Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2012 10:00 AM
Matthew Weaver/Capital Press
Washington Association of Wheat Growers director of outreach Kara Rowe talks about her 30-day gluten-free diet while sitting at her parents' kitchen counter on the family farm in Creston, Wash., the morning of April 14. On the counter are examples of the kinds of foods she will be able to eat while on the diet for 30 days.
Woman gives up gluten for 30 days to explore health misconceptions
CRESTON, Wash. -- Kara Rowe is such a big supporter of wheat that she's going to stop eating it.
But only for a month.
Rowe, editor of Wheat Life magazine, and her husband, Ryan, have begun a 30-day gluten-free diet, cutting out wheat, barley and oat-based foods.
At the end of 30 days, Rowe will resume eating gluten, documenting her experiences "as an average person with no allergies and no major health problems" on her My Wheat Belly blog.
Rowe is working with a dietitian and will be seeing a doctor. She will track her weight and grocery costs.
"Wheat, I firmly believe, is not the source of our obesity levels, but the overeating of any food definitely is a problem," she said. "What causes those problems is the fact we eat eight doughnuts or five hamburgers a day and we don't exercise."
Dr. Peter H.R. Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York City, said Rowe won't experience any difference in the first 30 days, but if she were to continue long term she would become deficient in vitamin B and iron.
"We tell people we don't think a gluten-free diet is a very healthy diet," he said.
Gluten-free substitutes for food with gluten have added fat and sugar, Green said. Patients with celiac disease often gain weight and see their cholesterol levels go up.
Celiac disease damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy, according to the National Library of Medicine. The damage is caused by a reaction to gluten.
People with celiac disease often adopt a gluten-free diet to avoid symptoms.
However, Green said a lot of people go on gluten-free diets because they claim gluten sensitivity, which physicians cannot diagnose.
Green doesn't see any danger in eating wheat or other gluten-containing grains.
"The bulk of the world is eating wheat," he said. "The bulk of people who are eating this are doing perfectly well unless they have celiac disease."
Rowe is mindful of people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease diagnoses. But she stressed the need to go through doctor-recommended testing instead of self-diagnosis to combat the inaccurate claims and "fringe science" available on the Internet.
"My goal with this is to actually have a conversation about gluten," she said. "I want to know firsthand what the people who have to do deal with this actually go through. It's not easy having to lead a gluten-free life."
WAWG President Eric Maier likened Rowe's diet to the two-month, all-potato diet Washington State Potato Commission Executive Director Chris Voigt followed in 2010 to showcase the nutritional value of potatoes.
"Wheat is getting a little beat up in the mainstream media," Maier said, adding that along with exercise and a well-balanced diet, Rowe's undertaking is likely to put a positive light on wheat.
Rowe said the project is separate from her work with the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, where she is also director of outreach.
"This is Kara Rowe as a farmer's daughter doing this," she said. "I believe family wheat farmers not only grow a superior and healthy product, they do it in the most earth-friendly way possible."
My Wheat Belly: A gluten experiment: http://mywheatbelly.com
Posted By: Elizabeth Miles On: 5/2/2012
Title: Observations on Your Experiment
Please accept some respectfully submitted comments on your 30 day "experiment."
1. Nowhere in science is a database of 1 accepted as meaningful or statistically significant.
2. If you are not gluten sensitive, your 30 day gluten-free trial has no significance. Your reasoning is like saying that (despite the fact that you aren't, say, allergic to peanuts), you are going to go peanut-free for 30 days and then chronicle your feelings. It just makes no sense except as a publicity stunt and has no application to peanut allergies, which are, in fact, real and life-threatening for some.
3. It would be good to do more research on gluten insensitivity before embarking on a defense of wheat. You are taking an extremely simplistic approach to a very complex biomedical issue.
4. You have not done your research on gluten-free diets. They are not necessarily deficient in any micro or macro nutrients. Quite the contrary. When I moved away from a wheat-inclusive diet, I tracked my nutrition intake with the help of an M.D. who specializes in nutrition. I went from being deficient in several nutrients to having a completely nutritious diet.
5. Your defense of the wheat industry is unnecessary. People who choose to be gluten-free and/or grain free are not going to bring down the wheat industry. Nor are they trying to. They are just trying to find solutions to chronic health problems that are linked to gluten insensitivity. People who choose not to eat peanuts due to allergies are not trying to topple the peanut industry or threaten peanut farmers.
6. Your comments worry me because they might discourage people who are struggling with chronic health problems (and/or medical doctors) from exploring gluten sensitivity as a possible causative factor. I had chronic gastrointestical problems for years and consulted 3 medical doctors, none of whom asked me about my diet! I'm grateful to the doctor who brought it up as a possibility and helped me explore it. The first month I went grain-free, my weight dropped 10 pounds, my health problems began to resolve, and my diet was more nutrient-dense than ever before.
Please consider the impact of your comments on the welfare of individuals who might actually mistake your anecdotal "experiment" with actual research.
Thanks for listening.
Posted By: Cheyenne On: 5/1/2012
Title: It takes longer than 30 days
Dr. Green says, "The bulk of the world is eating wheat," and "the bulk of people who are eating this are doing perfectly well unless they have celiac disease." What an ignorant statement. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune diseases, obesity, and cancer are all skyrocketing. While the causes for this are debatable, and it is difficult to isolate any one factor that is responsible for the staggering increase in these diseases, we do know that grain consumption has increased dramatically in the last 30 years along with USDA recommendations to make grains the basis of our diets.
If Rowe thinks she is going to "explore misconceptions" about a gluten-free diet in 30 days, that just shows how little she knows about the actual disease process associated with gluten. It takes at least 6 months for the intestinal damage seen in celiac to begin to repair itself. And if Rowe is "an average person with no allergies and no major health problems," how is going off wheat for a month going to "combat [so-called] inaccurate claims"? It sounds to me like it is in her best interest to promote the sale of wheat, both as the daughter of farmers and as a representative of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers. If she replaces the gluten in her diet with low-nutrient density foods, such as many of the processed GF foods currently on the market, then yes, she might be vulnerable to B vitamin and iron deficiencies. But if she replaces the gluten-containing grains with high nutrient density foods (vegetables, meats, healthy fats) she is in no danger of suffering from nutritional deficiencies whatsoever. It is extremely possible - and even easy - to have a healthful GF diet. I would encourage anyone interested to visit one of these websites: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/ or http://robbwolf.com/. A lot of people are seeing incredible improvements in their health - and yes, cholesterol levels - when transitioning to a grain free diet. As far as gluten sensitivity vs. true celiac disease, just because our tests may not be sensitive enough to make a diagnosis, doesn't mean gluten sensitivity doesn't exist. Even our tests for celiac are known to be extremely inaccurate. A bowel biopsy is needed to make a true diagnosis in many sufferers because there is such a high rate of false negatives with the blood tests. And a bowel biopsy may be inaccurate if the person performing the endoscopy happens to take a sample from an unaffected patch of tissue. I tested negative for celiac, but when I went off grains, my general health and cholesterol levels improved dramatically. I brought my triglycerides down from over 400 to normal. I lost weight I hadn't been able to lose for years. My diabetes improved to the point where I was able to go off insulin completely. I feel better and have so much more energy. There is a wealth of information in the book Dangerous Grains for anyone who is interested in educating themselves, and I would encourage Rowe to read it.
Posted By: Dan Kallem On: 4/19/2012
Oh, and I forgot to mention that when I dropped wheat from my diet almost 5 years ago, my weight dropped over 15 pounds in the next three months and has remained stable there ever since, regardless, it seems, of the amount of exercise I engage in.
I love wheat (boy, do I miss pizza!), but it clearly doesn't love me, and like many I've benefitted immensely in dropping it from my diet. You may too.
Posted By: Dan Kallem On: 4/19/2012
Look, no one is saying that wheat or gluten are a problem for everyone, but it clearly is for some of us, even many not diagnosed with Celiacs Disease. To not try to help these people understand and treat their problem so that the wheat industry isn't adversely effected economically would be absurd, even immoral, and this article takes pains to present the presumptively innocent concerns of the wheat industry as gospel, when the truth may be a bit more nuanced.
If you are someone who is suffering from symptoms that have led your doctors to conclude you may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome or other ill-understood illness, or if you just find yourself bloated and having poor bowel movements all the time, then do yourself a favor and just cut out the wheat for three days and see if your symptoms don't improve. Mine sure did, as did my brother's after he later tried the same dietary restriction. I had developed this allergy, or sensitivity to wheat and wheat-based products, later in life it seems, perhaps after overloading up my system on the constant stream of wheat products our culture presents to us hungry consumers: breads, pastas, cakes, cookies, fried-foods, beers, and many, many more foods loved by Americans.
And while I appreciate the apparent earnestness with which Ms. Rowe is approaching her subject, it is also impossible to ignore the built-in conflict of interest she is attempting to operate under. Contrary to what the article implies, it is perhaps her approach and certainly the tone of this article where we see the true expression of the imperatives of "fringe science," as in, science conducted and promoted by industry in the name of economic advantage or gain, regardless of its objective truth.
And the notion that, "It's not easy having to lead a gluten-free life," is simply ridiculous, as there are increasingly numerous gluten-free choices in the stores, multiplying like mad bunnies as I write this (although fast food still has a ways to go). Or perhaps this sentiment is simply an expression of the same laziness that has helped make us such an obese, sedentary people?
Posted By: Tom Gibson On: 4/19/2012
Title: This is science?
This is a completely distorted twisting of the research Davis talks about in his book "Wheat Belly". There are a number of problems with modern hybrids of wheat. First of all they are bred for higher yields, not higher nutrition. Unfortunately the USDA commodity programs promote the idea that fat cereals and fat people are healthy for our economy. The biggest part of the increase production increase is in creating a larger carbohydrate capsule that is mostly amylopectin-A., Amylocpecti-A is digested and turned into glucose in your blood stream faster than sucrose (table sugar). High amounts of glucose in your blood stream cause permanent damage to your body and are one of the leading causes of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. Modern hybrids have proteins that are often not existing in either hybrid parent. Novel or new proteins causes allergic and other immune responses in animals. So, what is official about this experiment? Can it be that the person doing it is the editor of "Wheat Life" magazine and whose family makes it's living growing modern hybrids of wheat? Is that what we are calling science nowadays?