Glutens for Punishment – Letters about the Gluten-Free Product Market and the Soy/Gluten Connection

Dear Dr. Daniel, I am on GFCF (gluten free, casein free) diet. Because of this I have to eat gluten-free products and many of those contain soy. There’s not a whole lot of other options. Since I must eat soy, how do I go about choosing the healthier options.  Which brands do you recommend?  — Jeannie

Dear Jeannie, “Must” eat soy? Are you a Japanese beetle or soybean aphid? I don’t think so as your name’s Jeannie and you wrote me a letter. I recommend real foods, whole foods and slow foods, with only a little old-fashioned fermented soy products such as miso, natto and tempeh on the menu. However, if you’ve been focusing on “food products” rather than “food,” I expect it must sometimes seem that you “have to eat soy.” After all, it’s in most packaged and processed items as well as many of the special gluten-free products. If you think you  must eat soy because you are a vegetarian, I’d advise you read the Introductory Tour for Vegetarians on this website. It covers both personal and planetary health issues. GFCF diets are very helpful for many people, but they only avoid the problem. To really heal your gut and attain radiant good health  include bone broth, cultured vegetables, coconut oil, and a high-Vitamin-A-and-D brand of cod liver oil in your diet. I have helped some clients with supplement regimens, but I truly believe that real foods, including high-quality animal products —  is best

Another reason to avoid soy pertains directly to the gluten issue.    Soy is on a lot of people’s GFCF diets, but there’s some evidence that healing never occurs if soy is in the picture. A 1999 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, for example, showed that some adults with celiac disease experienced diarrhea, headache, nausea and flatulence even on a gluten-free diet whenever they ate a tiny amount of soy. And a 1980 study published in Clinical Gastroenterology looked at 98 infants and children with multiple gastrointestinal allergies and revealed that 62 percent had both soy and milk allergies and 35 percent both soy and gluten.

Dear Kaayla, Every time I turn around there’s more gluten-free products. Seems like every shelf at Whole Foods Market is plastered with a “gluten free” signs. Can you tell me what’s going on? I smell marketing hype. Reminds me of how they once pushed soy, soy, soy. But could there be a real need? Should I go gluten-free myself as a precaution? — Trudy

Dear Trudy, Marketing hype is right! The market for gluten-free foods and beverages is booming, with a compound annual growth rate of 28 percent from 2004 to 2008,. By 2012 the market is expected to reach about $2.6 billion in sales. Retail sales have already hit $1.6 billion, according to a market research report published by Packaged Facts entitled “The Gluten-Free Food and Beverage Market: Trends and Developments Worldwide, 2nd Edition.” 

In 2008, more than 225 marketers introduced new gluten-free products into the United State . Enjoy Life Foods, an upstart company catering to this niche market, was named to the Inc 500 List of the fastest growing, privately held businesses in the U.S. It was one of only 13 companies in the Food & Beverage category to make the list and showed a three year revenue growth of 850 percent.

At this point, about 40 percent of gluten-free products are sold in health and natural food stores, such as GNC, Whole Foods and Wild Oats. About 20 percent of sales occur through specialty food websites or catalogues. Conventional supermarkets hold just a 14 percent share of sales.  

Clearly,  hype’s driving this trend, but also genuine need. Medical problems associated with gluten intolerance are legion, and include autism, multiple sclerosis, ADD/ADHD, allergies , osteoporosis,  repetitive strain or stress injury, irritable bowel, colitis and other digestive system disorders. However, it’s celiac disease that has catalyzed and is driving the gluten-free food and beverage market. Although three million Americans (or one percent of the population) have been officially diagnosed with celiac disease, many experts believe that 97 percent of celiac sufferers remain undiagnosed. And many more may be affected by a subclinical gluten sensitivity. Worse, the number of known sufferers will most likely increase ten fold around the world during the next few years.   No wonder this market is booming with double digit growth. 

According to Tatjana Meerman, publisher of Packaged Facts, “Evidence shows that the patients that comprise the celiac community are not willing to be passive sufferers. Their passion to live a full life without gluten must be considered one of the most powerful driving forces in the market. . . . Although these products are largely bought by celiac sufferers, very often the entire family of a celiac will switch to gluten-free products primarily to avoid buying different versions of the same goods, but also as a preventative step– as celiac disease is known to be hereditary.”

Dear Dr. Kaayla: I really appreciate your insights on soy. I’m not sure if I first learned this from you or not, but I wouldn’t have been paying attention except for you: When I eat soy, I’m gluten-intolerant. When I don’t eat soy, I’m not. I wouldn’t ever ask you to imagine just how much cutting out the tofu and natto and edamame (still eat 3-4 oz of minimally processed soy a month) on days I plan to eat wheat products has improved my digestive health. I thank you and my friends thank you, too. – Robert 

Dear Robert, Thanks so much for sharing. I hope your reference to eating “minimally processed soy” means fermented products like miso paste, natto and tempeh. Raw or undercooked soybeans are extremely high in antinutrients and toxins. Re wheat products, make sure they’ve been properly soaked and prepared , and even then keep them to a minimum. Not good to become a “bread-atarian.”   Finally, don’t forget the bone broth, coconut oil, cultured vegetables and other WAPF dietary staples. They are the keys to gut healing and health.


Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, is The Naughty NutritionistTM because of her ability to outrageously and humorously debunk nutritional myths. A popular guest on radio and television, she has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, ABC's View from the Bay, NPR's People's Pharmacy and numerous other shows. Her own radio show, "Naughty Nutrition with Dr. Kaayla Daniel," launches April 2011 on World of Women Radio. Dr. Daniel is the author of The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food, a popular speaker at Wise Traditions and other conferences, and recipient of its 2005 Integrity in Science Award. Her website is and she can be reached at

6 Responses to Glutens for Punishment – Letters about the Gluten-Free Product Market and the Soy/Gluten Connection

  1. Joe Tapolski says:

    Dr. Daniel,

    Can making 100-percent buckwheat soba (provided it is properly soaked before preparation and that the buckwheat used was not previously heat treated) be a potential option for someone who wants a past-style fix at times sans gluten? I’ve also heard that buckwheat is a fairly good source of magnesium (I’m again assuming this referred to having properly soaked and prepared).

  2. Kaayla Daniel says:

    Dear Joe, yes, buckwheat is high in magnesium and an excellent food for many of us. Given that you are properly preparing your buckwheat, it should not pose a problem. A few people are reactive so, as with any food, be observant. The biggest problem with buckwheat for people on gluten-free diets is that most commercial “buckwheat” products also contain wheat. So your choice of a 100 percent buckwheat product is wise. Kaayla

  3. Marianne says:

    Hello Dr. Daniel,

    Thank you for this very clear and helpful article. Our third child (spaced too closely, and unfortunately my pregnancy with her contained far too many exceptions to the Nourishing Traditions dietary wisdom) has just been diagnosed with all manner of food allergies. Her doctor thinks most will be temporary, but since she is 9 months old, it means I have to take on removing all of those things from my diet.

    She is allergic to wheat, dairy, soy (not that we ever eat that), egg white, peanut, walnut, cat, dog, dust, mite, and some sort of grass in our backyard. I have been grateful for all my real food education through WAPF so that I can still prepare nourishing whole foods even while cutting out gluten and dairy. However, I am seriously missing my raw milk and cream.

    All that to say, I know this is a gut issue for my daughter, and I want to help her heal her gut with cultured foods, bone broth, and coconut oil. My instincts would be to do fermented vegetables, but can I make them with whey? Will they be as beneficial to the gut if they are made with just salt, or lemon, etc (as the recipe may supply alternates)?

    Thank you for your help.

  4. Kaayla Daniel says:

    Dear Marianne, If I understand your letter correctly, you are breast feeding exclusively. Generally people who cannot tolerate dairy do fine with whey so I wouldn’t worry about your eating cultured vegetables. It’s not likely to be a problem in the breast milk. Be observant, however. As you introduce, foods other than breastmilk into your daughter’s diet, I would consider using the meat-based formula. It’s very nutrient dense, low in allergens and would promote healing. I would also read the 2 articles on recovering from soy that are posted on this website. The main points apply to helping heal any and all allergies, and not just soy. Bone broth is crucial for healing and especially important when dairy is not tolerated. Toxic metals are almost certainly in the picture, and I’d strongly recommend that you begin detoxifying yourself after your daughter is weaned. Your daughter will also need to do so if gut healing is ever to take place. Avoidance alone isn’t the solution. More info in the soy recovery articles. Good luck, Kaayla

  5. In response to Jeannie, there are many gluten-free breads and other products out there, but unfortunately, most of them are devoid of nutrition, and are just another processed food. People assume they are healthy because they are gluten-free. Most of those flours have been completely stripped of anything nutritional, and they often have many other unhealthy additives, the most common being soy.

    It is much easier to make your own muffins and cakes instead of eating commercial gluten-free bread. But, stear away from cooking with the gluten free flours. I use buckwheat or masa flour. Masa is great because it has already been soaked and prepared. It thickens much more than wheat flour, so you don’t have to use very much either.

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