PBC Foundation

Benefit of a gluten-free diet for liver health regardless of gluten intolerance?

I just read the book, 'wheat belly' by William Davis. He talks about gluten being the source of many autoimmune conditions, even in the absence of gluten intolerance or celiac disease, due to its effect on bowel permeability to the circulatory system. I'm wondering if anyone out there has tried a gluten free diet just for the sake of liver health, and whether it has had any noticeable effects?

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I am on a mostly gluten free diet by choice. I feel more energetic, but that might be because I have lost 20lbs since starting this diet. I did it because I believe it is a healthier way to eat. That is just my opinion. I will do anything that supports liver health. My numbers are good on my blood tests and I am asymptomatic. Now I will have to read the book. Thanks for the information. :-) Judi


Thanks for your insight, glad to hear that you are doing so well!


Hi there... I am entering the third week of the paleo regime (not diet as this suggests fad) which cuts out similar things.. I don't have allergies but have read about women undertaking this who have several autoimmune conditions and have went from incredible suffering to no symptoms... So far I have found considerably less; abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss, healthier looking comments from people... I can't comment on bloods yet as I was only diagnosed in may with pbc.. So it's too early to tell.. My husband is also eating clean In support of me.. Please note though I was toldbby consultant previous to starting no need to change diet.


Thanks for your reply, I'm sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. I've found strength in numbers here, hope you find the same. Interesting, isn't it, that there is very little advice in the way of diet from physicians. I was told the same from my specialist. I suppose the only way to find answers is to search out our own solutions. Glad to hear that you are already noticing an improvement. I'm going to try gluten-free for a few months, we'll see how it goes.


I have read several articles and they recommend GF diet for PBC. One person on this forum stated it can take up to 12 months to notice a difference. I started GF this week. Ugh I am a vegan so this makes it hard for me to find anything to eat. I guess I'm in the complaining stage of going GF. But like you I will try anything to help me and my poor liver. ;-) Patty


Hello 123pbc.

I personally do not think that gluten, wheat in particular is behind most auto-immune conditions.

My son who is 25 now wasn't so good a few years ago and he had a colonoscopy and was mentioned at the time to try ommitting wheat gluten from his diet as it was thought that overuse of antibiotics for a skin problem he had at the time had caused a big disturbance to his digestive system as can happen with antibiotics. (I've not had antibiotics since 1999 and back then I developed thrush following the short course of tablets.)

So I switched to gluten-free cooking when he is at home and altho' he feels better over time he has started to get back to how he was. He does say he can eat wheat products (he has a sandwich for lunch at work) but he finds if he eats it in more abundance he does start to have very loose stools.

This then means that the rest of the family eat gluten-free (GF) cooking for the evening meal. I know that GF is easier digested, we only have to remember baby rice for eg when starting to wean a baby. I am not tho' an advocator of a permanent GF way of life tho' myself.

My late gran who was in her 80's when she died 20yrs ago didn't know rice as for savoury dishes, her generation here in England would eat it as a sweet pudding for eg. They ate wheat bread and cooked with white refined flour, no wholemeal then. I remember my gran never bought wholemeal or brown bread and with a cup of tea later morning or in the afternoon the biscuits/cake would come out, usually all made with wheatflour.

I think the changing times have had something to do with these auto-immune conditions. We seem to have more food now that we ever had as my gran for instance was put through the wartime rationing so people back then didn't eat like people eat today. Fertilisers, pesticides and modern farming and harvesting these days are by far different to what they used to be. Decades ago, eggs for instance were free range and probably what is now labelled organic not battery farm produced with artificial chicken feed and immunisations galore.

I think there is a whole lot of things that can set of something like PBC. I myself seem to suspect that myself having Hepatitis course of injections in a job I was in several years ago could have been my trigger for PBC. (I have recently read that the vaccination can cause abnormal LFTs so who knows if that could have had that knock-on effect if perhaps I did then go onto develop abnormal LFTs.)

On the whole tho' I won't knock a GF diet. I know myself that buckwheat for eg isn't with gluten (those are a current breakfast cereal I have in) and that it is apparently an old form of grain. I also have discovered myself that I feel much better if I juice and blend fruits and vegetables (and even parsley is good for juicing with) as opposed to eating the whole fruit with skin. I think due to the blending in particular the skin of the fruit/veg is cut down to very tiny tiny shreds that are more than likely better digestible so I think easier on the digestive system but that is from my own experience. I try to juice/blend at least once a day, earlier in the day I find better, less to digest later in the day.

I do know though one bonus of GF is that unlike some people who can feel bloated after eating something wholegrain of a wheat variety in particular if they're not used to it or have laid off for several days, GF seems to not have this same effect there.


I have a good friend who has coeliac's disease, and I know from her experience that trying to achieve a completley gluten-free diet is unbelievably difficult. Yet this is what coeliacs MUST do, or they would eventually be unable to absorb nutrients, as the villi (microscopic finger-like projections from the intestine wall, that provide a vast surface area for absorption) all shrink in response to the presence of gluten.

In the last 50 or so years, mass production of 100s of storable foods - foods that used to be made fresh at home, or bought fresh - has involved the addition of gluten in one form or another, for bulk, or to provide the right consistency or maintain a stable emulsion, eg: ice-cream, ketchups, dressings, mayonnaise, sausages, breadcrumbs on ham, etc. - the list is endless. Coeliacs have to carry a food guide booklet, which is constantly updated as advisors find out more, or manufacturers change their products.

However, this is one of the reasons why gluten was not such an issue for our ancestors, as they were not eating so many - if any - gluten-containing mass-produced foods. Another reason why the incidence of gluten intolerence might have increased, is that the selective breeding of wheat strains (eg, so as to include more gluten for easy mass bread production) has resulted in flours that even our grandparents would not have been eating. Therefore, in the past, those prone to gluten intolerance would not have faced such an onslaught of gluten in their diet, as we do today.

I don't have a gluten-free diet - I know from my friend that it's hard work - but I do know that if I continue to avoid wheat (and oats) and eat mainly fresh food and avoid fat (especially if it's just 'in' processed foods) bottled, tinned and mass produced food, then I feel much better and all bloating, ibs, bowel problems etc remain well in the past. As I've said elsewhere, I don't have PBC, I just test +ve for AMAs, with blood tests clear for over 20 years, but I am surprised that more is not said about the importance of diet in relation to PBC.


I too know one of my brother's friends who had health problems over a decade ago and got diagnosed with coeliac disease. He occasionally as my brother has said waivers a bit but within days he is experiencing problems once again so he is back to gluten-free. He doesn't carry a list round with him as when my son had his own digestive problem a few years ago (he's not a coeliac) he spoke in-depth about this to my brother's friend. Basically this friend sticks to certain foods most of the time (ie jacket potatoes, no chips when out as a lot have actually had some sort of gluten coating).

As yo quite rightly say so GrittyReads, mass production has lead to more gluten in foods. I can't say up until my son had a problem that is mild, I never really overly-thought about it but I have myself with my family for years and years tried to avoid a lot of processed foods but I think in this century now it can be quite a difficult exercise.

Here in England (I state this for our other countries contributing on this site) last week there was 4 programmes over 5 nights on food, a "Tonight" special. Interestingly in the half hour it was on (no commercials to interrupt!) there was some very interesting questions posed as well as facts that for some could confuse the issues even further. For eg there was a piece on whether an organic or intensively-farmed chicken was good or bad. Apparently fatwise there was very little difference except for the price, weight and taste. The one it didn't pose for me was what one chicken had really been fed over the other as we know intensive farming can bring factory produced feed. The programme covered some of the pitfalls but interestingly it did finish on a week's experiment with a nutritionist. She got given a certain menu to follow each day and report how she was feeling.

Her health was checked prior to the start and then at the end. She said she ate healthily herself, felt full of energy, looked pretty good and her health check was pretty good. By the end of the week she was feeling ill with eating a high fat, high sugar diet with not much fibre or fruit/veg. The best part of it was that by changing her diet, her cholesterol had apparently gone up and a liver scan showed that her liver didn't look as in a good a shape that it did prior to starting! (One reason why I wouldn't agree to a livery biopsy with a diagnose of PBC via symptons and LFTs and AMA tests but that is a different topic.) Her liver blood tests did show a significant difference which ultimately shows that certain food additives (ie in fizzy pop/soda) and high fat, high sugar content diet can put some strain on our livers.

I think at the end of the day for us all now we have PBC and ones with known AMAs but asymptomatic a continued sensible diet is probably better as I reckon it is aiding our system in the fight with this condition.

Although a totally different subject I did years ago read up about Victorian England. I think the Victorians did some rather bizarre things and I think they changed a lot of the ways of thinking with regards to food. I heard not so long ago on a programme about windmills being quite fascinated by them that at this working one, Lincoln I think it was, used to make bread from wholegrain flour but in Victiorian times, that changed as Victorians started to demand white flour that is more processed for their afternoon cakes. They were charged more due to it being more processed but ironically today it is vice-versa, seems the more processed a food, the cheaper it seems to be and I have found the same with different types of flour myself. (Of which I have to say with my son now, I tend to buy gluten-free self-raising flour and use that to bake scones, buns and crumbles, thicken my own stews, gravy etc.)

I know one thing it definitely is not cheap if one was to buy gluten-free products. I never took much notice up to a few years ago!

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I have had PBC for many years and 8 months ago I went gluten free to see if this would have any effect on the progression of my disease. The first blood work was done 3 months ago and all of my liver enzymes have decreased significantly! I feel more energetic and can think more clearly. My next tests will be done soon and I can't wait to see the results. Eating GF has not been easy, but It gets easier everyday. It has been most difficult educating all of my friends and family. They mean well, but they keep trying to give me "gluten free food" which are still not healthy for you. Just another grain product which has been processed. Every day is a new day!


Following DX of PBC/AIH last spring, my Gastro recommended going GF and my LFT levels dropped back into the normal range within 3 months and have stayed there for 9 months thus far. I immediately lost 44 lbs, dropped several sizes in clothing, had clearer skin (I have rosacea), feel better --- though not completely well, and have noticed I don't have the extreme mood swings. Twice, I've been 'glutened' and let my diet go for several days, and quickly noticed bloat, blemished skin, more fatigue and a generally 'ill' feeling. For me, it's worth giving up some favorite foods and finding GF alternatives.

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I was recently diagnosed with PBC with no symptoms, other than elevated ALT, AST, M2, IGG, IGM. Doc has been watching due to elevated AST/ALT last 2 years. I have been gluten free now for two weeks, because everything I have been reading states Gluten is the main cause of autoimmune disorders. I have lost about 7 lbs now and feel so much better mentally as well as physically. My energy too, is so much better. I cannot even believe it. I truly thought it was all hype. I would suggest anyone with PBC or any autoimmune disorder to try going gluten free and see if you notice anything yourself. It certainly cannot hurt, that is for sure!

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it's a fantastic book! I've done low carb (and gluten free). not since being diagnosed (I am doing lower carb but not completely). I know some people have to stay gluten free.


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