Health + Wellness

My Gluten-Free Pet Peeve

May 10, 2014
Gluten Free Pet Peeve

This video went viral this week, and it definitely made me laugh.

“Some people can’t eat gluten for medical reasons, but a lot of people in Los Angeles don’t eat gluten because someone in their yoga class told them not to. Jimmy wondered how many of these people even know what gluten is, so we sent a camera crew out to a popular exercise spot here in LA and asked people who are gluten-free a simple question: “What is gluten?”

Removing gluten from diets has gained a lot of popularity in the past year or so. Everywhere you look there are questionable products labeled GF (ice cream, really? oranges?? Come on..), books on the best seller list like “Wheat Belly” and people raving about ditching gluten.

My problem with it?
[Tweet “Gluten-free does not automatically make a food healthy.”]
That seems to be a major misconception in some groups. Just like an organic cookie isn’t healthy just because it’s organic.

What is gluten?
Gluten is a wheat protein that helps to bind breads, pasta, and desserts to create a denser product.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with people going gluten-free. I’m all for figuring out if you have food allergies. Food allergies can lead to such a wide range of problems. I also agree that wheat has changed a lot over the past 50 years, so I do believe there is an increased allergy to it. Plus, people are eating more gluten-filled products like processed foods, pastries, bread, etc. which leads to an increase in digestive issues and auto-immune disease. However, there are way too many people removing gluten simply because it’s the latest fad. They overhear someone demonizing it and think, “Yes! That’s why I can’t lose weight.”

Some of it’s the fault of the “diet culture” of America. Every few months there’s a new diet, plus new “evidence” to suggest something is terrible. So of course people are confused. Then some of it is just a lack of education about what people are putting into their bodies.

So, my major concern with this is that some people are starting to associate “gluten-free” with “healthy.” I think it’s great that there are more gluten free options available for those who need it, but you have to be careful because a lot of these products are still highly processed and filled with sugar.

Gluten Free Junk Food

So what about the people who do start eating better and do lose weight? Are they losing weight because they cut out gluten-filled items like pizza, cookies and pasta (which are sugar-filled, processed foods) and started consuming more produce and healthier grain options, like rice? I’m not sure, but I think it’s an interesting question.

Celiac Disease + Gluten Sensitivity

In reality, only 1% of the population has Celiac Disease, in which it’s absolutely necessary to avoid ALL gluten. Only 6-10% of the population is gluten sensitive (reported cases). While there are medical tests for Celiac Disease, it’s a bit harder to test for a sensitivity. Basically, if you feel better when you cut out gluten, you probably have a sensitivity. If you suffer from digestive diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s, Colitis or leaky gut syndrome, it’s a good idea to try going gluten-free, as gluten can be difficult to digest for people with these conditions.

Celiac Disease Check-list.

Performing an elimination diet to test for food allergies is an easy way to figure out what works best for your body and what causes complications. And the good news? If you cut out an allergy for long enough, you may be able to consume it again later. Just keep testing.

How long should you test? I recommend 2 weeks to 3 months, depending on the severity of your symptoms. You can talk with a Naturopathic doctor or Registered Dietitian for help making the trial easier and for adjusting to the lifestyle if you do find you have an allergy.

My Verdict?

I don’t support cutting out entire food groups for the sake of losing weight and “eating healthier.” If you have a true allergy, then yes, of course you should cut it out. If you just feel better without it? Sure, go for it. But please make sure you’re not replacing it with junk and know that the weight loss may not be sustainable.

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I have a lot of Cross-fitting Paleo friends, and have researched Paleo and gluten extensively for my fiance’s condition and my migraines, so again, I’m not knocking the benefits. I’d love to hear your view in the comments! Are you gluten free? What lead you to that decision?

 

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