The Gluten Weight Gain Connection

Aimee E. Raupp is the author of Chill Out and Get Healthy– a no nonsense guide for women on improving their health now. As well she is a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist with a masters of science in Traditional Oriental Medicine. For more information visit

Everyone’s talking about gluten these days. Is it just hype or are wheat and other gluten containing foods bad for us? The short answer is yes.

Let me explain. Gluten is a large, water-soluble protein that makes doughy things doughier. It is comprised of two proteins: gliadin and glutenin and is found in grains like wheat, rye and barely (click here for a concise list of gluten containing foods.) As well, since gluten is such a good thickener, these days we can find it in most packaged and processed foods and candy. Gluten has become a staple of the American diet and our health is suffering because of it.

“How?” You ask.

Gluten is a very inflammatory substance that is difficult to digest and causes damage to the walls of your intestines. When this damage occurs, your intestinal walls become leaky and are unable to carry out their expected task of digesting necessary nutrients and filtering out toxins and hence, toxins make their way back into your bloodstream causing an autoimmune reaction. This autoimmune reaction manifests differently in each person, but ultimately, it predisposes you to many diseases and often leaves you feeling unwell, bloated and fatigued.

When it comes to gluten reactions, there are people with Celiac disease and there are people with gluten intolerance. About 1% of the population has Celiac disease—a genetic condition of severe gluten intolerance and then there are the other 30-40% of the population who have a more mild form of gluten intolerance.

So could gluten be the reason you’re not losing weight? Quite possibly. The way I describe this issue: if you are eating something every day that your body can’t digest and get nutrients from –your body simply thinks it being starved for nutrients so it will hold onto weight as a protective mechanism.

Gluten intolerances have many more deleterious effects on our health than just weight gain, such as diabetes, autoimmune diseases (like Hashimoto’s and rheumatoid arthritis), migraines, anxiety, depression, vitamin D deficiency and even cancer and infertility. Not to mention, if you have a thyroid disease (which approximately 12 million Americans do) eating gluten can dramatically worsen your condition. Clinically, I find that many health care conditions—from infertility to unexplained weight gain and thyroid disease—improve when gluten is removed from a patient’s diet.

Why is gluten intolerance so prevalent these days?

Bluntly put, because it’s cheap and in everything. Mainly, we get gluten from wheat—and the modernized strain of American wheat we are exposed to has a much higher gluten content than those found in other countries.

What to do? You can get tested either through bloodwork or a stool sample for gluten intolerances, with stool testing being more accurate. Or, a simpler way is to remove gluten from your diet for a minimum of 4 weeks keeping a journal tracking changes in your digestion, weight, mood and skin. Then reintroduce gluten and see how you feel. I bet you’ll see that you feel a lot better (and less bloated and leaner) off of gluten. Go gluten free—your health will thank you.


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