Kyla posted this question on the Wheat Belly Facebook page. Her story so perfectly illustrates some of the problems with gluten-free foods that I’m sharing it here. I started the wheat free diet at the end of May. I lost over 8 1/2 inches all over during June and at the end that month I found the “gluten free/wheat free” section at the grocery store. Not thinking about the fact that it had rice flour, I found things I really liked. Problem is I stopped losing and actually gained an inch back, and started getting incredibly bad headaches that would last for hours.  Could it be the rice flour? Yes, Kyla: The increase in fat weight and headaches can most definitely be blamed on the rice flour. We’ve discussed why such gluten-free replacements are unhealthy, but let’s do so again in some greater detail. There are four common flours used to replace wheat and gluten to recreate baked products like breads, pasta, and cookies:

  • Rice flour (and brown rice flour)
  • Potato flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Tapioca starch

You already know that wheat products raise blood sugar to high levels, such that 2 slices of whole wheat bread raises blood sugar higher than 6 teaspoons of table sugar. (Don’t believe it? It’s in every table of glycemic index. Get yourself an inexpensive glucose meter and test strips and check your blood sugar 30-60 minutes after consuming either: You will see high values after sugar, higher values after whole wheat bread.) What foods are worse than wheat? Rice flour, potato flour, cornstarch, and tapioca starch. Every time blood sugars rise to high levels, high insulin levels follow. Insulin blocks mobilization of fat and encourages fat deposition. So wheat makes you grow fat, especially the inflammatory visceral fat variety–and so do these gluten-free flours and starches. That’s why I call these gluten-free replacement ingredients junk carbs. Let me state this unequivocally: Gluten-free foods made with these junk carb ingredients make you fat. The values below would be a representative blood sugar experience 30-60 minutes after consumption of these foods: Fasting blood glucoose: 100 mg/dl After a whole wheat bagel: 167 mg/dl After a whole grain gluten-free bagel: 189 mg/dl These would be typical values in a non-diabetic. People with diabetes typically range even higher. Every time blood sugar ranges above 100 mg/dl, you glycate proteins, i.e,. you glucose-modify proteins irreversibly. If the proteins in the lenses of your eyes are glycated, they create opacities that, over time, result in cataracts. If the proteins in the cartilage of your knees and hips are glycated, cartilage becomes increasingly brittle, eroding over time and leading to arthritis. If the proteins in your LDL particles in the bloodstream are glycated, they are much more adherent to artery walls and cause atherosclerosis and heart attack. If you glycate the proteins in the skin layers, you get brittle skin and age spots. Glycation is a body-wide process and, the higher the blood sugar, the greater the glycation. It doesn’t end there. As Kyla observed, rice flour had effects that could not be blamed on blood sugar phenomena, headaches in her case. In addition to its exceptional glycemic potential, rice has a small quantity of wheat germ agglutinin (even though it is in rice) that is inflammatory and a direct bowel toxin. It also contains inorganic arsenic, a finding that had the FDA commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg hemming and hawing recently. FDA conclusion: levels detected did not provoke acute toxicity, even though the highest levels (30 mcg per serving in rice bran cereal) overlap with the toxic levels that occur in water in some parts of the world (WHO), but chronic toxicity is still an uncertainty. Among the effects of acute inorganic arsenic toxicity are neurological phenomena, such as headaches. If her gluten-free products were made with cornstarch, then there are other potential problems. Even though corn is technically classified as “gluten-free,” nobody tells you that the zein protein of corn overlaps substantially in amino acid structure with the gliadin proteins of wheat, rye, and barley. Many of effects triggered by wheat gliadin, such as increased intestinal permeability and anti-gliadin antibody autoimmune phenomena, are also triggered by the zein protein of corn. This explains why, for instance, in animal models of type 1 diabetes, 15% of animals eating wheat- and cornstarch-free chow develop the disease, while 57-70% of animals develop type 1 diabetes if they consume either corn- or wheat-containing chow.  And, because the majority of corn is now genetically-modified, it means that most corn products contain residues of the herbicides glyphosate and/or Bt toxin, as well as all the uncertainties introduced by the insertion of new genes, changes both genetic and epigenetic. In other words, the gluten-free industry have chosen to dig this deep hole for themselves, resorting to such junk ingredients to replace wheat and gluten. Don’t fall for it. And if you hear me repeating this over and over and over again, it is because the gluten-free message continues to propagate and engage many people who enjoy initial health benefits from elimination of wheat and gluten, just as Kyla did, only to then experience health problems because of the gluten-free bagels or breads you thought were good. 100% gluten-free usually means 100% awful.