Got Problems with Gluten? You Are Not Alone!

January 20, 2010
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

gluten_wheatSensitivity to grains is linked to depression, headaches, and indigestion.

Wheat intake can trigger two increasingly prevalent immune-related conditions—celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. New Israeli research finds that people with multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory muscle disorders have antibodies to gluten (a protein in barley, wheat, and other grains) suggesting sensitivity to this reactive substance.

At least 3 million Americans have celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack—and eventually destroy—the walls of the small intestine. In people with related symptoms (anemia, arthritis, depression, diarrhea, digestive discomfort, infertility, malabsorption, and osteoporosis, to name a few), the prevalence of this incurable disease rises to 1 in 56. And it’s 1 in 22 for anyone whose parent, child, or sibling has celiac.

Trouble is, not everyone with celiac disease has symptoms! While this disease can appear at any age, it’s becoming increasingly prevalent among older people—whose symptoms are subtle at best.

While the gut is where most gluten intolerance is evident, research is beginning to explore the brain on gluten. One recent German study finds that 35% of celiac patients report psychiatric problems: depression, personality changes, or even psychosis. Medical histories reveal migraine in 28% of celiacs and gait disturbances (ataxia) in 26%. Even carpal tunnel syndrome and vestibular dysfunction appear in some celiac patients.

Because of close links between gluten intolerance and neurological problems, Canadian researchers recommend that all children with neurodevelopmental problems—including autism—be tested for nutritional deficiency and malabsorption.

Celiac disease can lead to microscopic colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, even duodenal and stomach ulcers. It’s also been linked to numerous autoimmune diseases: Type 1 diabetes, dermatitis herpetiformis (intense skin itching), liver autoimmune disease, and thyroid autoimmune diseases (like Graves and Hashimoto’s disease).

Dr. Ann Louise’s Take:

If you have celiac disease, the only treatment is a gluten-free diet. The chief villain is wheat, which seems to go hand in hand with fatigue, bloating, and abdominal cramping. Barley, kamut, rye, spelt, and triticale also contain gluten, as do all too many processed foods on grocery shelves today. Gluten is also found in lip balm, medicines, play dough, and some supplements, so read labels carefully on all food and products.

Over the years, many of my clients have shown delayed sensitivity to grains, which is one reason I’ve included so many Clean Carbs—gluten-free grains—in Fat Flush for Life. Instead of gluten-based grains, vary your intake of gluten-free substitutes like amaranth, buckwheat, brown rice, millet, and quinoa. For baking or other cooking needs, consider bean, coconut, and nut flours.

Anyone who’s trying to get pregnant or who is already pregnant should ditch gluten. Researchers have found that women with celiac disease who eat wheat have trouble conceiving—and suffer 8 times as many miscarriages as those on a gluten-free diet.

You’ll need tests—usually several including an ELISA for anti-gliadin antibodies—to determine gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Start with an at-home gluten intolerance test. If you discontinue eating gluten-rich grains before testing, you won’t get accurate results.

Don’t Forget Fiber
Anyone avoiding gluten and most grains needs to get plenty of fiber. Vegetables and fruits can help—but may not be sufficient.

In Fat Flush for Life, you’ll find a tasty new source of fiber and omega-3s (a natural anti-inflammatory for sensitivity-type symptoms)—chia seeds. Try the recipes for Black Bean Cakes, Blueberry Mini Chiacakes, and Fabulous Chia Crax for a gluten-free fiber. Chia’s also an ingredient in the Hot Metabolism Booster Cocktail to turbo-charge detox and weight loss. Other useful forms of fiber include flaxseed, psyllium, and Super-GI Cleanse.

Other Dietary Support
People with celiac disease tend to be anemic, so they need iron, vitamin B12, and folate, as well as vitamin K. Because gluten sensitivity has been linked to bone loss, it’s important to take vitamin D and bone-building minerals. Antioxidants can help the body cope with the effects of allergic reactions, so make sure antioxidants are part of your daily multi.

It’s particularly important for growing children who are gluten sensitive to get all the nutrition they need. The good news is that research shows celiac kids who stay on a gluten-free diet can develop normally.

Fat Flush for Life

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Gail

    This is excellent info! And so true! I can tell you I definitely have a sensitivity and can tell the difference immediately! Boy, if you have depression at all, just notice a day or two when you have had breads, etc and sure enough your depression and/or anxiety is worse. Paragraph after paragraph I can see myself and so many other family members – including the Hashimoto’s, which was a new one for me, being linked to gluten.
    Funny, too, how your body tries in many ways to tell you things. Even as a child, I wasn’t a big fan of bread. My mom would get upset with me for not eating my sandwich, and picking at the bread. She even cut the crusts off thinking it was the crust I didn’t like. But, I just wanted the inside of the sandwiches and wanted to throw away the bread! Never felt well after eating pastas, or pancakes, waffles, rolls, etc.
    Thanks, Ann. We appreciate you!

  2. Elene

    From my experience, gluten intolerance and celiac are not necessarily the same thing. One can make antibodies to gluten without having the gene for celiac. Also please mention gluten intolerance’s association with numerous allergies which seem to disappear when the gluten is eliminated.

  3. Ann Louise Gittleman

    True – Elene. Casein and soy sensitivies are often associated with gluten intolerance.

  4. Fatima

    Thank you Dr. Anne Louise for raising this subject and all other health issues!. I would love to use the Super-GI Cleanse, but noticed that it has “oat bran fiber” as one of the ingredients.. is it ok to use as I am gluten intolerant. Also, is the intestinal flora blend milk free?. Thanks for your help and appreciate your work.

  5. Cathy


    My very savy M.D. said not to use oats unless the package states that they are gluten free. Many manufacturers process both wheat and oats and the two can be easily cross-contaminated unless they take special care to clean their machines.

  6. Cathy

    Dr. Gittleman,
    Do you know if wheat grass, taken as a drink or powder, will trigger the gluten sensitivity/intolerence response? Thanks!

  7. Fatima

    Thanks Cathy.. appreciate your help 🙂 if I may comment on the wheat grass issue, I always read that it’s ok to use it, but let’s wait for Dr. Gittleman’s response.

  8. Sara

    I find that amost all grains (even those without gluten) cause extreme exhaustion, but that is the only symptom I have. This doesn’t seem to be gluten intolerance and I’ve tested negative for celiac disease. Any idea what it is?

  9. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Wheat grass is usually non-reactive with gluten-sensitives and oat bran – as found in Super GI Cleanse – is non-reactive as well. The oat bran is not manufactured in a cereal factory where other gluten-rich grains are present, so no worries there, Cathy.

    Sara: Many individuals do not do well with grains of any type. Sometimes it is a fungual/mold sensitivity due to the way grains are stored which allow mycotoxins to grow. My advice: Stay away from any and all grains that make you feel tired. Instead use starchy veggies as discussed in Fat Flush for Life.

    Hello to Fatima and Gail. I don’t always have time to respond these days to your wonderful comments and questions. Thanks for your continuing support and interest in my work.

    Dr. Ann Louise

  10. Teri

    Hi. The information on gluten intollerance and celiac disease is very helpful. However, the medical community seems to focus only on celiac disease. I believe that many diseases can appear and the body can be impacted by gluten intolerance alone. Both parents passed on these genes to me and all three of my sisters, and one has the celiac gene.

    I think it is important for people to know that there are more sensitive tests than the blood test (which only identifies the celiac gene), like the ones done by (stool sample test) in which gluten intolerance is identifiied. As Dr. Ann states, lactose intolerance and soy allergies are associated with gluten intolerance and I have all three.

    After 2 1/2 years of being gluten free, I have experienced an improvement in my health and intenstines. Thanks for the info Dr. Ann Louise.

  11. Brenda

    I’ve just been enlightened to gluten intolerance. One of many now and have been gluten free for one day. I feel measurably better.

    I am lactose intolerant, I think. How do you know if you have a soy allergy or intolerance? I love certain soy products. Any advice? It’s getting hard to give up everything.

    Thanks for the wonderful information!

  12. Debbie

    I agree with Teri. I had a Celiac Panel done (serum) and everything came back negative. Then I tested with Enterolab and I tested positive with both gluten and casein antibodies. And I had little to no obvious symptoms! Also I have Hashimoto’s.
    One good thing–both butter and cream are mostly fat, and if you multiply the protein grams in a dairy food by 80% you’ll get the casein grams in that food. So, 1 Tbs. heavy or light cream has just .25g casein, and butter is negligible. I’m hoping after staying gluten-free for at least a year I might be able to add in small amounts of other dairy. We’ll see–I really do miss full fat Greek yogurt..

  13. Annie

    I have had undiagnosable abdominal pain that has sent me to the ER 3 times and landed me in the hospital for 3 days. Seems like gallbladder, but no evidence of stones or infection. The doctors are scratching their heads. Then I read Ann Louise’s blog that there may be a link between gallbladder disease and gluten. So after searching a bit I have seen some interesting coincidences: long history of lactose intolerance(which actually may be more related to a casein intolerance/allergy), chronic Gi symptoms (bloating, irritable bowel-like symptoms, reflux – and all whilst abstaining from dairy), chronic incidence of aphthous ulcers (canker sores in the mouth), Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Raynaud’s, dermatitis, generalized body tenderness (never diagnosed with fibromyalgia). I sound like a train wreck but I am fine. I have been attributing these ailments to getting older (I am all of 51), but after reading and researching, I am thinking differently. The most troubling information I found stated there was a link between celiac disease and scleroderma(ref: on that site search for celiac disease). Thank you Ann Louise for the seemingly little tidbits of information, I may finally have some answers and be able to get a bigger picture of what’s going on with my body.

  14. marie

    I am a lilttle low on money now and have been following your fat flush diet for quit some time. What do I need to know that will work for me the best while on a budgit?
    thank you, Marie

  15. karla

    I am so confused over whether I should or should not take the Super GI Cleanse if gluten/casein intolerant. Ann Louise Gittleman states above that the oat bran is NOT cross-contaminated, however when I contacted Uni-Key Health Systems directly, I was given the following information:

    “The Super GI Cleanse is Casein free and there is some Gluten in the oat bran”.

    This is one of many supplements I was taking but had to stop after testing positive for gluten sensitivity. It may sound nuts to someone not sensitive to gluten, but once you’ve started to wean yourself off of it, you REALLY FEEL IT when you ingest gluten by accident, even incidentally. But what’s really frustrating is all the misinformation. Not sure where to turn.

  16. JB

    Started May 1, 2011 Living Gluten Free. Luckily I have been a fan and user of The Fat Flush Plan Books, protein body shake and Ann Louise’s knowledge and wisdom.
    I have have been gluten free (except for my neice/godchilds graduation last week) I have not been financially able to get more protein shakes and the Fat Flush for Life book, but am saving up for it. So not having shed but a few pounds, I went back to my Fat Flush Book/Journal and started following that again without any gluten of course, but Phase 1 does not have gluten in the program so it is GREAT to follow. Wishing luck to all of you and blessings..


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