Digestive Health Mold Illness

The hidden dangers of not eating a gluten free diet

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: September 6, 2018
gluten free diet

Do you need a gluten free diet?

I’m going to be out-of-the-gate honest with you here and tell you that I personally consume and recommend a gluten free diet. More and more doctors recommend gluten free products due to a variety of factors. Is the gluten problem just a “wheat problem?” Well, for those with celiac disease, we know it’s not. However, for certain people with “gluten intolerance, ” some speculate it is indeed primarily the wheat. I’ll explain in a bit.

gluten free dietFirst, let me differentiate between being “gluten intolerant” and having celiac disease.

If you have weight loss, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, those are the classic celiac disease symptoms which can occur in those with gluten intolerance.

Some people with celiac have no GI tract symptoms, and the same holds true for those with gluten intolerance.

Either “population” can have a little bloating and even constipation, but can also have a history of food allergies, leaky gut, and skin rashes with gluten ingestion.

The fact that more people are less tolerant of gluten may relate to the bulk of wheat being GMO, even though gluten is in other grains too as I’ll discuss in a minute. Gluten’s probable effect on immune system depression and brain health and not just “faddism” is likely why gluten-free is the fastest growing specialty sector in foods in the United States.

What is a Gluten Free Diet?

A Gluten free diet is exactly as described; it’s a diet without gluten. Gluten is found in rye, barley, triticale and wheat. (Not just wheat as is commonly believed.)  One of the most common reasons a gluten-free diet is consumed is due to celiac disease.

Celiac disease also referred to as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is a digestive and autoimmune disorder. When foods with gluten are consumed, the lining of the small intestines are damaged, and those with the disorder usually experience abdominal pain and diarrhea. Since gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines, eating a gluten free diet will essentially make those with celiac disease symptom-free. But if you’re a celiac, don’t take that to the bank. People with celiac disease often have such damaged intestines that things such as spices and cross-reactivities with other foods will cause “celiac reactions.”

According to Safe Medication, more than 3 million Americans may have celiac disease, which is one of the top reasons people choose to eat a gluten free diet.

Link Between Food and Symptoms:

The typical American diet consists of unhealthy, processed foods that come either pre-made, pre-cooked, or prepared in advance. There has been an increase in gluten sensitivities over the past ten years not only because of the “All-American diet” but because researchers are connecting the dots between foods and symptoms.

need to eat gluten free food listGluten sensitivities occur because people who cannot properly digest gluten, or possibly even make the same antibodies (without the genes for celiac) develop gastrointestinal and other symptoms such as food allergies, skin rashes and more.

In addition to the above issues, those with this intolerance may experience a variety of other non-gastrointestinal symptoms. Many individuals are gluten intolerant but have yet to be diagnosed or find the reason behind their distress.

Your diet may very well be the reason!

If you are a person with celiac disease who has no GI symptoms, your auto-antibodies can attack other organs such as your brain, as a woefully under-diagnosed cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

Even those with “allergic” (non-celiac) gluten illness can suffer the consequences of an over-activated immune system; autoimmune diseases and even cancer.

So if you think you might have an issue, do get some testing done. Even if you don’t have any positive antibodies and have “nonceliac genes,” you know your body. If it doesn’t “like” gluten or if you have read the scary reports linking gluten to skin, immune and brain illness, then eliminate the gluten.

What has changed? Why is this happening?

Wheat today is made differently than what our ancestors milled and ate. It’s even different than it was 20 years ago! Wheat now contains significant amounts of gluten protein and pure wheat flour being milled into refined white flour. Not only that, but the bulk of wheat farmed in the U.S. is genetically modified (GMO). As a result, we consume high-gluten, GMO, refined grains. Interestingly enough, many Americans with sensitivity to gluten report that, when they visit Europe, they can eat the bread without problems. This is likely due to the European Non-GMO laws and the way they process (in this case don’t process) their wheat products.

How do you know you have an intolerance to Gluten or even Celiac Disease?

If you suspect you might have a gluten issue, especially celiac disease, do NOT just cut out gluten from your diet-see your doctor first. Why? Because for blood testing to be accurate you need to be eating gluten. Therefore, do this first. The labs you need are:

Anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTG-IgA):

This screening test is the most sensitive test for celiac disease. Approximately 98% of people with celiac have a positive tTG test. False positives are found in people who have other auto-immune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Type I diabetes.

Anti-endomysial antibodies (EMA-IgA):

Someone with an elevated EMA has an almost 100% chance of having celiac disease. However, it is not as sensitive as the tTG test, and around 5-10% of people with celiac disease have a negative EMA test. Genetic testing is helpful to rule out celiac disease but is not conclusive as 30% of Caucasians are positive for one of the two “celiac genes.” That gene is the HLA-DQ-2 gene. The other is the less common HLA-DQ-8 gene. Most of the time, a small intestinal biopsy from multiple sites is required for a definitive diagnosis. If you have been exposed to mold, I would also advise getting anti-gliadin antibodies as CIRS (mold immune-inflammatory chronic disease) can produce symptoms that closely mimic celiac.

Then if the testing for celiac disease and biotoxin illness is negative, we’ll advise you to do what you should do with other food intolerances. The best way to find out whether you have an intolerance to any food is to avoid it. But first, you might want to go to an Allergist-Immunologist for food sensitivity evaluation. Then, even if nothing shows up, I’m totally convinced that if someone thinks they have an issue-they have an issue.

So, try to cut gluten out of your diet for up to two weeks after you have had blood tests drawn, with results returned. Almost everyone will benefit from avoiding grains due to the spike it may cause in insulin, obesity, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. There is even a strong case being researched about the relationship between grains and Alzheimer’s. We might well find out that all grains, especially unsprouted grains are indeed related to Alzheimer’s disease. Do your research; Dr. David Perlmutter is a real expert in this area.

How can you avoid Gluten?

Avoiding grains is simply not enough; you must focus on what you are eating altogether. Some gluten-free foods may contain more false ingredients and even gluten! It is imperative to cut out overly processed, non-verified as gluten-free foods, read all labels, and even research the company. Note that some companies will label a product “gluten-free, ” when, in fact, it isn’t! For up to date information on who to trust and who not to trust I refer you to www.celiac.com

The best way to avoid gluten food items is to eat a diet with fresh, whole organic foods. Your symptoms of gluten intolerance will decrease, and you’ll experience benefits that will show within weeks of cutting out “the bad stuff.”

Approved list of Gluten Free Foods:

Remember only to purchase organic, local, whole food items when possible. You can also buy flash frozen but double-check everything!

Low sugar fruits: tomato, zucchini, squash, pumpkin, lime, lemon, eggplants, and avocados. Note that some celiacs have issues with tomatoes and high acid fruits initially, while their GI tract is on the mend.

Protein: Stick to lean meats that are grass fed-organic-free range, whole eggs, wild fish, wild game, shellfish and mollusks.

Healthy Fats: You can cook with coconut oil, add extra virgin olive oil as a dressing, olives, almond milk, organic butter, seeds, all nut butter, and all cheese except for blue cheese.

Vegetables such as dark greens, kale, spinach, chard, asparagus, scallions, ginger, parsley, water chestnuts, garlic, green beans, collards, mushrooms, onions, and any other fresh greens you like to eat.

Be moderate with whole sweet fruits, carrots, and parsnips, cow’s milk products such as milk and cottage cheese, yogurt, wine, and non-gluten grains.

Safe food vendors:

This is taken from the celiac website and is not complete but here are some reliably gluten-free companies.


gluten free foodsBob’s Red Mill gluten-free

1-2-3 Meredith’s Marvelous

Authentic Foods gluten-free


Cause You’re Special


The Cravings Place

Andean Dream


Organic Nectars



Foods by George

Gluten-free FULL FLAVOR Gravy Packets

Prana Bar

Enjoy Life



Against the Grain

Markedly, there are certainly others and within companies, some reliably gluten-free products. However, do remember the U.S. government doesn’t require gluten labeling. Gluten is used as a thickener.

It is allowed in small amounts for products labeled gluten-free, so if you are a highly sensitive celiac, you need to watch all processed foods. You also need to watch where foods are prepared.

I was about to carry a line of organic, non-GMO, vegetarian “gluten-free” meals on this website but noticed where the foods were made. I then looked up the manufacturer, and it was a pasta maker!

When I called them, they said that “no, they didn’t have a gluten-free prep zone for the veggie meals.” The veggie meal CEO didn’t KNOW that his salespeople were selling these quite tasty but tummy-unsettling meals as “gluten-free.” Seriously?

It’s a jungle out there, even when people are entirely well-meaning, unlike the government. It’s not just foods, though. When I first saw gluten-free beauty products even, I thought “what the heck is this about.” Then, I got more educated.

Medications, Supplements And Beauty Products:

Foods are not the only products that have gluten. Both medications, supplements and beauty products can also contain gluten.

A lot of people wouldn’t think medication contains gluten, but it’s true. At this moment the FDA does not require medications to have a warning label for gluten. Great efforts have brought up awareness, but you need to be careful what you’re taking. If you find that one of your medications does contain gluten, bring it to the attention of your treating physician. Just ask your Pharmacist to check for you.

For those of you who take dietary supplements to improve your health, you sure wouldn’t want gluten in your supplements as a “filler” would you? Well, guess what? If you don’t have a supplement with a GMP sticker as well as a Non-GMO label you are no doubt purchasing a supplement with a GMO-corn or GMO-wheat filler. Excellent job, FDA, right? So be sure to get pharmaceutical grade supplements, and you’ll avoid this issue. Yes indeed, all supplements “here” are non-GMO and gluten-free.

Beauty products such as lotions, balm, and lipstick that contain gluten likely cause harm to those with celiac disease. These are also the products you probably wouldn’t think of such as shampoos, conditioners, and soaps due to absorption through the skin.


Avoid any foods or drinks that contain Barley, Wheat, Rye, and Triticale. Many beers contain gluten too, by the way.

Foods that are naturally gluten-free are fruits and vegetables, the majority of dairy products, fresh meats, fish and poultry, beans, seeds and nuts that are unprocessed and fresh eggs.

Buy meats that are not battered, breaded, or marinated.

Avoid foods such as cereal, pasta, and snacks unless they state on the package gluten-free, but still, review the ingredients to ensure they are certified. (Check the website referenced above).

Avoid oats unless they state they are gluten-free.

Be cautious of food additives, cosmetics, medications, and vitamins that may contain gluten.

Watch out for cross-contamination: Store and prepare gluten foods away from gluten-free foods. Also, review products made in a facility with gluten items as well as restaurants. Many restaurants offer gluten-free options, especially the “higher star” restaurants. Feel free to ask your waiter to summon the chef to your table so you can specify what you need. If you have celiac, you must be sure there is a separate preparation area for gluten-free foods.

Begin slowly by cutting out any gluten containing foods. Record how you feel daily. Once you eliminate all gluten, then see how you feel in one to two weeks. If you have celiac disease, gluten is not an option so avoid gluten entirely and follow the list of foods and beverages above. However, if you have a gluten sensitivity, you will also see an improvement in whatever symptoms you may be experiencing.

To Sum It Up

If this is a lifestyle choice, I am one of the doctors who agrees that we’ll be seeing more and more data conveying this is a GREAT lifestyle choice. The diet I recommend is an anti-inflammatory diet which is gluten-free and grain-limited. In the case of some gluten “getting in there” and for other reasons, I recommend immune support supplements and  brain boosting supplements as well.



  1. I agree-I got the wrong info about gluten from my doctor and can always count on you to supply the right info!

  2. Really enjoyed this article.Thanks for giving us the corrects labs.

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