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Squash Fest and Why a Gluten-Free Diet Isn’t Dangerous

Due to my website being down for over 6 hours today, I’m going to have to challenge myself to write a quick post!

Do you have any idea how difficult that is for me? 😀

Today, I’m doing a guest post over at The Gluten-Free Homemaker for Squash Fest, so be sure to check it out, including all the other wonderful Squash Fest guest posts by my fellow bloggers:

Carrie from Ginger Lemon Girl (How to Roast a Butternut Squash)

Aubree Cherie from Living Free (Butternut Squash Dessert)

Shirley from GFE (Cushaw Pecan Pie)

Wendy from Celiacs in the House (Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup)

Amy from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free (Apple & Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash)

Alta from Tasty Eats At Home (Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash)

I also want to point you in the direction of Linda’s Monthly Challenge for November: Make a Gluten-Free Pie.  Linda shares links to several gluten-free pie crust recipes that are sure to come in handy for Thanksgiving!

Did you see the recent Nightline episode about the gluten-free diet?  In case you missed it, you can see it here.  If you did see it, then I’m sure you know why I am bringing it up.  Dr. Peter Green made mention that unless one has celiac disease then a gluten-free diet can be “dangerous,” because it lacks fiber and B vitamins (since many gluten-free factory processed/convenience foods aren’t fortified).  Whether Dr. Green was edited or not, I have no idea.  I do realize that he may have been speaking in regards to the issue of gluten-free being popular in Hollywood, but regardless, that does not change what viewers heard and took away from that statement…that the gluten-free diet is unhealthy and dangerous if you do not have celiac disease.

That is dangerously false information and I urge you to watch the following video response from Dr. Vikki Petersen of HealthNOW Medical Center and The Gluten Doctors blog.

My friend Erin over at Gluten-Free Fitness also wrote a great article about this unfortunate news clip and you can read her article here.

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  1. I'd just like to know which country they mailed "Dr." Green his medical degree from. Lack of fiber and vitamins? Has he got one clue about the "complete" nutrition in a slice of white bread? Pizza? What the blank is he talking about? Just think of all the damage he's done out of sheer ignorance or this just another example of some man "knowing best" simply because he hasn't been proven wrong yet, like he was born with every fact in the universe already embedded in his pea sized brain. Please.

  2. Thanks for the shout out Heidi!

    It's so important for us to keep driving the point home-a gluten free diet can be healthy and full of nutrients, with no "dangerous" aspects at all. As I always say, it's so important for people to do their own research, learn, and make an informed and educated decision. I hope that this interview sparks learning, not fear.

  3. I am soooo glad that Dr. Petersen did this video to refute the NIGHTLINE piece.

    As a new to GF living (3 months) I am still reading and watching whatever I can get my hands or eyes on to get some semblance of control over this thing. And as I'm sure they wanted to, the news piece scared me. I was afraid that this might not be the best thing for me. I am NOT a diagnosed Celiac, but after the first week of being GF, I felt better than I had in 10 years! These days I'm bounding with energy, I'm losing weight without having to 'diet', I'm sleeping better, my joint problems have almost all disappeared but most importantly, my IBS symptoms which kept me sick for nearly a decade and pretty much completely anti-social are GONE! Well, except when I get glutened! So, to be honest, I was afraid of having to go back to living with gluten in my diet, but everything she says makes perfect sense. Shame on Dr. Greene and Nightline for using their forum to scare people with a real medical necessity. So what, if I'm not a Celiac? I have an intolerance and I'm better without gluten.

    I'll just make sure to take my multi-vitamin to get all those things they say I'm missing out on. As if they care, anyways.

  4. Love your round up with links to squash dishes, Heidi!

    xo Elana

  5. I'm only two months into my Celiac diagnoses. I went to the library last week to see if there were any current books to check out to educate myself. The only two they had were 1) Celiac Disease, A Hidden Epidemic by Dr. Peter Green and 2) The G Free Diet by Elisabeth Hasselbeck with a foreword by Dr. Peter Green. I haven't started his book yet but am a few chapters into Elisabeths. Interestingly, the information on the back of the book states this: Hasselbeck also discovered the myriad benefits that anyone can enjoy from a gluten-free diet, from weight loss and increased energy to improved attention span and quicker digestion… Whatever your motivation for going G-free – whether you suffer from celiac disease, as Elisabeth does, or want to lose weight and maintain a healthier lifestyle – The G-Free Diet is the key to reaching your goal!

    I know in my quest to find answers (on the internet) I have read both sides of the coin – anyone can benefit from being gluten free and also that unless you have a gluten intolerence you should not eat gluten free. My daughter has type one diabetes but has so far tested negative for celiac. I definetely would like to see her eat more whole food and even less foods with gluten. She is almost 18 so it gets harder to dictate what goes in your childs mouth the older they get.

  6. I think Dr. Vickie Peterson should contact Nightline and ask for an opportunity to be intervied to present the other side of this issue.

  7. Dr. Peter Green has done so many helpful things and has accomplished a lot for Celiacs in the United States. The news media likely edited what was said, he is very smart and I am quite certain does not have a pea sized brain. It's the media and doctors who don't stay current (eg Dr Nancy Snyderman on the Today Show has made some big boo-boo's for the Celiac community on national TV). My son was diagnosed this year and this has been a huge learning curve for us, but his TTG levels are all down to normal now—and the help of Dr. Peter Green and his Celiac website at Columbia University were of great value to us. Look at all the good he has done. He has been an instrumental figure in teaching the rest of the U.S. doctors about Celiac–and there is still so much more ground to cover. Look at the rates of Celiac diagnosis in the county he is from (AU), and then here. I am not giving him responsibility for the rate in Australia, it just shows they are way more familiar with Celiac, and he is doing his part to teach what they know, here. My son's pediatrician told me that in medical school they got a little blip about Celiac– that it presents with fat, floaty stools. He initially was reluctant to run the celiac panel, but I urged. My son presented with nothing of the sort–moodiness and irritability were his symptoms–for years. That was it. I have a new child now. 🙂

    I think Dr. Green was speaking to the hollywood g-free fad…the processed g-free foods are less nutrient dense (for now)–and higher calorie in general if that's all your planning on living off of.

    • Samantha,

      I absolutely agree with you and I have the utmost respect for Dr. Peter Green. I have his books and read his research online quite often. There is no doubt whatsoever that he has done a TREMENDOUS amount of work for the celiac community.

      But gluten affects far more people than just the celiac population and when an expert with MD credentials says that the gluten-free diet is unhealthy and unsafe for anyone who doesn't have celiac disease, some people will hold on to that as the gospel truth, despite an abundance of medical research pointing to the contrary (especially if they are unaware of the research and most people are).

      Being an atypical celiac, I did not embrace my initial diagnosis 5 1/2 years ago. I did not want to go gluten-free, and the fact that I did not suffer painful consequences when I ate gluten certainly didn't help matters. I looked for every possible reason to justify my cheating to myself. I zeroed in on all the research about "false positive test results" and convinced myself that my diagnosis fell within that category. I also grabbed on to what the "experts" said about the gluten-free diet being unhealthy and I honestly convinced myself that I was doing more harm to myself by being gluten-free! Yes, denial is a funny thing and you know what? It does not change the truth and I am paying the consequences for my ignorant behavior those first 3 years.

      Once I was handed my diagnosis, that was it. There was no one to teach me what I should be eating and I relied on the few GF packaged foods that were available at the time (and they were horrible, which only fueled my depression and desire to cheat!). Of course I knew that carrots, celery, apples, bananas, beef, chicken and eggs were gluten-free, but my experience with whole, unprocessed foods at that point was completely one dimensional, and I was not a huge fan of things like dark, leafy greens and beets, LOL!. I had no idea of all the different preparation methods you could do with these foods (to make them desirable enough to eat them in the first place), nor did I realize that my options were far greater than what I was accustomed to seeing at my local grocery store. There was NO ONE to teach me these things or to get me EXCITED about my new mandatory lifestyle.

      When I eventually saw a dietitian for my gestational diabetes during my 2nd pregnancy, the only thing she tried to teach me about were foods that come with a Nutrition Facts Panel, not the naturally GF foods in the produce department. It wasn't until I began blogging that everything changed for the better. I started being exposed to many different foods and recipes on other food blogs, whose authors got me excited enough to try new things. I also began educating myself on nutrition, on top of all the medical research I was trying to understand so I could better "own" my condition and finally take back control of my health and life.

      So what upsets me about shows/articles like this is that they only show one side of the gluten-free diet…the negative, unfortified, highly refined, processed food side (which also happens to be the expensive part of being gluten-free!).

      It perplexes and saddens me that MD's and dietitians/nutritionists don't emphasize a healthy, naturally gluten-free diet in their mainstream media opportunities (or, that the editors of the show/newspaper/magazine, etc. decide to only share negative soundbytes with their audience.

      • I totally see your point and just really didn't like too see Dr. Green being associated with the pea brain remark–which wasn't yours. I felt that was very harsh. We all make mistakes and whether he did, or there was poor editing, it still does a huge diservice to our community.

        I love your passion for the gluten free world, healthy food, and your blog–you've been so very helpful to us! It bothers me as well to see docs give a very large audience (or anyone) misinformation for many reasons–but my first thought is how family members who may not understand Celiac (or think it can go away)–believe these doctors more than we might like to. Then the true Celiac or gluten sensitive person looks like they are "making something up" or that they are being too cautious.

        After the Today Show piece my mother said–"well, why don't you just let him have a little gluten every once in a while?"

        Really?! Then I have to re-prove why I am not going to do that. Fortunately my son has become interested and very aware (and great at detecting cross contamination, I told him he'd be great in surgery for that reason, lol)

        He had quite a lot of damage at 11 years old–and he now knows why he has hated bread for so many years (funny, looking back I used to get so frustrated when he'd come home with the inside of his sandwich gone and the bread left)–then, the weight dropped. I believe his stomach knew. It wasn't just bread–he hated the things most kids liked (mac and cheese??) there was no easy meal for him, and now–well we have embraced it. Today, if he eats gluten via CC (happened on vacation–aaack!) he does get stomach pain…he says it's the same as before we knew, he just thought it was normal. How sad he never complained. Thought it was normal to feel cruddy. 🙂 I love him…and just love seeing his now pink face–and budding moody pre-teen, lol. Quite similar to the moodiness we endured before, but we know he is for all intents and purposes–in remission. I guess we've been prepped–and that we must be eating right!

        • Oh Samantha, I sooooooooo know what you are talking about in regards to family and friends not understanding. "What's one or two bites a year going to do to you?" Or the one that really killed me was all the pity for my son "because his childhood would be miserable without McDonald's Happy Meals" (and yes, that is why I decided to make my own GF Happy Meals…I loathe the pity remarks, LOL!). 😀


  8. Samantha, I hear what your saying with the media. The media and even 'tv doctors' do a huge disservice to diabetes (mainly type one diabetes). They almost never distinguish between type one and two and talk as if it is one in the same. Very frustrating and adds to the misinformation that type one is caused by eating to much sugar, that you can't have sugar or, well I could go on. I rabbit trailed here but I agree the media can ruin what is supposed to be a helpful piece and through editing actually ending up harming in some way.

  9. Heidi – Thanks for posting this great response to the Nightline piece! She is so bang-on all of the time, I love her (not quite as much as you do!Heehee). When will she start commenting on your blog? You've already got Elana!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just wish that more people would start pointing the finger at Nightline and not the individuals in the piece. It was their poor journalism that led to the spread of misinformation.

    • Maggie:

      Did you see that? Elana's comment? OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for noticing Maggie because I sooooo wanted someone to squeal in excitement over it with, but I've been trying to play it "cool" ever since I met Shauna in Seattle and nearly fainted.

      I'm such a gluten-free groupie (a.k.a. dork). 😀

  10. I have learned SO much about gluten intolerance from the backlash of this interview (though I've yet to watch it…getting there.) My son has a wheat allergy and I would beg to differ that a gluten free diet would not be the best for him. There are so many people out there that are benefiting from a gfree diet that don't fit in a nice, little "positive Celiac diagnosis" package. Thanks for all the info!

  11. That is ridiculous! I'm quite sure we can healthfully exist without any grains at all as humans did for most of the time on this earth. It always blows me away when these so called "experts" are so darn ignorant.

  12. I didn't (never do!) watch nightline so I didn't see the piece. I feel that most of those programs are just one persons point of view but they try and make it to be more than it is. Can anyone say Biased?! LOL!

    I get my information about gluten issues from blogs such as Heidi's, Gluten Free Mommy, Gluten Free Girl, and MANY others. Real people have WAY more information to share over this topic! I've not been tested for Celiac's but my chiropractor, who is also into natural/herbal supplements went to a conference where another doctor talked about gluten intolerance and Celiacs disease and he took the info to heart. I'm so glad he did!!! He did a muscle test to wheat on me and I had NO resistance to it! Going gluten free has given me a new lease on life. I've been diagnosed with Crohn's disease for 25+ years and finally feel better. Gluten was messing with my Crohn's and keeping it active. Between going gluten free for the past 7 months and medication, my Crohn's is under control for the first time in years.

    Gluten can truely affect more people than those diagnosed with Celiacs! My husband is even following my gluten free diet (for the most part!) and feeling better. He's never been an active person but that's changing because he has more energy now that he's eating healthier. We've been dancing around the house and walking our dogs pretty regularly! Whoo-Hoo!

    • Susan,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, it is testimonies like yours that help real people finally find the answers they have been seeking for years. I've not heard of the muscle test before, but I am curious to learn more. 😀

      Your husband sounds a lot like mine. When I was first diagnosed, he would eat gluten-free at home, but when he was away he would eat gluten-full meals. When our son was diagnosed 3 years after me, Mike decided that he would be gluten-free too because he never wanted his son to feel "different" from him. I was astonished to watch his transformation over the next 3 months: he lost 20 lbs., had more energy and slept better than he had in years. He became a staunch advocate of the gluten-free lifestyle and on the rare occasion he gets "glutened" now, he has a very obvious adverse reaction, which is interesting to me, because I don't react and I have been triple biopsy confirmed (2 intestinal biopsies for celiac disease and one skin biopsy for dermatitis herpetiformis). We also have a son who was diagnosed with non-celiac GS, so I live with both sides of this equation and I for one have witnessed the power of removing gluten and other offensive foods (casein and eggs for my youngest son) from the diet. My non-celiac son's eczema and cradle cap cleared up within 3 weeks of removing the foods…after 3 agonizing years of repeat appointments with specialists, blood draws, steroid treatments, etc.

      It still blows my mind the healing power of food, and it makes me sad sometimes to know that my lifelong chronic health conditions could have been avoided with the right diet and I worry for the people who watched that show and have no clue of the whole truth.

      And Susan, is there any gluten-filled food you would rather have over dancing around the house with your hubby?

      It's just food, isn't it? 😉


  13. Heidi,

    There is not much to say that has not already been said. I am grateful for illness that can be managed by eating healthy, wonderfully tasty and simply amazing food!

    I mentioned on FB that we recently pulled my DF daughter off gluten as well. It is such an emotional process to do this, espeically for a six year old who already feels different because of her milk allergy. We have had her tested but nothing came back showing celiac. Still, her symptoms seemed very close to the many I suffered over the years…her grandmother on her fathers side suffers from RA and is Gluten Intolerant as well…given all this, I felt we just couldn't wait any longer. In just two weeks, she is feeling so much better she even seems excited about the change! No more constipation, no more upset tummys.

    So many reasons to do a happy dance!



  14. Hi Heidi,

    So, I am trying to catch up on your blog, now.

    I have a strong feeling that it was Nightline that did some "fancy" editing. I saw Dr. Green at the Celiac Disease Conference in May. And during his presentation, he had a large section on non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. He talked about having the anti-bodies, but a negative biopsy. And he talked about a possible cause being that they are finding that our villa have micro-villa on each one. So, the micro-villa may be getting destroyed, but the regular villa are intact. So, still no absorption of nutrients, but it looks like the intestines are ok with a biopsy because they don't look for micro-villa destruction.

    He also talked about how people with non-Celiac gluten sensitivity have a greater mortality risk than people with Celiac Disease, based on his research. Don't remember the specifics of why.

    This was all from my notes. But, based on that, I would say he advocates a gluten-free diet for quite a few people who don't have Celiac Disease.

    In addition, I do not trust the media at all anymore. So many things get distorted for effect.

    But, on a happier note, Whoo-hoo! on Elana commenting. She left a comment on my blog that is was nice to meet me at BlogHer Food, and I nearly had a heart attack. I don't think she gets what a rock-star she is in the gluten-free world, though. Like Shauna, she's really approachable and really nice. Just talks to you like a normal person.

    So, on that note, here's to almond flour! Got 10 pounds in the mail today, and I am going to make many, many muffins for Thanksgiving.


    Tia 😛

  15. I am really hoping to win the contest because I have a 17 year old daughter that was just diagnosed allergic to wheat. She is so beautiful but was struggling mentally and physically to the point of me not knowing how to help her. We are so thankful to finally know what was causing it. After taking her off all gluten, her face is clear and bright and her smile has returned. You can see pictures of her on my blog. http://whatsfordinner-momwhatsfordinner.blogspot…. I have always baked and cooked, but learning all about gluten-free is new for me. This win would be a big boost in supplying what my daughter needs to stay healthy.

    ~Christi Silbaugh


  16. Excellent! I do not have celiac – but have a lot of other health issues including interstitial cystitis, chronic swelling around my heart, endomtriosis, and LOTS of joint pain issues. I recently was in the hospital with bile duct issues and pancreatits. My gastroenterologist told me to try and gluten free diet til January. I had been told for years (and obeyed somewhat) to avoid wheat by my naturopath – and I thought it somehow affected my joints. I have had so many doctors tell me various diets and so many different treatments that I think people assume that I make this all up and that I just WANT to try a different diet – but that is not the case at all. Today someone warned me that they had found out that gluten free is DANGEROUS! I looked up to find what they were talking about. I don't know what my future holds in regard to gluten and my health – but I rest assured that I am actually eating a lot healthier more varied diet now that I am not eating gluten!


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