I’ve been getting this question ALOT lately. “Should I go gluten-free?” or “Is there a benefit to going gluten-free if I don’t have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance?”
Well well well, look what I’m about to say… “It depends” Unfortunately there is no quick answer for this one so I decided I’d write a blog post to try and tackle it. It’s hard to navigate the muddied nutrition waters out there about all things gluten & gluten-free. I’m hoping that we can shed some light today on gluten & if you need to go gluten-free or not!
What is Gluten?
The definition of gluten as per Dictionary.com is: (noun) a substance present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of
Gluten is a protein that makes your food taste good and gives it that amazing mouthfeel you crave in
You can be intolerant to almost any food, it just depends on your health status, the status of your gut, your environment, your genetics, your stress levels, and oh so much more. I’m not shocked when I sit down with a client when they tell me they think they’re intolerant to a given food.
That being said it can be confusing as to whether you need to eliminate a food for health reasons or if it’s just a fad that makes you fit in on Instagram. I find more often than not, many people with gut issues do really well off gluten, however, it’s not always the magic solution. Working with a practitioner can help you determine if you need to remove such a food or if it’s all just hype.
Celiac Disease vs. Non-Celiac Gluten/Wheat Sensitivity
It used to be that you either had celiac disease or you didn’t. Actually, to be honest, when I was in school we glossed over Celiac Disease as it wasn’t thought to be an issue. As I progressed through school, then grad school, then work in a hospital, the research started coming out that there may be more to celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
Through my own experimentation, I found out that I felt better NOT eating gluten. I had had non-stop
Remember, just because something works for ME doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Unfortunately, no diet is one size fits all.
There’s a lot of information out there and it can be confusing, I’ll go into whether you should go gluten-free or not below but I wanted to first specify what the different problems with gluten are classified
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder that is caused by the reaction of ingesting gluten. In some people it can be turned on just by eating gluten, others a traumatic event may cause the onset. This reaction from eating gluten causes atrophy of the villi in the small intestine which leads to malabsorption of nutrients as well as a myriad (over 200) of symptoms that go along with it. About 1% of the population has Celiac Disease. The only treatment for Celiac Disease is a gluten-free diet.
Non-Celiac Gluten/Wheat Sensitivity (NCGS)
Non-Celiac Gluten/Wheat Sensitivity is not well defined. It is known that some people have an intolerance to gluten-containing grains but have no autoimmune response and have ruled out Celiac Disease. If there is an improvement with the elimination of gluten, then it is recommended that the person remains on a gluten-free diet. When many people complain of not tolerating gluten, they most likely have NCGS.
Is it safe to go Gluten-Free?
The simple answer is: yes.
The long answer is that it really depends on how you go gluten-free and why you are doing it. It’s safe (for most) in the fact that by cutting out gluten you aren’t cutting out anything that is necessary for your overall health. That being said it is possible that in a place where grains/cereal/bread are relied upon for folate & other b-vitamins it could be an issue BUT for most of us who have access to food, it is a non-safety issue.
It does depend how we go about being gluten-free. If we are replacing bread with gluten-free bread, and cookies with gluten-free cookies, with no known diagnosis or health problem, it could be a waste of money and an addition of extra gums/flours/ingredients that we just don’t need.
However, if you think about where gluten is found:
Should You Go Gluten-Free?
Depends on what Sassy? Well, a lot of course 🙂 Here are a few things to consider before going gluten-free:
- Work with professional or at least consulting with one before self-diagnosing and see if it is right for you.
- Consider going gluten-free if you have any of the following symptoms: diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, brain fog, stomach aches after eating, fatigue, skin issues (psoriasis, eczema, etc.), etc.
- If you have gone gluten-free before and noticed benefits, it may be time to kiss gluten goodbye or at least minimize consumption.
- If you have the tools to do so aka you know what to look for and what to eat in place of gluten-filled foods aka you’re not just flying blind.
If, however, you are trying to go gluten-free for weight loss or because it sounds cool, you’re looking in the wrong place. A gluten-free diet is NOT a weight loss diet. It is an elimination diet meant to treat people who have overt (and maybe some discrete) health issues.
It’s sad that the gluten-free diet has become a fad because it really does help a lot of people. If done correctly, it’s a very safe diet and can honestly just be one where you eat real whole foods that are nutrient dense. However, be cautious if someone is trying to sell you on a gluten-free product or diet for weight loss purposes, because that’s not the point!
What other questions do you have about gluten, gluten-free diets, or other diets in general? Let me know!
Also, remember, it’s always best to seek professional help if