Many people wouldn't consider a diet free from gluten – a protein found in grains like wheat, rye and barley – dairy products and processed sugar. For some, however, like those with autoimmune diseases, cancer and other serious chronic diseases, removing these three things from their diets may help lessen inflammation and promote a healthy immune system.
Repair a Leaky Gut
Leaky gut syndrome – also called increased intestinal permeability – occurs when there is a deterioration in the walls of the intestines and may be a implicated in a number of chronic diseases including autoimmune disorders. Pharmaceutical drugs, processed sugar and a protein found in gluten called gliadin can cause leaky gut, according to acupuncturist and integrative practitioner Chris Kresser, L.Ac. When the gut integrity is impaired, large molecules like food proteins are able to fit through the barrier, resulting in an immune response, causing food allergies and potentially triggering autoimmunity. Removing common culprits of leaky gut like sugar, dairy and gluten may help re-balance the immune system and improve overall health.
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Why You Should Avoid Gluten
Gluten intolerance affects approximately 18 million people, or 6 percent of the U.S. population, according to 2013 information provided by the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment. Celiac disease – a serious autoimmune disorder caused by ingesting gluten – is believed to affect around 1 in 131 people or 1 percent of the population in the United States. Eliminating gluten from the diet takes effort and vigilance, as in addition to avoiding wheat, rye and barley, you will need to remove "low gluten" grains, like spelt and kamut, from your diet, as well as avoid most processed foods since they may contain hidden gluten in their ingredients like caramel color, baking powder, citric acid and numerous others, according to Dr. Amy Myers, an expert on the gluten-free lifestyle.
What's Wrong With Dairy
Dairy may be one of the most common food sensitivities in the world, according to Mark Hyman, M.D., writing for HuffPost Healthy Living. This is particularly true for people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or leaky gut syndrome. Dairy is not the ideal source of dietary calcium either due to its high content of saturated fats and possible links to certain cancers, according to the Harvard School of Public Health website. Calcium can also be found in legumes, nuts and dark green leafy vegetables.
Avoid Sugar for Good Health
Not only is sugar implicated in leaky gut syndrome and heightened inflammation, according to Kresser, it may also be linked to a number of other health concerns like Type 2 diabetes and obesity, which in turn can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Further, sugar consumption is directly linked to diabetes even when outside factors like obesity, alcohol use and sedentary lifestyle are taken into account, according to a study published in the February 2013 issue of the peer-reviewed journal, "PLOS ONE."
A diet free from gluten, dairy and sugar should focus on healthy, whole foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. Protein sources can include wild-caught fish and organic or grass-fed meat. Avoid processed foods to avoid hidden sources of dairy, gluten and sugar.
- Chris Kresser, L.Ac: 9 Steps to Perfect Health – #5: Heal Your Gut
- Center for Celiac Research & Treatment: Gluten Sensitivity FAQ
- University of Chicago: Celiac Disease Center
- Clinical Medicine and Research: Celiac Disease and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
- Huffpost Healthy Living: Dairy: 6 Reasons You Should Avoid It at All Costs or Why Following the USDA Food Pyramid Guidelines is Bad for Your Health
- Harvard School of Public Health: Calcium and Milk
- PLOS ONE: The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data