gluten free | Integrative functional medicine blog

"Any fool can Know. The point is to understand" - Albert Einstein

Going gluten free may not be as healthy as you thought! Chew on this wrench!

Going gluten free may not be as healthy as you thought!

Gluten free is all the rage theses days. Every one and their grandmother is doing it. It’s sooo cool. All the popular kids are doing it. You should be too!

And there are some really valid reasons for going gluten free, which is too big of a topic for this short little blog/vlog. But, for most people I’m a big fan of going gluten free.

However, most people are doing the whole gluten free thing all wrong, and I’m throwing a big fat wrench into how healthy your gluten free diet may be. In fact, for some people going gluten free can be one of the most unhealthy things they do.

Walk into any health food store and you will see all types of new foods and food variations that are gluten free.

How do they make all those breads, crackers, pastas, cereals, etc. gluten free?

One simple ingredient. RICE!

Gluten-free folks accustomed to eating rice-based gluten-free breads, pastas, cereals, and other substitutes may be consuming dangerously high levels of arsenic.

In fact, a 2017 study showed people consuming rice-based products on a regular basis showed almost twice as much arsenic in their urine compared to those who did not (and 70 percent more mercury, another troublesome finding.)

Why arsenic is harmful

Arsenic is a naturally occurring heavy metal. It is the inorganic arsenic (not bound to carbon) that is toxic to humans if levels ingested are too high.

Although inorganic arsenic occurs naturally, it also accumulates in soil and water due to pesticides and fertilizers. Because rice grows in water, it is the grain highest in arsenic.

Consistent exposure to small amounts of arsenic increases the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer, as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurological disorders. Consuming arsenic during pregnancy may affect the baby’s immune system.

Consumer Reports found one serving of rice pasta, rice cereal, and rice milk exceeded a safe amount of arsenic for one week while one serving of rice cakes came close.

The FDA recently proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice cereal.

However, it’s impossible to know how much arsenic is safe to consume as risk is dose dependent; the more you consume the higher the risk.

Personally, I think ZERO is a good number. I don’t want my kids getting exposed to any arsenic if I can help it.

How to minimize arsenic exposure from rice

These troubling truths about arsenic exposure through rice don’t have to spell doom for gluten-free folks who depend on rice-based substitutes.

For starters, look for products made from other grains besides rice. Thankfully, there are many more on the market these days. But you will still have a hard time finding one that fulfills all your health requirements. Sometimes you may need to make slight trade offs.

Look at where your rice comes from.

In 2014 Consumer Reports found that rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas had the highest concentrations of inorganic arsenic
while California rice has almost 40 percent less arsenic.

Brown basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan has a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices.

Unfortunately, because the arsenic comes from the water, organic rice may not be lower in arsenic.

Consider white rice.

Since arsenic tends to accumulate in the outer layers that are removed to turn brown rice into white, white rice contains less of the toxin than the whole grain. But, as I outline below this may contribute to making the whole high glycemic index issue worse.

Rinse your rice thoroughly and cook in excess water.

Wash your rice thoroughly before cooking and then cook your rice in a ratio of about six cups of water to one cup of rice and drain the excess water after. This cuts down arsenic levels by about one third compared to letting rice absorb all the water during cooking.

Consider a grain-free diet. (Probably the best route for most people)

Many people feel and function significantly better on a grain-free diet. If you don’t eat rice-based products, excessive arsenic exposure is one less thing to worry about in a world where we are constantly at battle with toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
Ask my office for more ways to protect yourself from toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

P.S. - Another reason why the typical gluten free diet can be bad is because with all this substituting certain gluten free foods for other things, particularly breads, crackers, cereals and pasta type foods, they tend to be higher glycemic index.

The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food turns into sugar. This makes it more likely that those eating this type of diet will develop or worsen diabetes. So it seems as though you are doomed if you do and doomed if you don’t.

Health can often be a complex and tricky endeavor. If you need help restoring or maintaining your health please give my office a call to set up an appointment.

Until next time,
Be healthy, be happy,

Dr. Craig Mortensen

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