The Confusing World of Gluten

As we have seen, there are at least three schools of thought on the harmfulness of wheat. One group is against every bit of it, in whatever form; another is pro-wheat, but only in whole-grain form (no flour!); another is okay with freshly-milled flour, but never with the kind produced by mechanized factory processing.

Actually, Dr. John Douillard, DC, author of Eat Wheat, offers yet another perspective: Only organic whole wheat is acceptable. He speaks of the microbes in the human mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, whose job is to digest gluten, and concludes:

Organic whole wheat is critical. Pesticides can kill the microbes responsible for digesting wheat, gluten and gliadins.

But the variety of opinion does not end there. Dr. Steven Gundry is particularly concerned about lectins, making him a fan of white flour, but not of whole wheat, because the dark part of the wheat contains lectins. These are the plant’s chemical defense weapons, and since we are their apex predator, it is not surprising that they try to poison us.

The bacteria that live in us are mostly friendly, but like every other creature, they have to poop. Their dung is supposed to remain in the intestine and help to compose our poop. And that is why, according to leaky gut theory, lectins are bad —- because they poke holes in the very thin gut lining, and toxins ooze through those holes to where they are not supposed to be. Next thing you know, the bacterial excretions are floating around in our bloodstream, wreaking havoc.

What are the charges?

Some anti-wheat factions say it causes obesity, and some say it is an addictor, and some say it is both addictive and fattening. The one thing they all seem to have in common is an absence of hard science. Even when standard, respectable researchers publish a result that seems to point toward harmfulness in wheat, wheat’s defenders are not impressed.

When it comes down to which component is the exact problem, gluten usually takes the fall. As patients with full-blown celiac disease or heightened gluten sensitivity will attest, gluten is dauntingly difficult to avoid. While a scant handful of grains do not contain it, an astonishing number of food products do.

The obvious ones are usually white: bread, pastry, crackers, pasta, breakfast cereal, tortillas. However, either purposely or through cross-contamination, French fries, potato chips, and an astonishing number of other foods may also include gluten.

There are the non-obvious edibles and drinkables — processed lunch meats, candy, soup, salad dressing, eggs, malt vinegar, soy sauce, beer, and many others. As if that weren’t bad enough, gluten shows up in pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, communion wafers, and lipstick, to name just a few oddball items.

But wait, there’s more. Toasters, colanders and cutting boards must all be regarded with suspicion. Condiments like mustard and peanut butter could be contaminated because a previous user dipped into the jar with a spoon that had a trace of gluten on it. Visiting friends’ homes for dinner is not recommended, and even going into a house where someone baked cookies earlier can be a disaster.

A puzzle

The average American apparently ingests around 130 pounds of wheat flour per year.
Gluten is devastating to the estimated 1% of people who have celiac disease. It is detectably harmful to an estimated 6% (or maybe 12%) of people, who have non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS). Plus, the Celiac Disease Foundation says the vast majority of celiac disease sufferers remain undiagnosed, which is probably true of the NCWS folks too.

Inquiring minds ask a reasonable question: Given all that, how likely is it, really, that gluten is harmless to everybody else?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Dr. John’s Wheat Belly Rebuttal,”, 01/05/17
Source: “15 Ways to Reduce Lectins in Your Diet,”, 05/23/17
Source: “Sources of gluten,”
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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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