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Why are Gluten Free Diets Failing to Heal So Many Patients?

A recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology finds that more than 30% of patients with celiac disease following a gluten free diet fail to exhibit recovery of intestinal damage after 5 years on a gluten free diet.
Mucosal recovery was absent in a substantial portion of adults with CD after treatment with a GFD. There was a borderline significant association between confirmed mucosal recovery (vs. persistent damage)


The American Journal of Gastroenterology , (9 February 2010) This is not the first study to illustrate such an alarming statistic. Another research study published in 2009 found even more alarming statistics. But the big question is why are these patients failing to heal? So many chronically sick people are getting a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity or intolerance and turning to a gluten free diet. Unfortunately, these individuals are being directed toward replacements foods that are:
  • extremely unhealthy
  • are not gluten free
  • difficult to digest and hard on the gastrointestinal tract
  • are highly processed and disease promoting
  • contain chemical additives
  • over priced
The gluten free food industry reportedly made over 2 billion dollars in 2010. It is the fastest growing sector of the food industry, and sadly, most of what is produced and sold to the public is counter productive to health restoration. For example – trading out brownies for “gluten free” brownies does not accomplish what the patient has set out to do – recover from years of food induced damage. Doctors and nutritionists are part of the problem! Instead of educating gluten sensitive patients about the health detriment of these “gluten free” food alternatives, they promote them. Ever go to a gluten free support group? Many of them are sponsored by doctors or hospitals. The bulk of the food being brought in is typically cakes, cookies, processed cereals, crackers, etc. How can a person with severe illness ever hope to recover eating these types of foods. It is no wonder that researchers are publishing findings like the ones above. Many Gluten Free Food Items Are Not Gluten Free! Gluten is a family of proteins that share a similar structure. It has always been assumed that wheat, barley, rye, and oats (depending on who you ask) were the only culprit grains for those with gluten issues. However, studies have linked corn gluten to problems in those with celiac disease. Additionally, new research in 2010 identified 400 new gluten proteins – many of which were shown to cause damage in patients with gluten sensitivity. That is why we specify between the “traditional” gluten free diet and a TRUE gluten free diet. One will guarantee a lack of healing while the other will allow your health to flourish. If you are on a “traditional” gluten free diet and still having health issues, it’s time to go TRUE gluten free. If you need help, sign up for my free Glutenology Masterclass. All the best, Dr. Osborne – The Gluten Free Warrior

19 Responses

  1. I am glad I jumped on the paleo diet bandwagon so I avoid all processed foods no matter if gluten free or not!

    Good article though, many people don’t realize how toxic and full of harmful additives gluten free breads, cake mixes ect. are.

    Udi’s bread is one of the worst gluten free items but it taste so good because of free glutamic acid(MSG) that it addicts unsuspecting gluten free people.

  2. I just read an article about corn — corn on the cob to cornstarch and corn flour. They insisted that they were all gluten free. Who do you believe?!?

  3. Its scary to read that a lot of the things I eat could be harming my health. It makes sense why I still have a lot of gastrointestinal problems. And joehatesgluten, Udi’s bread was my favorite because its lighter than other GF breads. Thank you for your comment.

  4. A closer look at Udi’s Gluten Free “Whole Grain Bread”:


    The ingredients that contain unbound “free glutamic acid”(same as MSG) after factory processing are:

    Corn Starch(possibility)

    A lot of those listed ingredients are from corn. Corn is popular to use to create “free glutamic acid” because it has very high levels of natural “glutamic acid”. The glutamic acid is freed by hydrolysis, high and long temperature cooking ect. This is what causes it to become the neurotoxin “Free glutamic acid”.

    Many times ingredients are purposely put into foods under these hidden names so the package can say “No MSG” and still actually contain tons of addicting free glutamic acid in similar levels as “Monosodium Glutamate”. It’s deceptive indeed.

    Good sites for anyone interested in avoiding MSG, information and help. There are also some testimonials on the forums of msgmyth:

  5. I need help my daughter has been GF for two years and I think she’s getting worse does anyone know of a doctor in New York that can help us I think it’s more than celiac but no one can find anything wrong with her. Thinking of going to the Mayo clinic in Minnesota for help. SYMPTOMS nauseas, diarehha, or constipation, trouble peeing, pains in upper and lower abdomain, fatigue, color draining ( gray face and lips, purple under eyes) lost 9 pounds in a month (doctor said it was a stomache virus) I could use any help in getting her well PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE HELP US

    1. Kerry,
      Your daughter needs to be on a TRUE gluten free diet. The traditional gluten free diet will not help. Watch video tutorial #1 under the glutenology tab above. If this does not clarify matters for you let me know.
      All the best.
      Dr. O

    2. Have them test for chrones too and get an mri and ct scan. I was in similar situation ended up my small intestine wall was thickened and caused s blockage had surgery to remove blockage snd feeling better but still searching for the cause.

  6. kerry,

    have the doctors done any blood tests to see how your daughter’s vitamins and minerals are doing?? mine were so far off that my muscles and nervous system took a hit! i have also had an endoscopy (highly recommended…not scary!) and discovered acidic foods are ‘attacking’ my stomach and leaking into my intestines causing more damage. just a few thoughts. i also cannot eat corn and soy products and can’t do red meats…too hard for my system to digest causing me too feel nauseous. good luck with everything. by the way..i had to request my blood tests after i started feeling terrible!

    stacy 🙂

  7. Kerry-

    1. Find a doctor that will test for celiac disease, bacterial overgrowth, parasites, thyroid disease, IBS, IBD, etc. Make sure you get all the tests to rule out these diagnoses. Maybe try Mt Sinai if you are in NYC, I went there, but already had all these tests, so it wasn’t helpful, but they will take you seriously.

    2. If nothing is diagnosed or if you feel uncomfortable with certain medication, you should seek a naturopathic doctor in NYC to help you with this process.

    3. Look into the Specific Carbohydrate diet, which was around before gluten sensitivity was discovered as the source of Celiac disease, and it has saved kids lives. The problem with gluten-free diets is that although they have helped many, for a lot of people, complex carbs can be gluten-free and still have a dangerous effect on their intestines.

    4. If #3 is too much of an undertaking, try simple things like cooking fruits and vegetables very well, eliminating corn, soy, and processed GF grains. Start making small changes in her diet and try to be more healthy in general. Just know that dietary treatments to digestive issues are very slow.

    Good luck and don’t give up. Everyone is different, but there is a solution out there for everyone. You just have to keep trying different things.

  8. Joehatesgluten,

    Thank you very much for the MSG information. Udi’s Whole Grain is one of the very few processed foods I’ve been eating, 2 slices daily. The other is Blue Diamond Nut Thins. Although I have been improving, perhaps this is slowing my progress. A whole new learning curve. Sigh.

  9. @Dr. Osbourne, glad to help!

    @K Franklin, no problem I hope this information helps you as much as it helped me.

    A few other things you may look into is avoiding legumes(including soy and peanuts since they contain tons of “phytic-acid” which inhibits mineral absorption among other things) Also avoid all grains of course. Grains contain phytic acid/antinutrients, different types of gluten, and are high glycemic index. Besides, grains don’t have anything that you can’t get from leafy green vegetables and healthier starches such as sweet potatoes.

    Doing this will help you heal even more! Also, healthy saturated fats like virgin coconut oil and grass-fed tallow/lard will help you absorb vitamins too which is important for people with damaged small intestines!

  10. Kerry, try seeing if she has autonomic disorder. This is more related to the heart and blood pressure, but causes all of the above symptoms.

  11. Kerry,
    Sounds like she might have microscopic colitis (need a colonoscopy with biopsies to diagnose), which may be related to mast cell degranulation. Could be additional food intolerances too. Consider food sensitivity testing from (you can order it yourself) or MRT/Leap testing (through a dietician).

  12. Kerry,

    Sounds familiar….after months of glutened type symptoms and weight loss, we found out my daughter had a bacterial overgrowth. An elimination diet and rifaxamin restored her health. Good luck. BTW, we are also in NYC and went to a lll “top” Drs. but only found answers when we saw Dr. Alesio FAssano in Maryland, he is moving to Boston soon.

  13. My spouse and I went gluten free after reading “Wheatbelly” book and promptly loaded up with udi bread, crackers and cookies made with unsafe starches! After seeing Dr. Davis on PBS Atlanta show,
    we figured out we were worse off after our 2 years but we just let go of all our “gluten free” goodies so expensive, too! Starting over!

  14. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s automune disease and then read the “Wheatbelly” book and went gluten free. When I went gluten free, unbeknownst to me, it was too late to test for Celiac Disease. It is better if you get tested by a Doctor for CD and food sensitivities, rather than doing the elimination diet. My Doctor that I was imagining it and it was another Doctor who discovered Hashimoto’s. BTW – I still have some of the same symptoms. I have to go to another Doctor to have my blood tested for other food sensitivities. I think I will probably go on the Paleo Diet and just not eat anything processed anymore.

  15. I had MIGRAINES from MALTOSE, DEXTROSE, and MALTODEXTRIN. Kept a food diary and found these additives caused 48 hour migraines. I’d eat the offending food, then about 8 hours later the migraine would start. GF foods are full of additives and food is sourced globally and we all know that “quality control” can vary widely around the world. It stands to reason that gluten sensitive people might still have problems on a GF diet consisting of highly processed foods. Whole foods, fruits & vegetables are what everyone should eat. Real food for real people!

    Getting a blood test that looks at ALL your vitamins, minerals, etc. is a good starting point. If you have some intolerance then MALABSORPTION may be limiting your body’s ability to utilize all the nutrients in the foods you eat. Google “fructose malabsorption” and “leaky gut syndrome” (aka intestinal hyperpermeability) — both medically documented conditions that can cause health problems in sensitive individuals.

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