Gluten has got a bad rap in the last decade. In fact, you can interpret it many ways. Gluten is bad for you, and they say gluten is not bad unless you are one of the rare few that have celiac (gluten intolerance disease). Let’s be honest, they (doctors, researchers, food enthusiasts) say exactly the same things about wine, chocolate, and life in general in the media and research. The wine has antioxidants and is good for you – but wine is alcohol (neurotoxin), addictive, poisonous, and evil. The research shows both sides of the argument, and then everything is covered by an “everything is good in moderation” hat. Everyone is happy and likes that hat because it puts the blame on someone else. Then we can go our ways and interpret “the facts” just the way we want.
Now, where is the truth though when it comes to gluten? Is a gluten-free diet a myth? Is gluten-free diet a myth that needs to be busted?
What’s up with the gluten-free diet?
“Gluten-free diet is a fad”, “Gluten-free foods are healthier than gluten-filled foods”, “I am totally gluten tolerant, and I will not give up my pizza” – I hear it often. The fact is – you are most likely okay with tolerating gluten unless you have a celiac disease. Should you go and gorge on all the gluten things then? Nope.
For the purpose of this article we will focus on non-celiac gluten sensitivity (because no one wants to argue about the viability and reality or “fad-ness” of Celiac disease. It’s real and approximately 1%of US population suffers from it). Chris Kresser lately mentioned “50 shades of Gluten (Intolerance)” in his e-book “Should you go gluten-free?” , and he discussed how there are so many degrees, variations, and intensities of gluten-free intolerances that exist. Yes, the media and huge oodles of research, articles and blog posts create an overwhelming load of information. We go and trust someone else’s opinion instead of doing our own homework/research. Some people still believe pineapples grow on trees! (Okay, c’mon now).
Back to the topic. While this subject has been pretty popular lately, I will not try to beat the dead horse here. I do want to disclose a few things and demystify a few myths for you in order to encourage you. My goal as a health coach to educate you and provide you with options, to look out for you and encourage you to seek ways to achieve your optimal health. Will it mean I recommend you go and do a Celiac test? Yes, if you have a suspicion you have it. Will I encourage you to log food for a few weeks and see how you feel? Heck yes. And many other things. I believe in the personalized approach when it comes to nutrition, so hold off that thought of jumping on a gluten-free bandwagon. First things first – let’s talk about this beast called gluten.
What is gluten?
Gluten is an anti-nutrient. It is a protein found mostly in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is what makes your bread doughy, squishy, and yummy! Unfortunately, we have not been adapted to digest this anti-nutrient from plants well enough. Mark Sisson says “When an affected person eats or drinks something containing gluten, the protein initiates a kind of allergic reaction in the body, resulting in some level of inflammatory reaction”.
Depending on the person, the reaction can be very mild, or super intense. Many people list indigestion, bloating, excessive inflammation, IBS, joint pain, extreme fatigue and even infertility as symptoms. Gluten, like lectin, creates tiny holes in your intestines lining, and as a poisonous subject leaks through them directly into your blood. Whaaaaaat?!
~Houston, we have a problem!
Before you go stir crazy, I will add a few more negative effects on your health caused by gluten. And then, let’s get those gluten-free diet myths busted!
Gluten intolerance symptoms
- Suppressed and compromised immune system
- Digestion problems (bloating, gas, diarrhea, IBS, acid reflux)
- Skin problems (acne, inflammation, rashes)
- Chronic fatigue
- Joint pain and long-term problems (arthritis and such)
- Reproductive system problems, infertility
Are you gluten intolerant?
If you experience any of these, it does not necessarily mean you are. There is a chance, though, like with anything in life. Go gluten-free for 3-4 weeks completely or ask your doctor to test for IgA antigliadin antibodies (most of the people with Celiac have them, but remember – you do not have to be Celiac to have a gluten intolerance).
Okay, before you run out from reading this article in panic, let’s talk about some myths. I promise I will make you feel better because having a gluten intolerance or sensitivity is not the end of the world. In fact, I’m happy to have it because I stopped putting many poisonous things in my belly.
7 Gluten-Free Diet Myths Busted
1. “I am not gluten intolerant, so I can keep eating bread”.
That’s one way to go about it. Another way includes considering all the inflammation your body gets from the poisonous substances like gluten and lectin. Plus, overloading your body with excessive carbs will make you store fat like crazy. Yes, gluten-filled items have a ton of carbohydrates in them
Related: LCHF 101: How to Successfully Implement Low Carb – High Fat Method
2. “ I have to eat grains and bread to get all the vitamins and minerals I need”.
Nope, you don’t. You can get all the microelements from fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. You will just need to pay a bit better attention to the supplements you are taking and balance your diet properly since indeed, whole grain items are fortified with extra vitamins and minerals you need. Many of these are added in after wheat is milled (a.k.a enriched wheat) and are not necessarily naturally occurring. Poison vs unbalanced vitamins? I will take the latter.
3. “Gluten-free foods taste like crap”.
Yes, if you don’t know what to buy or how to make things palatable, tasty, AND gluten-free. Most of the brown rice items are gluten-free and taste good. While making cauliflower crust for your pizza will need some practice so it does not taste like farts, creating some keto masterpieces (try these garlic knots) can be pretty easy and doable. It is just the matter of research, practice, and attitude.
4. “Does gluten-free mean paleo?”
Not necessarily. It can mean Keto, Primal, Paleo, Whole30, Atkins, and just Enjoy-it diet. Many people avoid Paleo like a plague…The fact is.. if you focus on nourishing your body with the most nutrient-dense vegetables, meats, healthy fat, you will not need gluten per se. Paleo or not – it is up to you. My personal choice, as you know is primal because it implies the lifestyle changes instead of focusing mostly on eliminating gluten, sugar, dairy, and processed foods. Plus I love some good dairy so “Cheeeeeeeeeeeeese”!
5. “I am not Celiac, so why bother eating gluten-free”.
You can look on the brighter side: if you don’t have Celiac disease, you are spared from all the tough and painful consequences of this autoimmune disease. Yet people who don’t eat gluten reach their balanced weight, have reduced inflammation, stabilized blood sugar, and a ton of energy. Still wondering if you should bother? 😉
6. “Gluten-free diet will make you lose weight”.
For most people, it will if they have a caloric deficit. If you are going to munch on gluten-free cupcakes and fruit all day, chances are it won’t. How much you eat matters a lot. What you eat is 80% of a weight loss journey.
7. “I can’t live without my carbs”.
The fallacy is that we need plenty of carbs to function properly, have a clear mind and lots of energy. Yes, that’s what they taught us in school in hopes that we will never want to go learn more ourselves. Our brain only needs 5 grams of glucose to function (can be easily found in a teaspoon of sugar or a heaping of vegetables, you choose or our body can produce everything we need from protein by a process of gluconeogenesis). The truth is…anything about 150 grams of carbohydrates does not get utilized by your body unless you are Usain Bolt or Deena Kastor. Read: it gets stored as fat! Centering your nutrition around carbs will cause your insulin levels to go up and down in a never-ending dance, resulting in insulin resistance, diabetes, declined heart health, obesity, and such. Does not sound like fun, right?
I hope I debunked the most important myths here. What do you think?
How can you benefit from gluten-free lifestyle:
- A ton of energy. Remember the “Energizer bunny” commercial? You will become one.
- Improved digestion (no bloating, gas, consistency). No need to look pregnant when you are not! Plus feeling lighter always makes us, women, feel prettier!
- Clearer skin. Acne after 30? Forget about it! Your skin will clear and be glowing.
- Better mood. No mood swings, better and stable hormones – what else could you ask for?
- Indirectly, weight loss. That’s a super big bonus right there.
How to successfully implement gluten-free diet:
One thing here. Try it. Give it an open-minded try with no expectations. If you enjoy it, you will not need much but keep digging into those meat and veggie plates. If you don’t, send me a message – and I will see how I can help you to enjoy it more! J
P.S. It’s estimated that in the U.S. 1 in 133 people have celiac disease.
Author: Anya Perry
Anya Perry battled boring diets, low energy, and declining health for over 10 years before she found what works. Now, she helps women achieve their dream state of health, fitness, and vitality… without the struggles, battles of miserable diets and yo-yo results. She can’t live without coffee and challenges.