Should You Eat Gluten?

Eating gluten-free is the trendiest thing since skinny jeans. The number of gluten-free food products are growing on grocery store shelves at a rapid rate and gluten-free cafés are popping up all over the world.

But still, a lot of people who shun gluten don’t even have a clue what it really is. (in case you want a good laugh, watch this video) And the fact that it’s become such a trend doesn’t paint the dietary choice in good light.

But the truth is that for some, avoidance makes a lot of sense – and not just for those with celiac disease (people that are afflicted with celiac must avoid gluten like the plague. Any contact with the stuff and their body goes into full-on allergic reaction mode and it can cause irreparable damages to the small intestine. No. Bueno.)

But the rest of us? You might wonder what the hell we’re giving up gluten for?

There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to the diet industry’s newest scapegoat. Some claim that gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, is responsible for all of our health woes, while others say it’s just a trend and a matter of false science. As with many studies and opinions in the wellness world, the mixed messages are worse than a Tinder relationship in NYC.

So, what the heck?! Why all the confusing info? Well, the human bod is a tricky place. Some researchers believe that those people aided by a gluten-free diet could actually have nothing to do with gluten at all. They may just be responding positively to the absence of a group of carbohydrates called FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols… whew).

BUT, here’s where I call BS on the FODMAP theory – I’ve personally gone on a FODMAP free diet, and these carbohydrates are found in SO many places. Many everyday ingredients such as onions, garlic, and soy contain them. So, the idea that the elimination of bread and those other gluten containing products is supposed to correlate with a FODMAP issue sounds fishy to me. Let me tell you, compared to a FODMAP-free diet, eating gluten-free is kind of a walk in the park. Try eating out anywhere while avoiding onion and garlic… it’s very, very difficult.

Unfortunately, it gets a bit more confusing. Many think that to be gluten sensitive you have to feel a reaction immediately – like those with celiac. But, it’s not that simple. Gluten is a pretty inflammatory food to some systems, therefore, you could be doing some damage in the form of inflammation that might take some time to notice.

In addition, some studies show that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may worsen conditions such as IBS, Fibromyalgia, allergies, Eczema, Depression, Multiple Sclerosis, and even Autism (among others). So you could miss the sensitivity because certain already-existing ailments are simply being exacerbated by ingesting the protein.

Soooo, do you or don’t you?! I'd like to say the answer is a simple one... But I can't. Personally, I think that there’s another culprit for many of our health hiccups than an individual ingredient that’s been present in foods like wheat for thousands of years. More likely, our own modern bodily systems are to blame. Broken down and weakened, they need healing. Our guts need mending (leaky gut syndrome is real), bacterial imbalances need tending-to, and inflammation needs calming.

This should be more empowering than overwhelming. This means that many of us have the ability to heal and recover from chronic ailments.

I have seen people without celiac completely reduce chronic digestive issues, heal life-long skin conditions, and lose lingering extra pounds from an avoidance of gluten. Everyone won’t have the same result, but if you’re not feeling well, you have to start somewhere. You always have to start somewhere. And it may not be a life sentence! Once your body heals, you may be able to reintroduce gluten and other foods with little to no problem.

Here’s my advice if you remove gluten from your diet and you feel better… great! Keep it up! I don’t care that some lab test can’t figure out your complex bodily system and break it down into a nice little box checked on a sheet of paper.

But, let’s be clear, that doesn’t mean subsisting on stupid-expensive boxes of gluten-free cookies and well packaged loaves of gluten-free bread. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is as good as whole, natural foods. Try gluten-free grains like brown rice, quinoa, and amaranth. Load up on vegetables, healthy fats, and protein. And then… See how you feel. Pay attention. Keep a diary. Record your mood, your digestive experience, your skin changes, and even your clarity of thought. Nothing is too small to notice.

The advances in modern science are truly incredible, but sometimes, nothing can tell you more than the information living in your own body.

So, should you eat gluten? The answer isn’t that simple. But if you’re curious about trying it or transitioning to a fully gluten-free diet in the healthiest way possible, let’s chat! I’d be happy to help. 

All good things,

Sarah.