leads to exercise complications, because a smaller muscle is tighter, more prone to injury, and accelerates cartilage wear and tear. Lack of exercise leads to less muscle tone – and the cycle continues for 20 years and we find ourselves looking in the mirror wondering how we got so overweight. This, my friends, is one of the reasons why our health deteriorates. This is why so many Americans stay sick. Muscle loss weakens the immune system, limits our ability to move, wrecks our quality of life, and in the end kills us 20 years early.
Many of those discoveries that when they embark upon this gluten/grain-free diet change, they have a dramatic reduction in muscle and joint aches and pains. Pains that were once considered a consequence of aging often completely resolve. If you find yourself suffering from unexplained aches and pains or unexplained increases in body fat, you should consider investigating gluten as a potential food-induced problem. For more on how going gluten-free can help you reduce visceral fat (belly fat), reduce muscle and joint inflammation, and improve your exercise recovery, click below to take our online quiz.
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