Gluten Free, Rice Free?

The Challenge

Gluten free, corn free and now rice free?

By now we have all heard about being gluten free either by fad, by choice or by necessity. Some of you may also know the dangers of switching to corn, especially GMO corn which can be equally as detrimental. What you may not have heard is rice is also a major player in the gluten free game. 

So whats the problem with rice? Arsenic. Don’t think it is affecting you? Well it could be mimicking gluten sensitivity and seeing as it is affecting m millions of people worldwide I would say chance are it could be an issue in your diet.  Arsenic exposure can come from multiple sources. There are both organic and inorganic arsenic so knowing the difference may help. 

Organic arsenic: (arsenobentaine and arsenocholine) – these forms are relatively non toxic and prominently found in seafood.  They are excreted from the body via the kidneys.

Inorganic arsenic (Trivalent or As III) – This form or arsenic is the real danger, and it is the form commonly found in rice based products.  It exerts damage by interfering with at least 200 different enzyme systems in the body.  Many of these are critical in producing energy and regulating DNA.  It is also a known human carcinogen (causes cancer).  Constant exposure to even low levels of arsenic can cause systemic multi-organ disease and damage including the liver, kidney, heart, lung, muscles, nervous system, and GI tract (are you seeing a trend here)?  this specific type comes from rice (especially brown rice), contaminated drinking water, pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides.  It is important to note that even organically grown rice can contain high levels of arsenic, because it can be found at high levels in soil depending on where it is grown. 

Does this mean it should be avoided entirely? I prefer to cut it out of my diet whenever possible, especially if there is a methylation issue (gene mutation).

For the newbies out there choosing a rice substitute may seem easy, but the issue lies in the fact that you are already suffering damage from gluten making you more susceptible to damage by arsenic when you transition to these gluten free substitutes.

Fun fact: rice contains gluten! It is also a factor in raising blood sugar levels which is not ideal (high glycemic)

Arsenic can also be found in the following: grains (and grain based products), bottled water, coffee, processed juice, and beer.  According to an investigation from Consumer Health Reports, the highest levels of this toxic metal are found in rice (especially brown rice).

The Solution

This applies to all rice even the non gmo and organic ones as arsenic is found in the soil and transfers over in the growth stage. What you could opt for is WILD rice. You see wild rice is actually not rice at all but rather marsh grass. How cool is that?

So what are some pf the symptoms of arsenic poisoning? They tend to overlap and manifest in much the same way as gluten. Many have experienced neuropathy, epileptic seizures, heart damage (cardiomyopathy), abdominal pain, severe diahhrea, skin rashes, nausea, and those common white bands/ridges across the nails. 

So what do you do if you think this might be happening? Unfortunately there is no universally agreed upon treatment. What you need to understand is that inorganic arsenic needs to go through a methylation reaction in the liver prior to being excreted by the kidneys, this is why supporting all our systems is so important especially if you suffer from a genetic methylation issue such as MTHFR gene mutation. This puts you at greater risk of arsenic toxicity. Chelation is a preferred method amongst this of us in the functional medicine community by simply incorporating a number of natural chelating agents into your diet you can be on the right track to health. This means they help to bind to toxic metals and remove them from the body. My preference is always food based, such as garlic, cilantro, parsley, broccoli, watercress, and onion. I love juicing with many of these, adding in some chlorella in supplement form to get some extra bang for your buck. Foods high in vitamin C will help as well, a personal fav is Camu Camu due to it being over 1000% higher in vitamin C content than oranges. Again I’m not a fan of anything synthetic so I prefer to stay away from vitamin C in supplemental form (ascorbic acid). Another good one is an addition of alpha lipoid acid (ALA) rich foods such as organ meat (especially red meat), yams, brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, spinach, and potatoes although only in small amounts. ALA is a powerful antioxidant which is vital to cellular energy production and of course being an anti-oxidant it helps fight free radicals. 

As a side note, a great test to conduct when looking into gene mutations of any type is the 23&me test. 

ALA - alpha lipoic acid

While ALA it is a great addition in regards to arsenic poisoning, it also has many other benefits not to be dismissed. It helps increase insulin sensitivity and has been shown to be helpful when addressing metabolic syndrome. It works well with other anti-oxidants in preventing free radical damage and reduce cellular damage.  It acts as a synergist with B vitamins to help in the production of energy from protein sources, carbs and fats. Some research has pointed to the use of ALA in treatment of diabetic neuropathy (due to its protective effects on the brain and nerve tissue), liver disease and glaucoma.


Chlorella is an amazing seaweed addition to any shake, juice or overall daily regime. I wrote a fun article about it complete with a great protein ball recipe on our sister site The Wild Carrot. It happens to be the most well known source of chlorophyll, it has almost 10 times the amount found in alfalfa! I prefer to grab what is known as broken cell wall chlorella as it tends to be twice as digestible as the other versions. It’s packed with protein as well! Why do I love this stuff so much that I consume it daily? Here is my list: boosts energy, detoxes from heavy metals lie lead and mercury. It is rich in phytonutrients including amino acids, chlorophyll, betacarotene, potassium, phosphorus, biotin, magnesium and B-complex vitamins. It is a blue green algae, similar to it’s cousin spirulina (which I go into in my article here).

Known to support hormone health, heart health,and help negate the harmful effects of chemo and radiation, helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Don’t have time to juice? Thats fine, just throw some of this into your daily regime and get what you need rather than missing out all together. In 1 ounce (3 tbsp) you get

  • 16g protein
  • 287% RDA vitamin A
  • 71% RDA vitamin B2
  • 33% RDA vitamin B3
  • 202% RDA Iron
  • 22% RDA magnesium
  • 133% RDA zinc

Camu Camu

SO as I mentioned in the above article camu camu has60 times more vitamin C than an orange, that’s 1180% of your RDA in one tsp. Valine, an essential amino acid is found in camu camu, helps prevent musle breakdown and is key for nervous system/cognitive function

For those of you taking magnesium you will need potassium as well, good news, you can get a healthy dose in camu, this is necessary for heart and kidney function (71:1 mg in every 100grams)

Leucine (another essential amino acid) needed for muscle and bone tissue growth, and recovery. It is also key for the production of growth hormone (gains baby!)

Serine – another amino acid!, this one is key for digestion, and if you have been reading anything in the media nowadays you know we all need a little help with that. Serine helps to breakdown the bonds in proteins and polypeptides so our bodies can use them.

Flavonoids, several kinds to be exact. These are what give fruit and vegetables their amazing colours, they are also powerful antioxidants.

Gallic acid, this stuff has some awesome anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.

Ellagic acid, this has actually been studied for it’s anticancer effects, although the research is still in it’s early stages, in some of these studies it has also been found to have anti-diabetic effects.



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