What’s the deal with gluten? We hear all the time that we should be cutting it out for various reasons: it causes brain fog, leaky gut, chronic inflammation, the list goes on. But what does it actually do to our bodies? Why could our grandparents eat it with no problem? We need a comprehensive guide to gluten, which is why we turned to Dr. Perlmutter. He’s a leading doctor in the field of neurology, and he’s published multiple books on how gluten affects the brain. He generously answered all of our questions about gluten and more; read below for his interview!

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a name given to a mixture of proteins found in various grains. That includes wheat, barley, and rye. It is often times in oats, depending on how they are milled. Gluten is responsible for the sticky properties of wheat flour that allows it to rise, for example, when making bread.

Should we be avoiding gluten even if we don’t have Celiac Disease?

Everyone should avoid gluten containing foods, in my opinion. New research from Harvard University reveals that 100% of humans have changes in their intestines when consuming gliadin, one of the proteins that makes up gluten.

What are the best gluten alternatives?

There certainly are plenty of other grains that one can consume that are generally gluten-free including rice, corn, and quinoa (although quinoa is technically not a grain). Although these food choices are gluten-free, nevertheless it’s important to recognize that often times these foods are concentrated sources of carbohydrate and, therefore, portions should be limited.

What foods should you cut out on the gluten-free diet?

Foods that should be removed on a gluten-free diet are obviously foods that contain gluten. While it is common knowledge that a gluten-free diet avoid wheat, barley, and rye, gluten is often found in other hidden places like condiments, sauces, gravies, marinades, processed meats, vegetarian meat alternatives, and even scrambled eggs and omelets served in some restaurants.

How does gluten cause inflammation in the body?

Gluten works its damage by increasing the permeability of the gut lining. When the gut becomes leaky, various proteins that would normally reside within the intestine make their way into the systemic circulation and immediately turn on pathways that produced inflammation throughout the entire body including the brain, heart, skin, and joints.

What should you do if you suspect you’re gluten intolerant?

I believe that gluten sensitivity is present in everyone, meaning that, in reality, no one is really tolerant of this protein. That said, strict adherence to a gluten-free diet is what I recommend for everyone.

We’ve heard a lot about leaky gut – what is it actually? Should we be concerned?

So much of our health depends on the integrity of the gut lining. There’s been so much written these days about the so-called “leaky gut,” and with good reason.When the gut becomes leaky, it immediately and powerfully enhances inflammation in the body. This is about the last thing we want to remain healthy. Inflammation is the cornerstone of some of our most dreaded conditions including diabetes, coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer. So we need to do everything we possibly can to maintain the integrity of the gut lining if we are to maintain balance in the immune system and reduce inflammation. Going gluten-free is a powerful first step to accomplishing this goal.

What should you be eating most of once you’ve gone gluten free?

The best diet is one that is, for the most part, based upon lots of vegetables. I recommend that the plate be three quarters full of nutrient dense colorful vegetables. Then, we need to add some source of protein like grass fed beef or wild fish. Always be sure to have plenty of good fat with each meal along with fermented foods like kimchi, which is a terrific source of good bacteria for the gut.

What are the benefits of a gluten free diet?

The benefits of a gluten-free diet are far ranging. Most importantly, this is a diet that will immediately reduce inflammation. When you recognize that inflammation is a pivotal mechanism and some of our most dreaded diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes, this is certainly a powerful incentive to go gluten-free. The inflammation brought on by exposure to gluten can cause moment to moment challenges with brain function leading to what has been called “brain fog.” Frequently, individuals shifting to a gluten-free diet note improved energy, clarity of thinking, improvement in mood, and they find it easier to lose weight.

Is gluten in any other products – like cleaning products or makeup? What code words should we look out for on labels?

Gluten may be found in a variety of products, which is often very surprising for people. Gluten is used as a binder to make pills, so medications may pose a risk. Typically, generic medications are more likely to contain gluten. This concern also affects certain vitamins as gluten may be used as a binding agent in supplements and multi-vitamins, as well. Various cosmetics may contain gluten, including lip balm and lipstick. Here is the big surprise: even some items labeled “wheat free” may still contain gluten; they may contain barley or rye, for example, which are gluten containing grains.

Is a gluten free diet safe for everyone?

A gluten-free diet is not only safe for everyone, but it is also a powerful way to pursue a healthier lifestyle. There is nothing lost from the diet when a person goes gluten-free; there is only everything to gain.

Are there any products labelled “gluten-free” that we should be wary of?

There are countless products that are labeled “gluten-free” that should be absolutely avoided. Clever marketers are using the term “gluten-free” because, in the marketplace, this term seems to indicate that the product is better for a person’s health. Unfortunately, we are seeing the gluten-free label applied to very high carbohydrate and sugar containing products like cakes, cookies, crackers, pasta, bread, and so many others. This provides the misguided notion that these are good for your health. Products high in sugar and carbs are profoundly threatening to health and longevity, so the idea that because they are gluten-free they are somehow good is perpetrating a great disservice to the consumer.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about going gluten free?

Deciding to go gluten-free may well be one of the most important health decisions a person can make, not just for today but for the long term as well. Recognize that the introduction of gluten into the human diet is a very recent event in terms of humans existance. Our DNA was refined long before gluten was part of the human diet, so truly, consuming gluten containing foods that represent a direct challenge to us both in terms of the gut health and to our DNA.

Read this guide to going gluten-free the healthy way and see the benefits of eating more healthy fats. Then find out which vitamins you should be taking!