You must think I’m crazy, right. I know. I avoid gluten like the plague. It gives me terrible brain fog, anxiety attacks, migraines and digestive upset. I’ve been gluten free for about 5 years now. It helped me in a number of ways. Better skin, digestion, mental clarity and so much more.
On one of our recent well baby check ups with our naturopath, she mentioned that we may want to introduce common allergens early in our solid food program. I was taken aback. I’m like “did that really just come out of her mouth?”. She told me that the recent research is saying to do so. I didn’t really believe her. So I started doing my own research.
Sure enough. I found a few articles on PubMed that supports her recommendation about gluten. There are also some studies that say not to. What is a mom to do?
The jest of the articles are:
- To be breastfeeding your baby during the introduction to the gluten. It’s an important factor in preventing Celiac Disease and other immune-related problems.
- To introduce the gluten between 4 and 7 months of age.
- Start with 1 teaspoon of cereal per day but only while still breastfeeding.
- Some studies say the timing of the introduction of gluten and the breastfeeding didn’t matter.
- We may want to treat gluten like we do the chickenpox, the body needs exposure to learn how to deal with it.
Here are the links to the studies I’m referencing.
Then I found this by Chris Kresser about two trials:
“So here come these two randomized clinical trials. It’s a much better methodology for studying this question, by the way. You know, earlier studies on this topic were often observational and just looking at when gluten was introduced, and then coming to conclusions. But these studies were randomized clinical trials, where they actually set up experiments to test this hypothesis. They don’t support the idea that introducing gluten earlier can prevent celiac disease. So let’s look at these studies.
The first one was done in the Netherlands, but it included kids in seven European countries and I think also from Israel. There were about 1,000 babies that were identified as high risk for celiac based on their genotype—so their HLA genotype and their family history. The babies were randomized. One group was given 100 mg of gluten at four months. The control group was given placebo and instructed not to introduce that until six months. Then at six months, both parents were advised to introduce gluten-containing foods. Then they tracked the incidence of celiac disease through a three-year follow-up period. What they found was that 5% of the study population developed celiac by age three, and it made no difference when it was introduced—whether it was introduced at four months or whether it was introduced at six months. Perhaps surprisingly, it also made no difference in this study whether the babies were breastfed exclusively or even not exclusively, or whether they were currently being breastfed when gluten was eventually introduced. So that’s the first study.
The second study came out of Italy. It was a similar design to the first one, but it compared the introduction of gluten at six and ten months. What they found, actually, was that delaying the introduction of gluten to 12 months did delay the diagnosis of celiac, but it didn’t prevent it. At age two, 12% of the babies who started eating gluten at six months had celiac, compared to 5% of the babies who started eating it at 12 months. That’s a pretty big difference. That’s more than double the incidence of celiac for babies that started eating it at six months, versus babies who started eating it at 12 months. But by five years of age, 16% of both groups had been diagnosed with celiac. There was no difference by the time the kids were five years old. Again, in this study, breastfeeding wasn’t related at all—so whether the kid was breastfed or not didn’t impact whether they developed celiac.”
These two studies suggest:
- that WHEN the gluten is introduced may make a difference in WHEN celiac develops in kids.
- Introducing gluten later may be helpful in delaying Celiac.
- When gluten is introduced doesn’t affect whether someone will develop Celiac Disease by 5 years old.
What these studies haven’t considered in the rise of Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity are the conditions of our gut microbiome. This includes our environment, antibiotic usage, what GMO’s are contributing to this problem, and also what other lifestyle factors do to our microbiome.
There are a lot of things we can do to reduce our likelihood of having trouble with gluten. We can strengthen our microbiome. These things have contributed to the rise in Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac and we can do our best to avoid these.
- Our overly sterile environments- let your kids get dirty and eat dirt.
- The overuse of antibiotics- look for alternatives or homeopathic ways to treat sickness.
- The use of GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides and other industrial farming chemicals- buy organic and avoid processed foods.
- The reduction in breastfed babies- breastfeed or bottle feed breast milk for as long as possible. Around 2 years is what I keep reading as being ideal.
- Increased proton pump inhibitors/ anti-acids usage destroying guts- ingest more acid and take digestive enzymes.
- Elective C-sections- try for a vaginal birth with all you’ve got. DON’T schedule a c-section unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Increased consumption of processed foods, flour, industrial seed oils and sugar- Just eat real food.
- Many environmental toxins and heavy metals- Do your best to rid your life of al chemicals.
- Chronic stress and over-exercising- Find a way to handle your stress and walk a ton and lift heavy a few times per week.
- The lack of play- we all need to get outside and play like kids again.
Our children inherit all of these things from us so we want to do our best to avoid these things listed above even before we conceive our sweet babies. Then we want to do our best to avoid these once they are earth side even more. These are things we can control. Our genes are the gun and our lifestyles and choices are what pulls the trigger.
We haven’t started feeding solids to our little guy just yet. When we do, I’ll be feeding him very nutrient dense foods like egg yolks, liver, avocado, fermented foods and so on. I don’t think I’ll be serving up a bowl of gluten.