So, the world is a-buzz with conversations about going gluten free these days. Does a gluten-free diet equal a healthy diet? Is this just a fad like low-carb or low-fat? Will going gluten-free benefit me? Good questions! Here I answer some of your top questions about gluten-free diets!
1) Isn’t this just a fad? If gluten were a problem, people would have been suffering from this for 1000s of years and yet I just heard of this a few years ago. Well, it makes sense you are confused. But let me ask you a question. When your grandparents were little kids, did they eat food bought in a box and warmed up in a microwave, or were most of their meals cooked fresh from whole foods? Look around your local supermarket. The only places we see fresh whole foods these days are in the periphery of the market like in the fruit and vegetable section. The rest of our food is bought in cans, bottles, boxes, frozen etc. Do you know what helps give these processed foods their texture? Gluten! For the first time in history gluten has been separated from the grain and is being artificially added to almost everything we eat. This is why we are one of the first generations to be suffering from the effects of gluten.
2) If I choose options that are gluten-free, that means I’m eating healthy, right? I hate to disappoint you, but the answer is no. Many people go gluten-free and fill their diets with gluten-free pastas, crackers, cookies and cake. These foods are just as processed, sugar filled and nutrient depleted as their gluten filled counterparts. The difference is the gluten has been removed so they won’t cause a reaction in the gluten intolerant. In fact, certain gluten-free food products can actually be worse for you. For instance, many gluten-free pastas are made out of GMO corn. GMOs can take a toll on health when eaten as a large part of the diet.
3) If I’m not celiac, doesn’t that mean I can eat gluten without repercussion? Well, not so fast. Only 1% of the population is celiac. Statistics show that about 40% of the population is gluten sensitive. What does gluten sensitive mean? Well, gluten sensitivity isn’t a conventional allergy and symptoms may take up to 72 hours to appear. How may you suspect that you are gluten sensitive? There is a wide array of symptoms. If you have stomach problems, acne, eczema, depression, mental illness, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis or frequent flu and colds, you may be suffering from gluten sensitivity.
4) But, if I took a blood test and it came back negative, that means I don’t have a problem with gluten? Blood tests are good to measure allergies. Sensitivities are a bit harder to decipher. There are some naturopaths who claim to diagnose gluten sensitivity through muscle testing. The best way I know how to discover gluten sensitivity is to do an elimination diet. You will eliminate gluten for a two week period and remain aware of how you feel. Then you reintroduce it and see if any symptoms that went away during the elimination period return. If you see no improvement in symptoms during the elimination or worsening of symptoms during re-introduction, it means one of two things. You don’t have a problem with gluten, or there is more than one food that is causing you problems and you need to eliminate the other food as well. You should always eliminate dairy with gluten since these sensitivities are often seen together, but the foods should be re-introduced apart to track symptoms separately.
5) If I eliminate gluten, the only thing I have to look for on food labels is the word wheat? Gosh, I wish it were that easy, but finding gluten on a food label can be tricky business. Grains such as wheat, barley, rye and most oats contain gluten. Since much of what is being added to processed food is a processed food product, it becomes even more difficult to find it on a label. For instance, the word starch could mean gluten, soy sauce almost always contains gluten and natural flavoring has the possibility of containing gluten. The best way to be sure is to look for foods that are labeled gluten-free. Many stores also have a list that can be accessed online of most of their gluten-free products.
6) I suspect I have a gluten sensitivity. It is too much trouble to eliminate it, so I just try not to eat it most of the time. Isn’t that almost as good as eliminating it? You would think, but it doesn’t quite work that way. One of the main things a gluten sensitivity does is it creates what is called leaky gut. Leaky gut, as it sounds, means food is literally leaking through your gut into your blood stream. Gross, right? Things like partially digested foods are getting into your blood stream that shouldn’t, creating all sorts of imbalances and havoc. Once this happens, your gut won’t start to heal if you are continually exposing it to gluten, even if the exposure is less than before. You need to eliminate it for a period of time and after a number of months, you may or may not be able to tolerate it one or two times a week. If you are celiac, you can never have gluten again, even if you don’t have symptoms when you eat it.
7) Will going gluten-free make me lose weight? The gluten-free diet on its own is not a weight loss diet. Completely eliminating gluten may help you lose weight only if you are gluten sensitive. Healing the gut over time will help lesson inflammation, support better detoxification and aid other imbalances that are getting in the way of being a proper weight. A gluten-free diet isn’t a weight loss diet on its own, but the effects can help those who are sensitive with their other weight loss endeavors.
Well, that is my primer on going gluten-free. Did I answer the question you wanted to ask? If not, leave it in the comment section below and I will make sure to address it!