June 25, 2012
Today’s guest post is from Court Tuttle. Court discovered that gluten was causing a lot of problems in his life – like insomnia, muscle weakness, and erratic energy levels – because it was affecting how his body produced hormones. He mentioned this briefly in his last post about his success on a gluten free diet, so we asked him to tell us more about how gluten intolerance can affect your hormones.
1. Increased Stress Hormones
Our bodies are suited nicely for dealing with stress. If we’re attacked by rabid dogs, our adrenal glands take over, making us faster, stronger, and more likely to run or pick up a 2×4.
The problem is that our bodies aren’t meant to be overloaded with stress hormones all the time. When you’re working out a problem with your spouse, you don’t want to be more likely to ‘run or pick up a 2×4’.
Guess what happens when your gut is constantly irritated by gluten (or other irritants)? Your adrenals are constantly cranking out cortisol and you’re yelling at your kids a lot more than the ‘normal’ you would.
2. Cortisol Fluctuation
If your stress hormones are raised for long enough, your adrenals will eventually tire out. They will stop functioning properly and this can lead to major energy fluctuations. People who suffer from this often have great energy at certain times of the day and no energy during other times.
This condition is called adrenal fatigue and has been estimated to affect 80% of people at at least one point in their lives.
I personally suffered with adrenal fatigue for a while and was completely exhausted during the day. Ironically, I was wide awake all night. The cause? Gluten. That little devil.
3. Messed Up Sex Hormones
Unfortunately, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol compete for resources with precursor sex hormones. So, if your cortisol or adrenaline are constantly up, your sex hormone levels will eventually drop. There are numerous studies talking about this phenomenon.
When I had my issues with adrenal fatigue, I was getting weaker and weaker at the gym by the day. Not fun. I’ve heard that a lack of sex hormones can also affect other areas of life. 🙂
4. Imbalanced Blood Sugar
Cortisol causes your body to tap into protein stores (muscle) for energy via a process called gluconeogenesis. While it’s doing that, it also prevents insulin from functioning properly. It makes the cells essentially insulin resistant. Unfortunately the body remains insulin resistant for as long as cortisol is elevated and that leads to a number of problems such as increased appetite. In theory, your body should use insulin to deal with the food you eat, and hormones should tell your body when you’ve eaten enough. With increased cortisol, this process breaks down. That leads us to the next issue.
5. Weight Gain
High blood glucose levels and cells that don’t respond well to insulin makes our bodies starved for glucose. When our bodies want glucose, they will try to get us to eat – you guessed it – glucose. My body’s favorite sources of glucose: ice creams, Peanut M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and chocolate cake.
As a guy who has helped a lot of people with weight issues (in real life and at The Skinny School), I can tell you that appetite control is the most crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy weight. If you’re always fighting your appetite, you will lose.
6. Suppression of Immune System
Our immune systems are extremely efficient at preventing sickness and disease, if they are functioning properly. Chronically elevated cortisol, however, will eventually damage your immune system.
Know anyone who is always sick or are you always sick yourself? There’s a decent chance that in one way or another, you have damaged your immune system. Gluten sensitivity is one of a few likely causes.
If are bodies are healthy and in balance, we generally shouldn’t have acne as adults. However, when hormones get out of whack because of gluten and/or other stressors, acne can be hard to control. There are several different stressors that cause sebum production (the reason for adult acne):
Most people who are gluten sensitive have no idea that they are gluten sensitive. They have learned to live with these issues, assuming that they are a normal part of life.
I personally lived with some of these issues for years and am very fortunate to have discovered that gluten was causing them. Fortunately, that knowledge has helped me to help other people to identify and fix the problems. Hopefully knowing about them can help you to do the same.