Why does gluten make your abs weak and your belly protrude?

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The gluten in wheat, rye and barley is very hard to digest.  Modern forms of grain have even more gluten in them than the older forms such as spelt or kamut.  Old ways of cooking with gluten involved long fermentation periods which helped with these digestive problems.  Modern cooking methods- especially bread making techniques in the UK – and modern grains wreak havoc with everybody’s digestion.

So this along with stress means we all develop food sensitivities which cause inflammation actually throughout the body as the big molecules escape the leaky digestive system and into the blood stream.  See the youtube clip in Digestion 7. The digestive tract gets inflamed.

So here we see the abdominal muscles.  They are arranged in layers, the rectus abdominis (a.k.a. 6-pack or 1-pack for the above photo) is the most superficial, followed by the external then internal obliques and underneath them all is the Transverse Abdominis (TVA), a slim wall of muscle that wraps round the entire abdominal contents.  When activated it compresses the abdominal contents and connects the strength generated by the lower body to the upper body – or vice versa.  It makes you look slimmer.

If you bang your shin on something, the last thing you want to do is press the sore bit – and so as the digestive tract gets increasingly irritated and inflamed as gluten is constantly eaten, the brain is going to shut down the TVA to avoid compression.  As proof you could tie a piece of string tightly around your waist and do the plank.  If your TVA is working well, the string goes effortlessly loose, you can breathe easily and the plank is not particularly hard work. You abs will feel firm down in front of  your hips and not noticeably contracted over your stomach (even though they are).

In my years of experience, I have found that when the TVA is not working, people hate the string and are unable to sustain a loose string for any length of time.

Balance is improved when the TVA is active.

The TVA is activated by the same nerve as the pelvic floor, the multifidus (the small deep muscles that support the spine) and the diaphragm. So get one and you get them all.  If you are a martyr to backache, then coming off gluten is an absolute necessity.  And then you need to learn how to engage the TVA.  Ditto if sneezing is a risky business.

Best of all you lose weight when you come off the wheat and look skinnier because now your TVA is working and you can properly pull your guts in.

Incidentally, the distension in the above photograph is so great, that coming of gluten alone will not sort that out.  This person has many food sensitivities, partying bad bacteria and a horrendous GI (digestive) tract.

3 Responses to “Why does gluten make your abs weak and your belly protrude?”

  1. ildiko varhelyi 2011-09-5

    Hi Clare, loving your blog. Cannot wait until you put some Z Health on it 😉 Ildi

    • Clare Harding 2013-12-6

      Ha ha ha. What a response. Clearly pressed your buttons. I assume, of course, you have given up gluten for at least a month, so you are speaking from personal experience.


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