Top 20 Things You Should Know About the Impact of Gluten (from Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.)

  Today I have the distinct pleasure of sharing a guest post from Ron Hoggan. Ron was the guest speaker at my support group’s annual open house back in November. He currently lives on Vancouver Island (and previously many years in Calgary) and my group is in Virginia, but we “Skyped” him in. I have the utmost respect for everything Ron Hoggan has done for awareness regarding celiac and all gluten issues. Everyone in attendance at the open house was both impressed by and grateful for his presentation, The Many Faces of Gluten-Induced Illness. They were especially appreciative of the very informative question & answer session afterwards.

Here’s some additional information on Ron Hoggan. He has a doctorate in education. His ongoing research explores the impact of gluten consumption on school readiness, behavioral function, cognitive function, and learning disabilities. A retired high school teacher, Ron continues to pursue peer-reviewed research and publication. He is the editor of the Journal of Gluten Sensitivity and the author of the books, Dangerous Grains and The Iron EdgeRon has also written many articles for the popular media about dietary interventions. He will soon begin teaching continuing education classes at the college-level:  one class will be on the psychological/psychiatric impact of gluten consumption, and the other is about reversing Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. 

I’ve been a fan of Ron Hoggan’s since I was first diagnosed as gluten intolerant in 2003. Among my homework assignments from my doctor was one to read Ron’s first book, Dangerous Grains. I read it immediately. For someone like myself who has suffered from various symptoms and conditions as far back as I could remember, this book read like a suspense novel—a page turner that inspired feelings of surprise, validation, excitement, and anxiety (among others). I have suggested this book to many since.

I became much more of a fan of Ron’s after he responded to a query of mine on the Celiac Listserv. As I was thanking him for his reply, I got the idea to ask him about speaking at our group’s fifth anniversary open house. Keep in mind that Ron and I had never met or even spoken before this email exchange, but he readily agreed to speak to my group. Soon we were talking via email, testing Skype, and running dry runs of his presentation to test out the equipment at the facility where the open house was being held. There were a few glitches here and there, for sure, but Ron was unflappable. I’m convinced his friendly and adaptable nature is helping him be an effective messenger for  awareness of celiac and other gluten-related illnesses, as much as the validity of the content he shares. And, after working with Ron on our open house, I’m even more of a fan of his.  

I am also a subscriber of the Journal of Gluten Sensitivity, which Ron edits. (Some of you may recognize that publication better when I tell you that it’s the publication associated with It’s really an excellent publication. The articles, many of which are written by Ron himself, are always well-researched, diverse in their subject matter, and compelling. They are usually written by well-known spokespeople in the gluten-free community. (For example, my good friend and fellow blogger, Melissa McLean Jory, the author of Gluten Free for Good, has written nutritional articles for the Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.)

Rather than try to summarize Ron’s work, I asked him to share 20 things we should know about gluten’s effects. I was so appreciative when he emailed his listing in less than 24 hours. Courtesy of Ron Hoggan, here is the Top 20 list for my gfe readers. (Note that definitions for bolded terms are shown at the end of the listing.)

Top 20 Things You Should Know About the Impact of Gluten (in no specific order)

1. Gluten can be undermining your health without any symptoms.

2. Gluten often underlies autoimmunity through inciting excessive zonulin production – 80% of the human population produces zonulin which develops into haptaglobin 2.

3. Replacing gluten with other highly glycemic, highly processed “replacement” foods is not the path to optimal nutrition.

4. Gluten can have a dramatic impact on psychological wellness and may be at the root of many cases of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

5. Gluten can interfere with children’s academic performance and school readiness.

6. The stricter the GF diet, the greater the potential benefit.

7. Gluten is highly addictive through the opioid peptides it contains and the excessive zonulin production it incites. Zonulin allows these opioids access to the bloodstream and the brain.

8. Grains are highly glycemic and aren’t a healthy food for anyone.

9. Gluten-induced illness can take many forms, including more than 200 diseases, syndromes, and conditions.

10 Gluten can contribute to the onset and development of a variety of cancers.

11. It is not a sacrifice to give up gluten. It is a gift to understand the need to give it up.

12. Osteoporosis can be reversed when it is caused by gluten.

13. Neurological disease is often caused or exacerbated by gluten.

14. Dementia, when driven by gluten, can be reversed with a gluten-free diet.

15. Wheat germ agglutinin can bypass tight epithelial junctions even in the absence of gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

16. A variety of human tissues are damaged just from direct exposure to gluten in a Petri dish.

17. Our digestive tracts lack the length, enzymes, and other features that would signal human adaptation to eating grains.

18. Skeletal remains of people who adopted grain agriculture show that they are shorter in stature and have abnormal bone structures suggesting nutrient deficiencies.

19. Depression is the most common symptom of celiac disease.

20. Avoiding gluten just makes good sense for anyone who isn’t starving.

21. A brief trial of a gluten-free diet can’t hurt, and the harder it is to follow the diet, the more likely you need to avoid gluten.

–Zonulin is a protein that participates in tight junctions between cells of the wall of the digestive tract. Initially discovered in 2000 as the target of zonula occludens toxin, secreted by cholera pathogen Vibrio cholerae, it has been implicated in the pathogenesis of coeliac disease and diabetes mellitus type 1. (Wikipedia)

–”Haptoglobin is a molecule that has been known to scientists for many years. It was identified as a marker of inflammation in the body. Haptoglobin 1 is the original form of the haptoglobin molecule, and scientists believe it evolved 800 million years ago. Haptoglobin 2 is a permutation found only in humans.” Science Daily Sept 7, 2009. Dr. Alessio Fasano has stated that only about 80% of humans have haptoglobin 2. The other 20% are therefore safe from developing autoimmune diseases, just as other primates are.

–An opioid is a chemical that works by binding to opioid receptors, which are found principally in the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. The receptors in these two organ systems mediate both the beneficial effects and the side effects of opioids.

The analgesic effects of opioids are due to decreased perception of pain and decreased reaction to pain, as well as increased pain tolerance. The side effects of opioids include sedation, respiratory depression, and constipation. Opioids can cause cough suppression, which can be both an indication for opioid administration or an unintended side effect. Physical dependence can develop with ongoing administration of opioids, leading to a withdrawal syndrome with abrupt discontinuation. Opioids can produce a feeling of euphoria, and this effect, coupled with physical dependence, can lead to recreational use of opioids by many individuals.

Although the term opiate is often used as a synonym for opioid, the term is more properly limited to the natural alkaloids found in the resin of the opium poppy and, more loosely, the semi-synthetic opioids derived from them. (Wikipedia)

–Agglutinin is “a substance that will cause a clumping of particles such as bacteria or erythrocytes. Of major importance are the specific or immune agglutinins, which are antibodies that will agglutinate bacteria containing the corresponding antigens on their surfaces.” (Sci-Tech Encyclopedia)

–Epithelial – In biology and medicine, an epithelium is a tissue composed of cells that line the cavities and surfaces of structures throughout the body. (wikipedia) The epithelial cells that line the intestines form a single layer that acts as a barrier between the gut and the bloodstream. The barrier function of the tight junctions between these cells is critical to our protection from the “outside” world, from which we selectively absorb valuable nutrients while blocking the absorption of larger molecules that can be very harmful.

Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

I hope you will consider this top 20 listing from Ron in reference to your own health and share this listing with others as well. If you’d like to learn more, I’m hosting a giveaway of several of Ron’s books and videos. Just click over to my Out and About page to enter.

Not just gf, but gfe!

Not just gf, but gfe!

Full Disclosure/Disclaimer: This post may contain one or more affiliate links. If you purchase through them, your cost will always be the same, but I will receive a small commission. Thanks for the support! Read the full disclaimer here.


43 Responses to “Top 20 Things You Should Know About the Impact of Gluten (from Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.)”

  1. christina on March 8th, 2010 2:14 am

    Thanks, Shirley. This is very informative. We are learning so much. Yesterday Emily broke out in a bad rash. She hadn’t had one in months. As I racked my brain to try and find out what she ate, my other daughter read the ingredient list from a homemade lip balm she got a farmers market that Emily had tried too. It had wheat germ oil in it! Case solved.

    • Shirley on March 10th, 2010 2:19 pm

      Hi christina–Kudos to you all for being gluten detectives! Every teeny tiny bit of gluten has an effect on one who has gluten issues. It’s wonderful that being vigilant has kept your daughter from rashes all these months! I just love to hear success stories. :-) The lip balm incident is one we’ve all had … while we’d like to avoid such incidents, they reinforce that we’re on the right path.


  2. Iris on March 8th, 2010 10:41 am

    Thanks for this, Shirley. I especially appreciated #19, Depression is the most common symptom of Celiac disease. I just saw a GI who “informed” me that my depression couldn’t be caused by gluten and that he had never heard of anyone having such a strong response to eating it. Needless to say, I’ve been stewing since….

    • Shirley on March 10th, 2010 2:26 pm

      Hi Iris–I’m always so glad when you share your experiences and validate what’s been posted—thank you! Good grief on the recent experience with the GI. Almots every one of them needs major gluten issue training. Seriously. Lock them in a room for a weekend and don’t let them out until they GET IT! I’m sorry you had that experience. I’d stew, too … then I’d try to enlighten him … or at least visualize him all knowledgeable and helpful to folks. ;-)

      My sympathies, dear. Thank goodness you know your own body on this subject!


  3. Iris on March 8th, 2010 10:51 am

    P.s. He told me to see a psychiatrist rather than eating a gluten free diet. Grr.

    • Shirley on March 10th, 2010 2:28 pm

      Yep, been there, done that. But, I’m so sorry. Ironically, I just ran into the former nurse of the doctor who referred me to a psychiatrist. She was wide eyed to hear my tale and very positive and encouraging about what I’d taken that bad experience and turned it into, considering I am leading a support group and enlightening folks at health fairs now.


  4. Kathryn on March 8th, 2010 12:08 pm

    Thank you for posting this.

    Just yesterday i read in a mainstream diet info that GF diets are “fad” diets for mainstream population & “unnecessary.” The article did specify that celiac disease requires a GF diet & that as little as 1/8th of a teaspoon of gluten (& of course for some folks even less) will create reactions/problems for those with celiac disease.

    Mainstream “health” proponents are not likely to let go of the politically motivated “food pyramid” that encourages people to have a large portion of their diets be grain based – breads & pastas.

    Anyway, i sure appreciate this info. The above article i mentioned was entirely overlooking that most people with gluten intolerance don’t have a clue that they’ve a problem. Also, many GFs tend to substitute gluten items with equally unhealthy GF foods. Ron does touch on this in the list.

    • Shirley on March 10th, 2010 9:27 pm

      Hi Kathryn–Nice to see you again. :-) I think I read that same article. It seems like there’s a mixture of bad and good in each article. Dr. Oz also quoted the 1/8 of a tsp when he did his segment on celiac with Dr. Green and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Personally, I’d hate to think how I’d react if I ate that much gluten. Even cross contamination affects me greatly and I’m imagining that’s just a tiny “drop” of two.

      I agree that there’s so much more behind our food guidance than hopes for our well being.

      Yes, it’s sad and so detrimental when the equally unhealthy gf foods is what becomes the focus of a gf person’s diet. We need to teach folks that real, whole food (and dishes made mostly from whole food, perhaps with a few processed ingredients) is the answer.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Kathryn. :-)


  5. Alta on March 8th, 2010 1:31 pm

    Wonderful post, Shirley! I have hesitated to read his books because I have this belief that they’re for people new to the diet, and I don’t consider myself as such. I am corrected, because I learned a lot just reading this little article! I definitely want to try to learn more!

    • Shirley on March 10th, 2010 9:51 pm

      Hi Alta–I know what you mean, but like you realized there’s really so much info in his books that one can learn a lot. I learned even more from his presentation at our open house, and I should probably re-read Dangerous Grains, re-watch Smarten Up!, etc. One can only take in so much at one time, you know? BTW, Ron is also working on two more books right now.

      Best of luck in the giveaway! :-)


  6. Ginny on March 8th, 2010 1:37 pm

    So much good information in that list! I am finally striving for gluten-free after many years of knowing wheat was causing me problems. Thanks for the great info, and for all the support for those with gluten issues.I’m at three weeks and taking it one day at a time! And I’m feeling great, sleeping great, and my joints are better.(o:Ginny

    • Shirley on March 10th, 2010 9:59 pm

      Hey Ginny–Three weeks strong, I’d say! I truly love hearing your wonderful report. :-) Some folks really do start seeing improvements that quickly … I’m so glad that you are one of them! Will look forward to future progress reports from time to time. ;-)

      Thanks so much for sharing with us and thanks, too, for your kind words!


  7. Jenn/CinnamonQuill on March 8th, 2010 6:18 pm

    Wow; I learned so much from this post. Now I’m dying to get my hands on the Dangerous Grains book–sounds like a very provoking read. Very interesting!

    • Shirley on March 10th, 2010 10:29 pm

      Hi Jenn–So glad you learned from Dr. Hoggan. :-) Yes, Dangerous Grains is very thought provoking.


  8. glutenfreeforgood on March 8th, 2010 9:24 pm


    Great and most helpful post! And thank you for the nod my way. I do appreciate your generous spirit and goal to truly help people with gluten issues. You’re doing this for all the right reasons, that’s so apparent.

    And yes, Ron Hoggan has contributed so much to awareness and education! Aren’t we lucky to have him advocating for us?!

    Thinking of you and sending warm thoughts and prayers your way. Hang in there, Huckleberry!


    • Shirley on March 10th, 2010 10:37 pm

      Hi Melissa–Thank YOU for such wonderful words! Yes, Ron Hoggan is the best. I’m amazed at all he does to spread awareness. He just told me that he had two books and a research project in the works–wow!

      Thanks so much for your sweet words on Huckleberry, too. We’ll see him in heaven one day.


  9. Chaya on March 8th, 2010 11:11 pm

    Thanks for posting this. There is a world of information in one article. I have to show it to hubby.

    • Shirley on March 11th, 2010 8:27 am

      Hi Chaya–Thanks for taking the time to comment! I’m so glad you found Ron’s listing so helpful. It’s amazing what he packed into a Top 20 listing, isn’t it? Hope your husband finds it helpful, too. :-)


  10. Kay Guest on March 9th, 2010 10:21 am

    Thank you for this very informative post! Besides giving very wonderful info from Ron Hoggan, I am very thankful for the mention of Dr. Alessio Fasano. He is actually the one who discovered Zonulin! Please look at this article written by Rita Rooney- He is a HERO to me! Why? Blood test for celiac? This is thanks to Dr. Fasano. You know that figure, 1 in 133 Americans have Celiac? This is also due to Dr Fasano. My heartfelt thanks go out to all those who help people with gluten issues…doctors, educators, and helpful bloggers! Thanks, Kay

    • Shirley on March 11th, 2010 8:53 am

      Hi Kay–Yes, we have several folks who are working hard for celiac/gluten issue awareness. :-) Some more so for celiac and others for non-celiac gluten sensitivity. We need them all! I actually read that article when it came out and shared it with my group. I agree that it’s excellent. As you noted, your link didn’t work and unfortunately, the article was no longer available on the U of MD Celiac Center site (or not that I could find anyway). I found it elsewhere and updated your link. You are correct that we have Dr. Fasano to thank for the 1 in 133 figure for celiac, as he initiated/headed up that study. I find it interesting that the celiac incidence statistic was purely a blood test, yet the gold standard remains a blood test plus biopsy. As another doctor in the gluten ministry said, trying to find intestinal damage from a biopsy can be like dipping a bucket into the ocean and expecting to “catch” fish. One can’t say that there are no fish if the bucket comes up with no fish, and one can’t say that there’s no damage if the biopsy shows none. Add to that the Dr. Green study that showed that 1/3 of biopsy-proven celiacs tested negative on the blood testing, plus the fact that biopsies can be taken wrong, misinterpreted by unsavvy medical personnel, etc. and you truly have a can of worms. It’s really not a black and white topic at all, and Ron Hoggan shows that with his work. And, of course, readers here and elsewhere share their stories and show it every day, too.

      We’ll keep pushing forward and hoping for a broader definition that will help the folks who need it. Thanks so much, Kay!


  11. Kay Guest on March 9th, 2010 10:42 am

    Oh so sorry, I just tried to click on the article about Dr. Fasano and it won’t work. If you (and your readers) google those two names together..Alessio Fasano and Rita Rooney…you should be able to find it. Hope you are able to read it, it is very well written. Kay

  12. Linda on March 9th, 2010 11:13 pm

    Using Skype for your support group meeting was a great idea. This was a very informative post, though I don’t think I agree with the idea of all grains being bad. I definitely agree on the mental effects though.

    • Shirley on March 11th, 2010 10:58 am

      Hi Linda–We’ve been using Skype since October and have been very pleased. It truly opens up the world to our group. I am not shy about asking folks to Skype in. ;-) Of course, it can make a virtual friendship more of a “real” one, too, just between individuals. All one needs is a webcam and a mike on one’s computer. :-)

      I hear what you are saying about grains. I still eat non-gluten grains. However, there is a whole school of thought that man as a species has not been eating grains for that long relatively speaking, and that we are not well adapted to them. It’s the whole notion that we are at essence hunters and gatherers and should eat accordingly. I do believe I feel better when I eat no grains at all, but again, as of this writing, I’m still enjoying meals made using non-gluten ones.

      The mental effects are something that really surprise folks, and I think those of us who are celiac or gluten intolerant/sensitive have all experienced them on some level … from brain fog to moodiness to irritability, and some with more serious conditons invoked by gluten.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!


  13. Chelsey on March 11th, 2010 3:21 pm

    Wow! Incredibly informative post. I am grateful to read that I am not overdoing it by any means going gluten free. I spent last week visiting family in B.C. and I was eating “Shrimp chips”. Not long after I felt tired like I needed a nap. Eventually I wandered over and double checked the ingredients only to find that they were made with wheat flour. I have been completely gluten free for awhile now and I am shocked at how fast it came all came back (the symptoms). It really has a huge effect on me. Next time I eat something out of a package I will check the ingredients first thing!

    • Shirley on March 11th, 2010 9:54 pm

      Hey Chelsey–The longer one is gluten free, the more obvious the effects of gluten are when one accidentally (or purposely in some cases) eats it. Thanks for sharing your experience about instant fatigue/needing a nap. There are folks who suffer with that symptom daily and have no idea there could be a gluten connection. We all do that thing from time to time … don’t read the label right away. But, it pays to read the labels, of course, for gluten and then other stuff, too, like unpronounceable names, other ingredients you’ve come to realize you don’t do well with, etc.

      Sorry you had the experience, but again, I greatly appreciate you sharing it with the gfe readers. Don’t forget to head over to the Out and About page if you want a chance at any of Dr. Hoggan’s materials.


  14. fartygirl on March 11th, 2010 8:44 pm

    It’s great to hear some health facts about gluten that are not specific to celiac disease. Thanks!

    • Shirley on March 11th, 2010 9:58 pm

      Hi fartygirl–Welcome to gfe! :-) I’m so glad you appreciate the info from Ron Hoggan. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Be sure to enter the giveaway on my Out and About page if you’d like to win some of his publications for yourself or to pass on to others.


  15. Alisa - Frugal Foodie on March 13th, 2010 1:46 am

    Fascinating post Shirley. It would be interesting to read more details on some of these. I will have to research! Thanks!

    • Shirley on March 13th, 2010 10:56 pm

      Hi Alisa–Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! Reading Dangerous Grains is one excellent way to learn more. You can follow link at the bottom of post or just click on my Out and About page to enter giveaway for that and other publications by Ron Hoggan. Let me know if I can point you to any other sources or be of help any other way.


  16. Stephanie @ on March 14th, 2010 6:48 pm

    wonderful post, Shirley!

    • Shirley on March 15th, 2010 6:33 am

      Hi Stephanie–Thanks! Ron Hoggan really shared some valuable points, didn’t he? I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment! :-)


  17. Gluten FREE foods ROCK on March 16th, 2010 12:24 pm


    Great information

    Can I share the 20 Things You Should Know About the Impact of Gluten with my support group?

    I ordered a copy of the video.

    • Shirley on March 16th, 2010 6:50 pm

      Hi April!–Thanks so much. :-) Ron did a wonderful job of giving us all food for thought! Yes, please share with your support group. (Please give credit to Ron, of course, and I’d appreciate a mention of my website as well.) We need all the awareness we can get! That’s terrific that you ordered his video. There’s some really good info there as well … eye opening stuff.


  18. Theresa on April 17th, 2010 5:59 am

    Wow! I’m going to try and find Dangerous Grains now, it looks like a great book!
    I’ve been gluten free for over a year now [not coeliac, "just" intolerant, huh] and although at times it’s been really, really hard, I feel so much better now that I’m healthy. Everyone says that I’m like a different person, I think that mentally, I’m SO much better than I was before going off gluten. I just thank God that I discovered my gluten issues – and now I’m doing my best to help educate others. :)
    I’ve copied out number 11: “It’s not a sacrifice to give up gluten. It is a gift to understand the need to give it up.” – wow, I love that.

    • Shirley on April 17th, 2010 10:39 pm

      Hi Theresa–If you want to order Dangerous Grains from Amazon, you’ll find it via my Books tab at the top of the page. Yeah, I hear you on the “just” gluten intolerant. At first it seemed extremely overwhelming (it’s just such a different diet from what we’ve been eating), but in short time, it becomes second nature. The mental improvements can be such a surprise. When we are compromised by gluten, we have no idea how much until it’s out of our system. Thank you so much for educating others! The percentage who listen might be small, but I figure if even one person listens and is transformed by a gf diet, that’s HUGE.

      #11 spoke to me as well. How lucky we are to have received that gift! :-)


  19. sandy on September 26th, 2012 6:06 pm

    Could you please give me Dr. Ron Hoggan’s email address? We have communicated in the past, but I can’t find it now. Thanks.

    • Shirley on September 26th, 2012 6:45 pm

      Hi Sandy–I don’t feel comfortable giving out Dr. Hoggan’s email address here, but I will email him your contact info so he can contact you if he wishes. :-) Dr. Hoggan is always so helpful; he’s really a terrific resource. Hope you two connect soon!


    • Shirley on September 27th, 2012 12:42 pm

      Hi sandy–I’m so happy that Dr. Hoggan graciously replied to both of us via email. Now you’ll be set to chat with him! :-)

      All the best,

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