Your Gluten-Free Diet May Not Be *Truly* Gluten-Free: Interview with Dr. Peter Osborne

92% of people with celiac disease who go on the “traditional” gluten-free diet, do not respond. Find out why you may need to take out more than just wheat, barley, rye and oats from your diet. Heather interviews Dr. Osborne about his theories on what a “truly” gluten-free diet means.

* please note that the audio player is flash-based and won’t work on an iPhone.

Thanks so much to a LinkedIn community member for drafting a transcript of this interview!  If you can’t access the audio file, please read the highlights below:

We’re asking members of the celiac and gluten sensitive community who have adopted the paleo diet, to explain why they’ve gone paleo, how they do it, and what the journey has been like, this month on Stuffed Pepper.  Dr. Osborne  provides a unique perspective, as  he actually prescribe a grain-free diet to his patients and so we wanted to talk to him more about this.

Town Center is Dr. Osborne’s clinic in Sugarland, Texas, where he sees many patients with autoimmune diseases, etc.  He also hosts the Glutenology Society website which contains more generalized information about gluten that could be helpful to patients.

Dr. Osborne advocates for a “truly” gluten-free diet, which includes sorghum, millet and teff in the list of foods that he asks patients to avoid. Why?

The definition of gluten originates from 1952 when Dr. William Dicke performed his original research in  [the Netherlands]. WWII grain rationings caused improvements in the patients. And then they got sick again after rationing stopped. The food staples in [Europe] at that time included only wheat, barley, rye, and oats—but  there are other grains that contain gluten and can cause inflammatory damage to celiac patients.

Newly discovered glutens with the same inflammatory response are being identified. “Glutens” are a family of storage proteins, and there are thousands of them are around. We’ve only studied a handful. Corn is one of them, but no one is saying anything about it.  92% of people going on the traditional gluten free diet  (wheat, barley, rye and oats) do not get better.

In order to be on a truly gluten free diet, you really have to be grain-free.

One exposure a month to gluten (if you have a gluten sensitivity), can create symptoms for two months. The industry standards are poor. The “supposed” gluten-free industry is adding to this myth, and turning a blind eye to cross-contamination, GMOs and the use of other gluten-containing grains for supposed “gluten-free” food substitutes.

Buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth are not even grains, but Dr. O recommends avoiding them as well. Mostly because of cross contamination: 41% of GF products contained enough gluten to not be considered safe. Also, we haveresearch showing that buckwheat and quinoa  create inflammatory reactions  in celiac patients as well. 

“I’m not trying to be a food nazi!” He just wants his patients to understand the science.

Wild rice is a grass from marshy fields–not a grain. So it’s the only “rice” that Dr. O recommends. But a lot of people have grass allergies and can’t eat the wild rice either.

Dairy is usually a problem because of what the animals eat. Cows eat a grain-based diet—does the grain go through the milk in cows? It does in human milk. Casein in dairy is similar in structure to gluten so there is cross-reactivity. GMO cows have a different type of dairy protein. Try to go with organic milk from cows fed a grass-based diet if you want. But Dr. O said you can’t find (organic milk from grass-fed cows) at a grocery store, only at a local farm.

Some dairy products, such as sour cream, butter, yogurt, etc. contain microbial transglutaminase. The transglutaminase test is  one of the tests used to test for celiac. The dairy with the transglutaminase added increases the allergic reactivity of patients.

We will see more research on legumes and seeds in general. Paleo even misses the mark on this by recommending a lot of seed ingestion, such as promoting flax seed for omega-3. Heather says she reacts to legumes and seeds also.

So what is gluten? A family of storage proteins found in the seeds of grass. Seeds are designed by mother nature to survive predation. There are more chemicals in seeds than just gluten. There are lectins in seeds, too. Dr. O believes that lectins can shut down human digestion. A new mechanism for celiac disease to show up is through some of these proteins—amylase trypsin inhibitors— which shut down digestion in humans without  causing villous atrophy.

Legumes are similar. Beano works by pre-digesting legumes. Soaking and draining beans and legumes multiple times until they sprout makes digestion easier. 36-hour soak is good. Human food prep wisdom has been lost in the last century—is now industrial. We do “artificial” fermentation for example, and this is not helpful.

Soy is a legume very difficult for humans to digest, and 99% of it in US is GMO. Fermented soy, like tofu or miso, is sometimes a little easier. Do you ask your patients to avoid it? (Heather)

He recommends no processed foods for clients. “You can’t get healthy eating food that isn’t”—if too many chemicals, probably shouldn’t eat. If you feel bad when you eat it, stop eating it. Soy is highly processed too. Can do your own tofu or miso, but still cut it out for 6 months [in an elimination diet] and re-introduce if you still want to try it. Six months is the life span of your immune cells—so that is why Dr. O recommends six months for an elimination diet.

Dr. O tells gives us some examples of some of his patients that improved on the truly gluten-free diet.

Dr. O tells us about some of his favorite foods.

Dr.  O’s “Glutenology” cookbook is a starter cookbook for someone not ready to go Paleo yet – it has dairy, beans, legumes. Not as restrictive because some people need baby steps. It is difficult to stop all dairy and all grains at the same time. “Gluten free health solution” cookbook is completely Paleo for anyone who is ready to dive in.

Dr. O is also developing a gluten free app for grocery-store bar code-scanning, for diet restrictions.

Dr. O thinks that grain-based alcohols are a problem. There are other components within grain that can cause problems, not just gluten. Protein is not the only thing we react to—we  also react to sugars (like in the corn—bourbon).

Dr. O started treating people about 13 years ago. He diagnosed himself 10 years ago by genetic testing. “Gluten-Free whiplash” will yield articles on Google. People often feel better for the first 6 months of a GF diet, and then have a type of relapse. The articles explain that.

Corn, dairy, and soy can also cause villous atrophy. We could have a misdiagnosis of celiac disease  if we are only looking for villous atrophy from only wheat, barley, and rye. Studies show that rice, corn, oats and quinoa are also highly inflammatory.

Top 3 killers in the US are cancer, heart disease and autoimmune disease. All 3 are linked to diet. Why is no one looking at diet?

More and more doctors are turning to functional medicine and nutrition, and doctors who do, will have a successful business.

The internet has allowed for the expansion of the gluten-free diet. Paleo is the next piece of recommendation because everyone is going on the GF diet and not feeling better. Paleo will overshadow the gluten free diet in the next 5 years.




  1. CH, AL

    I went to the doctor for inflammation in my ankles, leg, and arm. They performed all types of test and every vital sign was normal. I noticed that when I ate crackers, dairy, bread, non-organic meats my legs began to ache. I am starting to remove these things from my diet, but I am extremely hungry. Brown rice does not bother me, organic potatoes (i.e. white or sweet), organic juices, fish, shrimp and eggs.

    The problem is I am losing weight and I am always hungry…….

    • Hi CH,

      I suggest that you keep a food diary for a couple of weeks, writing down everything that you put in your mouth, and also all your symptoms. You may notice a pattern. Its hard to tell what’s happening to you, without knowing how much, how often and exactly what you’re eating. Do you eat organic meat?

      One thing that I can suggest is if you have a relatively low/moderate carb diet, then I would increase your fats intake (avocado, almond butter, coconut oil, olive oil). Fats make you more satiated and can also be a source of fuel/energy for the body.

      If you do want to keep a food diary and get back to us in a few weeks, please leave a comment in our forum. I hope we can help!


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