Should You Go Gluten Free?

It was TIME Magazine’s second ranked food trend of 2012, and from the way its commandeered pastry cases there is no end in sight. A new study shows that 29% of Americans are avoiding gluten; 29% of us do not have Celiac Disease, so what gives?

 We’re Overweight, We Feel Lousy, and We’re Looking for an Answer

Thanks to food marketing and a disturbing abundance of health misinformation, we think we’re eating healthy—items labeled “Whole Grain” and “Whole Wheat”—so why don’t we feel any better?

Gluten is a serious problem child for people with Celiac Disease. For people with Celiac, any amount of the protein gluten triggers a vicious response—serious abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, severe bloating. (As with any medical condition, you may experience different or none of these symptoms.) Your healthcare provider can administer a test for Celiac Disease.

The estimations about how many people have legitimate gluten sensitivity or allergy are about as accurate as my March Madness Bracket (also see “lousy guesser”). If you think gluten might be the culprit, start a food diary. For ten days, write down everything you consume, what time, and how you feel before and after. Splash of milk in your coffee? Write it down. Suddenly gassy at 2pm? Write it down. Your healthcare provider or nutritionist can help you identify if gluten is the offender in your diet.

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This way to the bagel fest!

But is it Gluten?

Many people try a gluten free diet and initially notice a difference. Less bloating, more energy, and weight loss. Does this mean you need to go gluten free? Not necessarily.

Science time: When people go on a gluten free diet, what else do they cut out? The processed carbohydrate junk, including those with “Whole Grain” and “Whole Wheat” labels. Consider anything with “Enriched Flour” in the ingredients as nutritionally worthless. “Enriched” is the food marketers way of saying, “We broke the wheat down so much that it lost all its nutritional benefits, so then we grabbed some chemicals and pumped them back in. Oh and sugar, we put some sugar in there too.” A gluten free diet cuts this out, which, unless you have one of the aforementioned contradictions, accounts for the improved state.

Gluten Free Everything

Thanks to the 29%, you can find gluten free everything! The Celiacs are stoked. The rest of us are confused. Don’t think that swapping out enriched flour bagels for gluten free is a health upgrade. GF processed foods are just as bad, and sometimes worse, as their gluten counterparts. Corn starch, tapioca starch, and potato starch are the top ingredients in these products. Not exactly healthful alternatives.

The Bottom Line

  • Wheat is a healthful food. Real, freshly made bread is good for you. Enriched, bleached, and processed wheat products are not.
  • If you think you have Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, start keeping a food diary and make an appointment with your healthcare provider.
  • A processed, gluten free bagel is on the same nutritional level as a processed, wheat bagel.
  • Gluten or no gluten, carbohydrates are just one portion of well-rounded, balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. 
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2 responses to “Should You Go Gluten Free?

  1. Great great summary of the info! I get so frustrated when people think they’ll lose weight, like it’s a “diet” in the trendy sense. Ugh. I’ll try to remember your wording next time I have to lay the truth down! :)

  2. Living with a celiac has me very focused on GF foods. And, what we’ve noticed is that many GF foods you can buy are very high in cholesterol because of “binding” issues without the gluten. Also, the fat content is often higher. However, I do think most of us could reduce our gluten consumption–but of course, that is whole food healthful eating. We do a lot of baking and cooking ourselves because then you have more control and it tastes better anyhow. Nice post! :) Elizabeth

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