Why talk gluten when low-carb or grain-free?

Even with low-carb or grain-free eating, avoiding gluten still takes knowledge, awareness and vigilance.  The problem is common and the down-side is serious.


  • because 1% plus 7% of the population equals a whole lot of people (8 of 100 people).
  • because gluten hides unsuspected in low-carb foods (e.g. most sausages).
  • because when eating out, travelling or eating at friend’s homes, people may make-do by removing croutons, removing the bun, removing the breaded coating, etc.
  • because people may sometimes make the choice to, say, have a tiny pinch of their daughter’s wedding cake or other special meaningful food.
  • because even these small exposures could cause strong symptoms. On top of that, this can be very confusing. Confusion and doubt can bring their own harm if they discourage someone from maintaining the low-carb lifestyle that was benefiting them.
  • because the consequences can be more than “just” the unpleasant hours or days of the obvious symptoms.  Unlike with other food reactions, these responses to gluten are not an allergy.  Gluten sensitivity is an autoimmune disease and celiac disease is just one version of this.  It is never good to poke-at or prod an auto-immune response, which is the body attacking itself.  There can be more health consequences on the line than you think.

When people first switch to a low-carb diet, if they are following the advice of the most knowledgable and experienced clinicians*, they will be having no grains.  Having no grains means they will not be having any gluten.  For some people, part of the improvements in health that they achieve will be due to removal of gluten from the diet.  However, for the reasons above, they may be intermittently exposed without realizing just what is happening to them.  As their health improves, they may come to a point where they are slowly intentionally expanding their diet choices to include small servings of gluten grains – for example, using a rye cracker to build a sandwich on.       (* for example Dr. Atkins, Jackie Eberstein, Dr. Eric Westman)

Because gluten sensitivity is an autoimmune disease, the true cost of even small exposures can be hidden and unrecognized.  Because the opportunity for un-intended intake of gluten is ubiquitous in our society, exposures that keep the immune system provoked are very likely unless the person has been diagnosed and is aware of what they need to be on the look-out for.

Rev Neurol. 2011 Sep 1;53(5):287-300.

[Neurological disorders associated with gluten sensitivity].

[Article in Spanish]
Hernandez-Lahoz C, Mauri-Capdevila G, Vega-Villar J, Rodrigo L.

Source: Hospital Universitario Central de Asturias, 33006 Oviedo, Espana. carloshlahoz@gmail.com


Gluten sensitivity is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically susceptible individuals on ingesting gluten. It can appear at any age, then becoming a permanent condition. It is more frequent in women, as happens with other autoimmune diseases. Celiac disease is the intestinal form and the most important manifestation among a set of gluten-induced autoimmune pathologies that affect different systems. Neurological manifestations of gluten sensitivity, with or without enteropathy, are also frequent, their pathogenesis including an immunological attack on the central and peripheral nervous tissue accompanied by neurodegenerative changes. The clinical manifestations are varied, but the most common syndromes are cerebellar ataxia and peripheral neuropathy. Finally, gluten sensitivity is associated to a varying degree, with other complex diseases and could influence their evolution. The early detection of cases of gluten sensitivity with neurological manifestations and subsequent treatment with the gluten-free diet could provide remarkable benefits to the patients.

PMID: 21796607

Consider visiting the website of one of the most experienced clinicians, Dr. Rodney Ford (aka Dr. Gluten). His recently updated book Gluten Brain (http://t.co/yTonFF5t)  offers the provocative hypothesis that the principal damage involved in the gluten syndrome is to the brain and nerves.  (Note: at only $9.99 for the ebook the price is right, but myself I was not able to make the Kindle version I downloaded open in my Kindle app, so I settled for the PDF download (all versions are included in the one price) — the read was worth the inconvenience).

Consider visiting The University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, where Dr. Fasano is one of the world’s top experts.

Addendum: Thank-you for all the interest in this article.  The subject is much too much to properly address in just a blog post.  If you are interested in more, please see my comment below and click on the Topic “Gluten and Wheat” in the side bar for my other posts, including two new ones today, May 26th.  There are foodie blogs that offer gluten-free low-carb recipes and suggestions.
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