Ahh, the gluten-free controversy wages on. I say controversy because I see a lot of articles about becoming gluten free, and then there is always some “nutritionist” or “dietitian” being interviewed saying something like, “well, if you don’t have celiac, then don’t. It could lead to nutrient deficiencies.”
I think this is misleading. Yes, of course if you have celiac (which can be confirmed by a doctor), then you must avoid gluten. But there are also a set of people who truly believe that eliminating gluten helps them feel better. So, I think that its misleading (and confusing) when they are being told otherwise or it could be more harmful. There is not one set of rules that applies to everyone when it comes to food. For some, it takes some experimentation to see what works for them and becoming gluten-free is an option for some people to try.
If eliminating gluten is helping you feel better, then continue doing it. If you do it the right way, you should not have to worry about doing more harm than good or nutrient deficiencies.
There appears to be a spectrum of gluten-intolerance (or non-celiac gluten sensitivity). Some might need to eat a lot less then others and some might need eliminate in all together (same with lactose intolerance. Some people can eat cheese, but not milk and others need to avoid all dairy). I have read and listened to many people’s stories and case studies explaining how much better they feel not eating gluten. Then, do what makes you feel better!
For some, it might not necessary be the gluten itself, but the foods that contain gluten. For example, for some people just decreasing their bread and pasta (or cookies, cakes, etc) intake (where many people are eating gluten), could be what is actually helping them. Usually when one eliminates bread or desserts they generally replace it with something healthier, like more veggies or protein and that is what is actually making them feel better. (Which is what happened to me).
Or it could be a wheat allergy instead. This can also be tested by a doctor. It just so happens that many gluten-containing foods also contain wheat.
There are some people that when they go gluten-free they go out and replace all their stuff with packaged gluten-free items, instead of whole foods (like starchy veggies or protein). This is where the argument around nutrient deficiency comes in and probably what is giving “gluten-free” a bad rap. Also, I think that there might be some nutritionists and dietitians out there who think that bread and pasta are your only source of “X” nutrient. Which also isn’t helping people. Its very misleading. If you google any nutrient, you will find a whole list of foods you can get it from besides bread and pasta. Just saying. Give people more credit. Explain to them that they need to limit the packaged foods (which are nutrient deficient).
So, what about you? You are obviously reading this because you want to try (or already) are gluten-free. As long as you keep the focus on eating real food (lots of veggies, quality fats and proteins), I will always support you. It can be very easy to rely on all those ready-made gluten-free items. But they should be used sparingly. In order to avoid any nutrient traps, you must still eat majority whole, real foods. That is when you will feel your best.
Do not rely on packaged, ready-made gluten-free items. You must always stick to a diet of real, whole-based foods. Lots of veggies, quality fats and proteins. This is when you will feel your best!
People who may benefit from being gluten-free:
- Celiac disease. It is estimated that only about 1% of the population have celiac disease, However, there are estimated to be about 300+ symptoms from it (which could mean that more people might have it than realized but are getting misdiagnosed). If one has celiac, it means that when gluten is consumed, it is triggering an attack and your intestines are being damaged and your body isn’t absorbing nutrients properly, therefore leading to other problems. If you suspect you have celiac disease, I strongly encourage you to get tested by a doctor for either confirmation or at least, to rule it out.
- Gluten-intolerance (or non-celiac gluten sensitivity). This is one is more tricky, because it can’t directly be tested by a doctor. Symptoms are also extremely varied. To help figure out if this is you, you need to completely eliminate gluten (100%), for at least a month (some say 6 weeks). The reason is because it could take a while for your body to completely rid itself of gluten and then it has to heal itself of the damage the gluten might have done. First, you need clean out your system of gluten and then give your body time to heal. Even a little bit of gluten, could throw this off and set you back to the beginning. This could be difficult for some people because it takes diligence and being really strict with food for a short time (something to keep in mind). Then, after about 30-45 days and *hopefully* you feel great, sloooooowly try to reintroduce it back in. I mean really slowly. If your symptoms return, then you have your answer. If not, then it might not have gluten all along. It could have been another food allergy (or problem) or maybe you just needed to clean up your diet. A health coach could help with this.
- Other autoimmune diseases. For some people with other autoimmune diseases, they have found that eliminating gluten has helped with managing their disease and symptoms. (Research is being done to confirm, see below for some articles). It could be related to the gluten-intolerance (or celiac), or maybe one triggered the other. Some research is indicating that people with celiac might also have other autoimmune diseases. Many clients come to me with problems like this and they just want to feel better. They want to see if gluten-free will help. For some, it does. I am all about using food as medicine. If this is you, I say try it. Eliminate it for a few months, and see how your body responds. BUT, you must still keep the focus on real foods. Making sure you are getting all your nutrition from real whole foods AND discussing any food changes with your doctor (ALWAYS).
Are you gluten-free? Or do you want to try it? How do you feel eliminating gluten?
I hope this was helpful and alleviated some of the confusion out there. Let me know if there are any questions. I am here to help!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. All opinions are my own based on research available. Any abrupt dietary changes must be discussed with your doctor. Any medical diagnosis also must be handled by a medical professional. This article is meant for informational purposes only.