Week 9: Eliminating Grains & Gluten for 28 Days


This week I’m going to ask you to completely eliminate grains and gluten for the final 28 days of this journey.  

Bam!  There I said it.  The band-aid has been ripped off.  

“Apart from maintaining social conventions in certain situations and obtaining cheap sugar calories, there is absolutely no reason to eat grains.” – Mark Sisson

In my experience, there are few issues that are as big of an obstacle to better health and fitness as gluten and grains.  Let’s be honest, bread, pizza, baked goods and all things gluten are pretty freaking delicious.  Pasta is so easy to prepare that anyone can get it right.  Those temptations make elimination tough.  

The phrase “gluten free” is a hot buzzword in the fitness and food scene these days.  But most people have no idea why.  Let’s cut the crap by cutting out the crap, including the talking heads.  

I invite you to feel your way through the next 28 days without grains and gluten to determine for yourself if the change optimizes your holistic wellness.  

I’ll give you science to explain and backup what I’m saying, but this is truly something that you have to experience.  

Rather than take my word on all the biochemical metabolic repercussions of eating grains and gluten I want you to do a personal 28 day experiment.  Even if you don’t intend to give up gluten forever, at least you’ll know what wellness improvements you can come to expect, or not, when you do eliminate them from your diet.  


My BIG Statement.  Are you ready for it?

“If you’ve already eliminated processed sugars and hydrogenated oils from your regular diet, eliminating gluten and grains will have a bigger impact on your overall sense of wellness and your body composition than any other single change you can make.”  

The first time I completely eliminated gluten for 21 days I couldn’t believe the difference.  It was like a fog within my head had been lifted.  My ability to focus improved drastically, my energy levels were consistent throughout the day for the first time in my life, and I shed 15 pounds even though I was already at around 9-10% bodyfat at the time.  The difference in my skin was the most profound and noticeable change.  I had always struggled with cystic acne, but all that cleared up within the first 12 days of elimination for the first time since I was 13 years old.  Until I gave up gluten I also didn’t realize how mucousy I was all the time.

Another benefit of being grain and gluten free I’ve come to appreciate more at age 33 than I did at 25 is how much better my joints feel.  When I eat grains (due to social conventions, lack of other options or just plain indulgence) I notice a distinct difference in how my joints feel.  I wake up in the morning with a stiff back, achy knees and inflamed elbows if I trained on the rings a lot the day before.  When I’ve been grain free for an extended period of time (10-14 days) all that goes away along with any water I may have been retaining.

In regards to clients and friends who eliminated gluten and grains for the first time I’d estimate that they lose an average of about 15 pounds after 21 days of strict compliance (qualifier: while also avoiding HFCS and trans-fat).  It’s not uncommon to see people lose 25 or 30 pounds either.  Even more important than the numbers on the scale is how much better you’ll feel.  People report mental clarity, emotional balance, and improved physical performance and recovery.  

I’m asking you to go grain and gluten free for 28 days because it may take up to 14 days for your body to eliminate the anti-toxins in grains so I want you to have at least two full weeks of truly grain-free experience to serve as your wellness benchmark.


Why grains are bad?

All living organisms have evolved to have defense mechanisms that ensure their survival and propagation.  Deer have super-sensitive hearing and smell that allow them to sense predators and an impressive makeup of fast twitch muscle fiber that allows them to quickly run to safety.  Porcupines have needle-like spines that make them a tough meal.  Squids release ink that blinds and confuses their predators.   These attributes increase the likelihood of surviving a life-threatening situation.

Plants, however, are passive organisms without the ability to react in the same way as animals. They employ different tactics to ensure survival and rely on outside forces to spread their seed.  In turn plants have developed some ingenious ways to ensure that their consumption is delayed long enough for the seed to get where it needs to go.

Nuts have tough shells, and grains have the toxic anti-nutrients lectin, gluten and phytates.  Fruits have the most exquisite solution.  They’re nutritious and delicious which encourages animals to eat them and poop out the seed, hopefully into fertile soil.  The poop acts as a nice fertilizer and the seed is indigestible by design so it’s kept intact when it reaches soil.

Some animals like birds and rodents are adapted to eating grains.  Humans, unfortunately, for the most part haven’t adapted to handling the anti-nutrients.  They simply haven’t been apart of the human diet for long enough.  Since they weren’t a large part of our ancestral diet, our genetics haven’t adapted to the point that we can digest them properly.

This isn’t my opinion, it’s a fact based on scientific research on the biological effects of eating grains, anthropological evidence on ancestral diet, and genetic research on human epigenetic adaptation.

Lectins bind to insulin receptors, attack the stomach lining of insects, bind to human intestinal lining, and they seemingly cause leptin resistance. Leptin resistance predicts a “worsening of the features of the metabolic syndrome independently of obesity”.  Leptin the "satiety hormone," is a hormone made by adipose cells that helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger. Leptin is opposed by the actions of the hormone ghrelin, the "hunger hormone".  In obesity, a decreased sensitivity to leptin occurs, resulting in an inability to detect satiety despite high energy stores.

Gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley, is a composite of the proteins gliadin and glutenin. Around 1% of the population are celiacs, people who are completely and utterly intolerant of any gluten. In celiacs, any gluten in the diet can be disastrous. We’re talking compromised calcium and vitamin D3 levels, hyperparathyroidism, bone defects!

Gluten is also scary for those of us who are non-celiac or asymptomatic.  The undigested gluten protein floats around in our intestines like abrasive grains of sand in a sand storm.  The abrasive quality creates perforations in our thin intestinal lining that allows undigested food, including toxic substances our body would otherwise be discarding when we poop, to exit the intestines through the perforations and make their way the blood stream.  In an ideal world the epithelial cells whose cell membranes fuse together to form protein complexes called “tight junctions” would only permit water and nutrients to enter the bloodstream.  Unfortunately that isn’t always the case, especially if gluten is a mainstay in your diet.

Leaky gut syndrome is no joke.  The presence of toxic substance in the blood stream causes a systemic inflammatory response from the immune system.  Leaky gut syndrome can lead to gut disorders like IBS, food intolerances/allergies, asthma, autism, learning disorders in children, arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, obesity and metabolic syndrome, depression and skin disorders like acne and eczema.

Phytates are a problem, too, because they make minerals bio-unavailable. They can actually nullify an otherwise mineral-dense meal!  Legumes are also known to be high in phytates which is why you should only eat sprouted legumes if you must because the sprouting process breaks down the phytate proteins. (Legumes include beans and peanuts).


Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac’s Disease

This is what Primal Lifestyle guru, Mark Sisson, has to say about gluten sensitivity and Celiac’s Disease from his excellent blog, Mark’s Daily Apple:

“Gluten sensitivity or intolerance, once thought to be rare, is now believed to affect a third of the population. (Some believe this number is substantially higher.) It’s considered a genetically influenced, life-long autoimmune disease, but it sometimes doesn’t manifest itself until a person is in their thirties or even forties. When an affected person eats or drinks something containing gluten, the protein initiates a kind of allergic reaction in the body, resulting in some level of inflammatory reaction. The reaction can vary significantly from person to person and can manifest itself in a wide variety of initial symptoms that include: dermatitis, fatigue, joint pain, acid reflux, abnormal menses, and infertility. Some gluten sensitive people are asymptomatic, at least for a certain period of their lives.

In serious cases, gluten intolerance causes intestinal atrophy known as Celiac disease. The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America reports that 1 in 133 people have Celiac disease. Unfortunately, not everyone who develops Celiac disease will have recognizable symptoms before the condition has wreaked serious havoc in the intestinal system by flattening of the villus epithelium and subsequently decreasing the area for nutrient absorption. For these people, Celiac disease often isn’t diagnosed until after effects of malnutrition have set in (lack of growth in children, diarrhea, stomach pain and/or bloating, vomiting, behavioral changes, etc.). In these cases, biopsies are often taken to assess the extent of damage and to aid diagnosis. Even if biopsies are normal, there is still the chance that nutrient absorption is impaired.”


Grain and Gluten’s Impact on the Brain and Nervous System

There’s also a growing body of research that shows eating grains and gluten deteriorates the brain and nervous system possibly leading to nervous system diseases like Alzheimers.  Grain Brain written by Dr. David Perlmutter is a book you should check out if you’re interested in more information on how grains, gluten and sugar affect your brain and nervous system.  

In addition to bread, cereal, and baked goods, gluten manages to make it’s way into a lot of processed foods.  The goods news is that you’ve already started eliminating processed foods from your diet.  Dr. Perlmutter’s website has good resources including a list of gluten containing foods and a list of gluten free foods with a sample shopping list.     


Beware the “Gluten-free” Label

You know who makes a lot of money in the food industry?  

Companies that capitalize on a trend by slapping a “gluten-free” label on overly processed crap foods counting on the fact that the consumer won’t read anything else on the label or think critically about the ingredients if they do read it.  The gluten-free industry is exploding with crappier and more ridiculous products on a daily basis.  

Gluten-free has become a buzzword so food companies are replacing the gluten containing ingredients with crap that is at best as bad as gluten and at worst even scarier.  All are incredibly processed, just so they can slap that money making GLUTEN FREE emblem on the wrapper to increase sales.


Remember Week 2!

Take responsibility.

Read labels.

Think critically about what’s on the ingredient list.

Does processed potato starch sound like a healthy alternative to gluten?  No, it’s potato sugar!    

There are certainly some great gluten-free products out there. I just want you to be aware of how the food industry plays on the fear response and lack of personal responsibility of the masses.

Eliminating grains and gluten can be a drastic change for many of you.  But in regards to physical and mental transformation, this step yields “wow” type results if you truly stick with it.

I implore you to give it a shot.  You’ve come this far, so finish strong!

Grains and gluten always be there if you decide to “get back together” but if you avoid them completely for just 28 days, I have a feeling your relationship them will never be the same.