New research shows that eating gluten free is associated with a higher risk of exposure to arsenic and mercury. Find out why and what you can do about it.
Thinking about going gluten free? You’re hardly alone if you are. Despite the fact that doctors say that fewer than 1% of people would benefit from a gluten-free diet, they have nevertheless become increasingly popular over the past few years as many people think this way of eating can help them lose weight, reduce fatigue, and improve mental clarity. And while those are all good goals, a gluten-free diet might not be the safest way to achieve them for those who do not have celiac disease or a severe wheat allergy. In fact, new research shows that eating gluten free is associated with a higher risk of exposure to arsenic and mercury.
The study, which was a joint effort by scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Chicago, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, found that individuals who adhere to a gluten-free diet may end up with considerably higher levels of both arsenic and mercury in their bodies.1 Bulka, Catherine M.; et al. “The Unintended Consequences of a Gluten-Free Diet.” Epidemiology. 15 February 2017. Accessed 18 February 2017. http://journals.lww.com/epidem/Citation/publishahead/The_Unintended_Consequences_of_a_Gluten_Free_Diet_.98893.aspx. Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical element that can contaminate drinking water and food sources and contribute to the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Mercury is a known neurotoxin that is associated with adverse health effects that include muscle weakness, loss of coordination, and numbness.
Gluten-free diets were initially designed for those suffering from celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that prevents sufferers from adequately absorbing nutrients due to a reaction to gluten proteins in wheat, rye, and barley. Therefore, gluten-free diets are often based on other forms of carbohydrates such as rice and oat flour, allowing practitioners to avoid consumption of gluten triggers.
While fewer than one percent of Americans have a diagnosis of celiac disease, a whopping 25 percent of Americans said they consumed gluten-free foods in 2015. Now, in some of these cases, it’s entirely possible that they have not yet been diagnosed with celiac or that they have a wheat sensitivity, which can produce similar but less severe problems. But in plenty of other cases, people may just be jumping on the bandwagon because gluten-free diets have been promoted in the media lately.
By switching to a gluten-free diet, you will be consuming more foods made with rice flour since that is the most common wheat substitute. The problem is that rice often absorbs any metals present in the soil in which it is grown, in the fertilizer used to cultivate it, and in nearby water supplies. And arsenic and mercury may very well be among those metals.
Based on urine and blood samples taken from participants, the study found that those with gluten-free diets had nearly twice the levels of arsenic and 70 percent more mercury than their peers eating more conventional diets. This type of exposure over the long term could potentially increase the risk of numerous health issues, including everything from gastrointestinal issues to cancer and from immune system problems to skin rashes.
If you do have a sensitivity to gluten and “actually” feel better when you reduce your intake or cut it out of your diet completely, don’t despair. You can still eat gluten-free with less of a focus on rice-flour products. You might want to speak with a nutritionist to get some alternative ideas to add to your menus. Try to rotate the grains you use, incorporating more quinoa, corn, buckwheat, and such to lessen your use of rice. You can also keep your fiber intake high by substituting vegetables for grain-based items in some cases, such as when putting peanut butter on celery rather than on rice crackers, for example.
And detoxing is another valuable tool to keep heavy metals from accumulating in your body. Using a colon cleanse and heavy metal detox formula every few months is an essential way to prevent heavy metal toxicity. The right formula will help flush out the buildup of arsenic, mercury, and other dangerous substances that may come from your diet or anywhere else in the environment.
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|1.||↑||Bulka, Catherine M.; et al. “The Unintended Consequences of a Gluten-Free Diet.” Epidemiology. 15 February 2017. Accessed 18 February 2017. http://journals.lww.com/epidem/Citation/publishahead/The_Unintended_Consequences_of_a_Gluten_Free_Diet_.98893.aspx.|