The Gut and Gluten Connection to Peak Performance


Jesse has asked me to write a piece about the seldom discussed topic of gluten and its potential dangers to the unwary public. Let me briefly give you a little background on myself. I am a chiropractic physician, acupuncturist and clinical nutritionist with over 10 years’ clinical experience. While no longer in clinical practice I remain involved in health and wellness via US Wellness Meats. We are a company devoted to producing the best grass-fed beef, lamb, range chicken, butter and cheese. These “clean proteins from the prairie” are truly the dietary cornerstone in which to base ones diet.

At a recent Strongman Competition Jesse and I had a couple of brief discussions on the connection to America’s choice in carbohydrates and how that choice can directly effect things such as conditioning and fitness. The carbohydrates that I am talking about are the grains that contain gluten, gliadin, and glutenins. These grains are wheat, rye, oats, barley, spelt, teff, kamut, amaranth, couscous, and quinoa. Stop and think for a moment how many products are in the average Americans daily diet that contain these grains especially the big three; wheat, rye and oats.

Estimates are that up to 50% of us cannot tolerate the consumption of these grains. It is not an allergy rather an inability to metabolize these proteins in the intestine. The result is a state of inflammation that overwhelms the intestinal tract, which in turn puts a great stress on the anti-inflammatory hormone mechanisms that are governed by the Adrenal glands. With the intestine inflamed a state of hyper-permeability or “leaky-gut” results and now larger than normal “pieces” of the foods we consume get through and into general circulation. Now the body has to also deal with “cleaning up and breaking down” these antigens.

It is important to remember that we all have two “brains”; the brain under your skull and the complex web of neurons involved within the intestine. We literally make nearly as many “happy” hormones such as serotonin and dopamine in our gut as we do in our brain. That can contribute to why when our diet stinks so often does our moods.

So how does this affect your strength program or fitness goals? In every way! With an adrenal system overwhelmed because of intestinal inflammation you cannot keep in check the recovery of your musculoskeletal system. This leads to slower recovery times, increased metabolic waste products and more stiffness and sluggishness. A state of inflammation also puts you at a much higher risk of serious injury or a chronic nagging one. If the adrenals are “tired” or overcommitted to an inflamed gut you cannot direct the subtleties of repair and rebuilding. In addition the “leaky gut” scenario leads to poorer assimilation of the nutrients your taking in via your diet and therefore likely deficiency of necessary minerals, amino acids and vitamins needed to build a healthy body.

In the wonderful book on the connection to grain issues and health entitled Dangerous Grains, by James Braly and Ron Hoggan they have a list of more than 150 diseases and symptoms associated with sensitivity to gluten in appendix D. Let me just list a few of the 150 plus listed in the book; childhood asthma, Type 1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, iron deficient anemia, recurrent urinary tract infections, hives, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, autism, osteoporosis. Now remember gluten sensitivity is one possible cause of these symptoms or diseases, not necessarily the entire or only cause. My clinical experience has shown me however it is a major problem that is not explored often enough. One way I used to challenge clients in the past was to remove these grains for 60-90 days from the diet and see how they feel, function, and perform. I really encouraged the elimination if they were of northern European decent, and/or, had any gastrointestinal history such as; abdominal pain and or cramping, abdominal distention and bloating, intestinal gas, flatulence, diarrhea or constipation of unexplained cause. More often than not amazing changes were noted. I always insisted on proper lab testing if any major health challenges were being considered. These tests included serum, salivary, and stool tests. If anyone is interested please go to Biohealth Diagnostics laboratories web site and ask for a clinician to guide you through the testing.

Before I leave I need to encourage all that there are wonderful alternative grains to the gluten grains they include; corn, rice, wild rice, buckwheat, millet arrowroot, tapioca, and taro. I do adhere to an overall reduced grain diet period. I feel we should stick to grass-fed meats, raw milk products, range eggs and organic vegetables and fruits. For the occasional grain food, gluten free pasta, pancake mixes, bread and other products are available today in most health food stores. Other informative web sites on the truth of these grains include;,,,

I hope I have clarified more than confused enlightened more than frightened. The issue of “Dangerous Grains” is real and timely whether a high performance athlete or an average “Joe” wanting to improve their health.

In Health,

Dr. Michael Detweiler
US Wellness Meats


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