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Laura Dolson

Is Gluten a Problem for You?

By March 4, 2012

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bread In 2012, there is a growing awareness that some people have problems when they eat gluten-containing foods. By now, you have probably seen lots of foods labeled "gluten-free", and may wonder about it. While there's no direct relationship between low-carb eating and gluten-free eating, I believe that it's a good idea to educate people who are sensitive to carbs about gluten, and possibly vice versa. This is because when people cut carbs they are almost always cutting way down on gluten and when people first go gluten-free, they usually cut back on carbs. Because of this, it's relatively easy to confuse the results of your dietary change, attributing to one what is caused by the other.

What is gluten? Gluten refers to the proteins in wheat which cause the dough to become elastic when kneaded. These proteins are also present in rye and barley, and in forms of wheat such as spelt, kamut, and bulgar. Since wheat is in many processed foods (think of ingredients such as starch and vegetable protein, as well as surprising foods such as soy sauce) a person on a gluten-free diet generally eats few processed foods (although food companies are rapidly rushing in to fill that gap).

When I went on my first reduced-carb diet 16 years ago, I was truly amazed by how much better I felt. It turned out that part of that dramatic change was because I am gluten intolerant. Unfortunately, when I found this out, I assumed that gluten was my only problem, so what did I do? Learned to bake with rice flour and other gluten-free grains! My weight came right back, and so did some of my symptoms. It took me awhile to figure out that I am glucose intolerant as well as gluten intolerant.

There is also a phenomenon where people who are overweight and go on a gluten-free diet often lose weight. My About.com buddy Jane Anderson, the Guide to Celiac Disease, has written a great article, Gluten-Free Diets and Weight Loss, about this topic. One of the people she cites is Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly. Dr. Davis writes about the detrimental effects of wheat, including its role in weight gain, but emphasizes that the weight loss won't be as likely to occur if people substitute other starches and sugars for the wheat. So is it the gluten, or the carbs? Perhaps both.

Another thing Jane has been writing a lot about lately is gluten sensitivity. Finally, there is evidence for something that many of us have known for a long time: that you don't have to have celiac disease to have problems with gluten. Estimates vary as to how many people are affected, but it seems as though it's at least 6-7% of the population. If you are interested in the topic, I highly recommend Jane's whole Celiac Disease site, as well as the following articles:
Also, did you know that all of my low-carb recipes are also gluten-free? Check out:

Photo © Elke Rohn

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March 5, 2012 at 1:51 pm
(1) GuestGirl says:

Having had type 2 diabetes and PCOS for 30 years I stayed on Atkins and did quite well. Then my low carb diet suddenly began to fail me. I had low carbed for 12 years (lost 150 lbs and kept it off for that long as well.) Then my weight started climbing again for reasons my doctors simply blamed on my eating habits and menopause (which I was not even in!). Anyhow, long story short, turns out I have celiac so needed to cut a lot more than carbs from my diet. I had been eating low carb tortillas and the occasional low carb bagel. I was really surprised to find how gluten is hiding in all kinds of things!!

I am now losing the weight again, and after years of suffering arthritis with fevers and terribly swollen joints those symptoms are also improving dramatically since I kicked gluten out of my life.

I am glad you pointed out the ill effects glutten can have on our health.

Love your site!

March 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm
(2) Pippa says:

I have started on a low carb diet since January this year and have lost some weight but most dramatically I have noticed that my very arthritic, painful swollen finger joints are no longer so swollen. I can make a fist for the first time in years and have so much more mobility in my hands. This is a very surprising result for me, and I suspect after reading a bit about glutens that it is because I no longer eat wheat. I am also feeling somewhat better in the gut (less bloating etc.). Of course this is not proof, as I can’t be sure if it’s what I’m not eating or what I am eating instead that’s caused this result. I wonder if anyone has done any clinical trials on arthritis and gluten. Also I suspect that while a child may be able to cope with high carb diets, lots of sugar etc. our digestive systems may start to fail us as we get older – which is why we are more likely to have adult onset diabetes, arthritis etc. in our senior years.

March 6, 2012 at 5:09 am
(3) alan says:

I follow a low carb diet mainly also and eat some fruit and I am in the best of health because of this. I gave up bread but enjoy great protein dishes. My doctor follows me and as I am doing very well. The low protein diet helped me lose a lot of weight 24 years ago.


March 11, 2012 at 11:28 am
(4) Benjamin Raucher says:

In general grains are not the best food.

Benjamin Raucher

March 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm
(5) Gloria says:

I found that all grains seemed to give me similar symptoms, so I am doing totally grain free. I am still having a problem losing weight and wonder if it is food related or thyroid related, since I am on a large dose of thyroid medication.

May 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm
(6) knees pain says:

I like the helpful information you provide
in your articles. I will bookmark your weblog and check again here
regularly. I am quite certain I will learn a lot of new stuff right
here! Best of luck for the next!

October 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm
(7) Dee says:

Hi Laura — thanks for the information. I’ve noticed that many low-carb baking recipes include the use of “vital wheat gluten” or “wheat germ.” Should low-carbers avoid these two?

Thank you!


October 19, 2012 at 9:42 am
(8) Ali says:

Ιt’s actually a nice and helpful piece of info. I am happy that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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