Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Many Probiotics Contain Gluten

Last year, doctors at Columbia University found that people with celiac disease frequently use probiotic supplements, but that those who take these products tend to experience more symptoms of the disease than those who do not.
Now these experts say they may know why: More than half of the top-selling probiotic supplements they analyzed contained gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye that is harmful to people with celiac disease. The authors of the study found gluten in probiotic supplements that carried “gluten-free” claims on their labels, and they discovered that the most expensive supplements were just as likely to contain gluten as the cheapest products.
The results suggest that people with celiac disease, or those avoiding gluten for any reason, should be cautious about taking probiotic supplements, said Dr. Peter H. R. Green, the director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and the author of the new study, which was presented at a recent medical conference in Washington, called Digestive Disease Week 2015. He said that many people in this category do not realize that dietary supplements can be contaminated with gluten, and that it was baffling to him that gluten would turn up in these products at all.
“The question is: Why are companies putting wheat or barley or rye in probiotic supplements?” Dr. Green said. “People use these natural products in an attempt to be healthy. Yet it’s a very poorly regulated industry. Can anyone trust a gluten-free label?”
The new findings are a symptom of what experts say is a larger problem in the $33-billion-a-year supplement industry. Several large studies and law enforcement investigations in the last two years have suggested that supplements often do not contain what their labels claim. The industry is loosely regulated, and the Food and Drug Administration has said that two thirds of companies do not comply with a basic set of good manufacturing practices.
Dr. Green said that he and his colleagues were troubled by a 2013 article in The New York Times that described a study carried out at the University of Guelph in Ontario. That study found that many herbal supplements contained cheap fillers, substitutes and unlisted ingredients such as soy and wheat.
The article prompted Dr. Green and his colleagues to launch their own study to see if the supplements their patients were using contained gluten – and they decided to focus on probiotic supplements because they had found that nearly a quarter of celiac patients use them. That may not be surprising. Probiotics are widely touted for digestive health, and according to the National Institutes of Health they are among the most popular supplements in America, along with fish oil and multivitamins.
Studies show that celiac patients who use probiotic supplements report that they have a higher quality of life but – paradoxically – more bloating, cramping, irregular bowel movements and other symptoms of celiac disease, said Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia’s Celiac Disease Center.
“Often it’s almost a given that probiotics promote gut health, and that’s frequently on the label,” Dr. Lebwohl said. “But there’s very little evidence supporting this.”
Dr. Lebwohl said it was unclear whether patients with more symptoms of the disease were seeking out probiotic supplements, or whether the supplements were contributing to their higher rate of symptoms.
To figure this out, he and Dr. Green purchased 22 of the bestselling probiotic supplements from and several national retail chains. Then they subjected the products to a type of laboratory test known as liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.
The researchers found that 12 of the supplements – or roughly 55 percent – contained detectable levels of gluten. Eight of these 12 products carried gluten-free claims on their labels.
According to the F.D.A., to qualify as gluten-free a product must contain less than 20 parts per million of the protein. Dr. Green said that two of the products that claimed to be gluten-free – or roughly 13 percent – were found to contain levels of gluten that exceeded the F.D.A. threshold. One product was found to contain high levels of wheat, and the other had high levels of barley.
Of the seven products that did not carry gluten-free labels, four tested positive for gluten, including two that exceeded the F.D.A. threshold. The researchers declined to release the names of the products they tested.
“We don’t know exactly how widespread this is and whether the levels vary from batch to batch,” Dr. Green said.
Ultimately, the study found that most of the supplements that tested positive for gluten were found to contain it at levels below the F.D.A. threshold. But Dr. Green said this was not reassuring because a person taking more than one capsule a day could accumulate high levels.
“We don’t know how many capsules people are taking each day,” he said. “If the level in a capsule is 19.8 parts per million it can qualify as gluten-free. But if people are taking a lot of this product, they’ll get cumulative amounts of gluten that will cause them damage.”
He also said that even among people with wheat allergies and celiac disease, the level of gluten that can be tolerated varies tremendously from one person to the next. Some people “may be much more sensitive to even less than 20 parts per million,” he said. “So the question that comes up is: Why do these products have gluten anyway?”

Dr. Sara Gottfried, MD says...

Kale and Spinach and your beautiful Thyroid
Dr. Sara, I thought we weren't supposed to eat raw kale or spinach because it’s bad for your thyroid?? CONFUSED
Kale is considered a goitrogenic food, meaning it contains substances (goitrogens) that may contribute to an enlarged thyroid. The two mechanisms identified are running interference with thyroid hormone synthesis and competing with iodine for uptake by the thyroid gland.
All cruciferous vegetables are considered goitrogenic, including arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, mustard greens, turnips, and watercress.
The research I have done tells me that the risk of the general public having problems in this area are very, very low. The vast majority of people have adequate iodine levels to counteract the effect of goitrogens.

So, what’s the bottom line here?
For the general population, the many health benefits of eating kale and other cruciferous vegetables in usual amounts far outweigh any potential adverse risks to the thyroid. The risks of worsening a preexisting thyroid condition are likely minimal if goitrogenic foods are consumed in (again) reasonable amounts. I myself am hypothyroid and I enjoy kale.
Cooking helps inactivate goitrogenic compounds, so don’t shun these foods, especially considering their other healthful superpowers. The work around for those who are hypothyroid is to gently steam whatever cruciferous veggies you eat and freeze before using.
I don’t advocate drinking massive amounts of green juice. Raw juicing often includes goitrogenic vegetables like cabbage and spinach, and these juices end up providing highly concentrated amounts of goiter-promoting ingredients. (But I don’t encourage massive consumption of any one single food either). Chew on a variety of whole green veggies and get the fiber benefits! Otherwise, eating them raw a couple times a week is fine. They contain so many nutrients and minerals that support thyroid health including calcium, vitamin C, iron, fiber, and antioxidants.
So kale on good people, just be a mensch, avoid juicing, and add more players to your greens repertoire.

May 16 Meeting

Mike Smith shared a wealth of information at Saturday's meeting.  As expected, there was a lot of interesting discussion.  Members will continue to learn more from Mike at future meetings. 
The June meeting will feature member Catherine Trahin who has traveled extensively.  Her topic:  "Travel the World Gluten Free".  Join us June 20, 2015 at the Health Education Center. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Food Additives to Watch For

12 food additives that the Environmental Working Group has identified as the "dirty dozen" because they post serious health risks. Nitrites and nitrates, Potassium bromate, Propyl paraben, BHA, BHT, Propyl gallate, Theobromine, Artificial colors, Diacetyl, Phosphate food additives, Aluminum additives.
Visit for more information


Eating just one cup of blueberries daily can significantly improve the health of arteries and prevent high blood pressure from developing, according to an eight-week study of premenopausal women at Florida State University. Those in the study received either a placebo or 22 grams of blueberry powder, equivalent to one cup of fresh berries.
- BetterNutrition, May 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

Please Come Join Us Tomorrow!

May Support Meeting

Agenda:   Informational meeting.  Member Mike Smith will discuss “Living a Gluten Free Life”.  His talk will include:  Indications of Celiac and GF issues. Gluten free and long term health.  How did I get to be this way?  Future food changes that will affect the GF diet.  Problematic seeds and grains.  Helpful supplement essentials.
 Date:  Saturday, May 16, 2015
Time:  10:00 am – 11:30 am
Location:  Health Education Center (Room 1) at Peace Health Southwest Medical Center.  (Location is accessed via NE 92nd Ave. off E. Mill Plain Blvd.  Pass the parking structure and turn left.  The entrance is directly ahead.)
Cost:  Free admission
For Information: Contact Maureen at 360-571-8998

Friday, May 1, 2015

Gluten Free Faye

Time to share my weekly favorite gluten-free finds:
1. Sukhi's Biryani Chicken & Rice bowl at Costco ( although there is no mention of gluten-free, the ingredients are free of gluten! use caution if celiac)
2. Tzatziki Greek Yogourt & Cucumber dip at Costco
3. Hebrew National Beef Sausages (every grocery store)
4. Special K Gluten free Flake Cereal at Costco
5. Chex Gluten free Granola at Costco
6. Creme Brûlée by Marie Morin at Costco
7. Mission Corn Tortilla (most grocery stores)
Bon Appetit !