Gluten Free Fitness

Celiac disease

Probiotics and Gut Health: Say Hello to My Little Friend

10 Comments

Probiotics. A popular word for sure right now. Looking around in the grocery store it seems like the healthy bacteria are being added to everything from yogurt to cottage cheese to coffee. (Kidding about that last one. Although given how much I love coffee, I’m not opposed to the idea.)

Probiotics by definition

Probiotic: A microbe that protects its host and prevents disease.

Probiotics are found naturally in the gut (stomach/intestines.) With antibiotic use, and sometimes with dysfunction of the gut (such as celiac disease) the balance of this “good bacteria” can be disrupted, and cause intestinal distress such as diarrhea. These little suckers can be a bit fragile, and not all of them can be ingested orally (eaten/swallowed) and survive into the digestive tract.

Different strains

There are many different strains of probiotics. If you think about antibiotics, there are lots of different prescriptions that we have seen or heard of over the years, right? Similarly, there are a number of different probiotics. Thousands, in fact.

However, there are only a handful of these thousand that have been researched upon and shown to be effective. Within the handful of effective ones, they may only be effective for certain conditions. So just ingesting a product with “probiotics” doesn’t necessarily give you any benefit. It depends on why you are taking them, and the strain of bacteria that is in the product. Unfortunately, the labeling for these products is often unclear.

Lactobacillus acidophilus

Lactobacillus acidophilus is a common probiotic. According to MayoClinic.com:

Lactobacillus acidophilus is generally considered to be beneficial because it produces vitamin K, lactase, and anti-microbial substances such as acidolin, acidolphilin, lactocidin, and bacteriocin. Multiple human trials report benefits of L. acidophilus for bacterial vaginosis. Other medicinal uses of L. acidophilus are not sufficiently studied to form clear conclusions.

It’s normally found in yogurt, and in lactose reduced milk. (Lactaid brand ’round these parts.)

Bifidobacteria

Another probiotic group known as Bifidobacteria (one of these strains is the one in the Activia yogurt-long live Jamie Curtis and her healthy bowels.) One of the methods of action is to slow the transit time of material through the intestines-again, reducing diarrhea.

The strain in Activia was produced specifically by Dannon and is known as Bifidus Regularis. As an aside, Dannon settled a class action lawsuit late in 2009 and has since altered the label claims.

Another strain of Bifidobacterium is bifidus infantis. This is the probiotic found in the product Align. Align is gluten free.

The Bifidobacterium probiotic strain appears to have real promise for those with intestinal disorders, including celiac disease and IBS.

Bifidobacterium appears to reduce the permeability of the intestinal walls in response to gliadin. This is especially of interest to those of us with celiac disease as the probiotic can help reduce gliadin’s (protein in gluten) damage to the intestines.

Recommendations were made at the Yale University Workshop in 2008 by a panel of 12 regarding the use of probiotics. Unfortunately, this paper is not available for free access (like so many I want to see,) but a summary from the NY Times stated:

A panel of 12 experts concluded that there was strong evidence that several probiotic strains could reduce diarrhea, including that associated with antibiotic use. Several studies have also suggested that certain probiotics may be useful for irritable bowel syndrome, with the strongest recommendation for Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, the probiotic in the Procter & Gamble supplement Align. (Two members of the panel had ties to Procter & Gamble; three others had ties to other companies that sell probiotics.)

Important to note that there is financial benefit there. That doesn’t mean their opinion should be discounted, it’s just something to be aware of.

Of course, if you have any questions, please contact your physician before starting probiotic use. They are GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA, but individuals with immunodeficiency or active bowel infection are not recommended to use probiotics.

Align was kind enough to send me samples to try, and a month’s supply for one lucky reader! I used Align for a month, and can say I did not notice a difference. However, I am not a fair subject as I was already taking another brand of probiotic. Align also offers a money back guarantee if you are dissatisfied after trying it. That’s pretty impressive.

Align can be found pretty much anywhere-I saw it at Target and Publix.

If you’d like to win a free month supply of Align, leave a comment below and tell me what your biggest obstacle is to eating healthfully (if you have one), and/or your experience with probiotics. Winner will be randomly selected.

You can get another chance in the virtual hat if you re-tweet this post for my Twitter buddies.


Additional references:

Gluten Free “Diet” vs. Gluten free Lifestyle

7 Comments

Living gluten free has received quite a bit of mainstream press lately. The Dr. Oz feature of course comes to mind, and there was a 12 page special report in USA today in November, and numerous other articles in publications including the NY Times.

With the rising awareness of a gluten free “diet” comes increased numbers of people trying the “diet.” Here’s the reason I am adding quotations every time I use the word diet here. There’s a method to the madness, I promise.

“Diet” as per Dictionary.com has several different meanings and uses. It can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adjective:

  1. Food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health
  2. A particular selection of food, esp. as designed or prescribed to improve a person’s physical condition or to prevent or treat a disease
  3. Such a selection or a limitation on the amount a person eats for reducing weight
  4. To select or limit the food one eats to improve one’s physical condition or to lose weight

This is only a small selection of the 10 potential meanings.

Gluten free and weight loss?

You can see how this one little word has multiple conotations associated with it. Most people associate the word “diet” with the 3rd definition, from my experience. A lifestyle approach to diet would be definition #1. With the media exposure of the gluten free diet, there are some who are associating the gluten free diet with a weight loss diet.

Not so fast, buttercup. This is not necessarily the case. Any method of eating can be a weight/fat loss diet. It depends on activity level, what you eat, but most importantly how much you eat. Can you gain weight on a gluten free diet? Hells yeah. You can lose it too. You can gain/lose weight eating anything. The laws of thermodynamics do not change.

Popular diets

Let’s take a very quick and admittedly non-complete look at some popular “diets.”

  • Atkins: Taken in it’s purest form, the idea of eating meats and vegetables, and fats only. Excludes a complete food group.
  • South Beach: A balanced diet including all food groups eventually, but in their whole forms.

At their inception, people by and large did quite well using these methods of eating, provided their daily caloric intake was less than their daily expenditure. Then, there was the advent of the Atkins bars, and pancakes, and the South Beach cereal, and more bars, etc and so on. These foods made it easier for people to consume more calories. It’s much easier and quicker to eat several to many hundred calories worth of a nutrition bar than of chicken and broccoli. The satiety (fullness) factor is less, so more is eaten. And guess what? No more fat/weight loss.

The gluten free “diet” in it’s purest form is a very healthful diet, and can certainly aid in controlling calorie intake.

Peter Bronski just did a blog post (here is his Gluten Free Athlete profile) on a brochure he found at his local market.

Check this out:

  • Eat more non-processed foods.
  • Eat an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Eat a serving of beans or legumes and nuts daily.
  • Eat fish twice a week, especially wild salmon.
  • Pay attention to your calcium and vitamin D intake to maintain healthy bones.
  • Choose lean poultry and meats as well as low-fat dairy products.
  • Balance the food that you eat with daily physical activity.

Sounds like an awfully nutritious way to live to me.

Getting into trouble

Where we can get into trouble is just like in any other “diet.” The gluten free cookies, candies, cereals-these are items where it is very easy to overeat calorie wise.

So when people ask me if they can lose weight on a gluten free diet, the answer is yes. It’s not rocket surgery. You can lose weight eating Burger King if you keep your calories where they need to be. (I DO NOT recommend that-it’s just an illustration.)

Does this mean that everyone should go on a gluten free diet?

Heck no. For those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, living gluten free is not an option, it’s a necessity. And you can choose to eat gluten free in whatever manner you wish. For those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, this is not just a “diet.”

It’s a lifestyle, and a medical necessity. It’s a way of life and a way of living. It’s extremely important that manufacturers and restaurants understand the medical implications of the gluten free distinction and follow good practices, not just jump on the gluten free bandwagon.

There are those have not been diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease who choose to live gluten free. They may be part of the many who are undiagnosed. It may be a personal decision. Honestly, the description provided by the brochure above would be a beneficial way for most people to eat.

Bottom line-there is no “magic” in a gluten free diet. If by going gluten free you cut out processed carbs, then by default your calorie intake may drop, which will cause weight loss if your activity stays the same. It’s not magic. It’s math.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced people asking you about a gluten free diet? Speak your mind in the comments below!

Follow up on Nutrient Absorption and Importance of Vitamins in Celiacs

No Comments

You may have read my previous post on common nutritional deficiencies found in individuals with celiac disease. If not, go read it here.

Today I read a post by Mike at the Gluten Free Blog about the positive benefits of supplementing with the nutrients that are commonly lacking-Vitamin B6, B12 and folate. Specifically what they examined was the effect of these nutrients on homocysteine levels. High levels of homocysteine are correlated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Regular B Vitamin supplementation appeared to have a positive effect. It certainly appears to be something worth looking into.

To read the full post on the Gluten Free Blog, click here.