The gluten free diet is great for those of us with Celiac disease. Some argue is helps with autoimmune diseases, gut issues, weight loss, and might even keep the house clean. 😉 However, there are some down sides. One of the downsides is the amount of heavy metals in the gluten free diet.
Many of us have heard of the increased arsenic in the gluten free diet. There is a lot of arsenic in rice and the gluten free diet is often rice heavy. The rice doesn’t contain arsenic that exceeds levels recommended by the FDA. With rice, often the arsenic comes from the water that floods the rice paddies. The rice absorbs the water and then is eaten. Often times, the arsenic is excreted in the urine, bowel movements, and can accumulate in the hair and nails.
Over time, all of the arsenic is not excreted. It can accumulate in the liver, kidneys, heart, nerves, and blood. It can cause cancers of those organs. It’s not something to get crazy about, but something to keep in mind.
Those studied on a gluten free diet also had increased blood levels of mercury, lead, and cadmium.
Mercury is often found in large fish seafood like tuna, shark, pike, and halibut. Pregnant women are told to avoid mercury containing fish for fear of damage to the developing baby. Anti-vaxxers use mercury in the vaccines as part of the reason to avoid vaccines. Mercury contamination leads often times to red cheeks and peripheral neuropathy.
Mercury is most often excreted in the urine and feces. It does the most damage when inhaled, but that is not what we are talking about here. Mercury can accumulate in the kidneys. If the damage isn’t too great, the kidneys can recover from the damage from mercury.
Lead is another one found in high quantities in the blood of those on a gluten free diet. Lead typically affects children more than adults. Lead can cause a lower IQ, decreased ability to pay attention, and under performance in school.
Cadmium exposure is typically inhaled with industrial chemicals. I couldn’t find much about cadmium ingestion, but I’m gonna assume its bad.
So, there are some down sides to the gluten free diet. They are serious issues that can be really problematic over time. However, it isn’t something that should be worried about consistently. It needs to be monitored and if things start to go sideways a diet can be modified to accommodate the need for change. Often times during a normal annual checkup with the gastroenterologist, these tests are run or at least should be run annually.
As people with celiac disease, we don’t have a choice as to whether we can eat gluten or not. We just can’t. So, we have to be careful about what we eat not just gluten, but we have to eat a wide variety of foods. Eating a wide variety of foods will protect against any of the poisons accumulating to the point they would cause damage. I know it is hard and scary. Sometimes we get into a rut because it is safe and easy and we know we won’t get sick. But we have to branch out and take some risks so we don’t cause other problems.
Mercury information from the CDC.
Cadmium information from the CDC.