The Gluten Free Diet (GFD) is a mandatory eating program for those with Celiac disease. The reason that the GFD has become a diet fad is due to the possible positive effects that some people have experienced removing gluten.
I'm going to break down this post into three separate sections. The first will be the explanation of what is the GFD and the research behind its potential benefits or risks. My second portion will be devoted to my experience going gluten free for 30 days . I will give my advice for you moving forward in the final section.
What is gluten and the Gluten Free Diet?
Gluten is a composite of two proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and related grains. In order to be gluten free, you cannot eat any foods containing this compound. Some examples of processed foods that contain gluten are breads, cakes, cereals, pastas, some sauces and beer. The Gluten Free Diet removes any and all traces of gluten from your foods.
What is the difference between Celiac disease and Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)?
Those with Celiac disease have an autoimmune response to the presence of gluten in the body. Only 1% of the population has this disorder. To find out if you have Celiac disease, check in with your healthcare provider for tests and a potential diagnosis. People with this condition do not have the option of going gluten free, it is a necessary part of their life.
Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) has no clear pathology. As in, you may experience some reactions to gluten similar to Celiac disease but tests performed by a physician do not result in a Celiac disease diagnosis. NCGS isn't widely accepted in the medical field because further studies need to be performed. I will show you why in the research below.
Why has the GFD gained traction in the health industry?
The main argument for the GFD is the idea that the human intestinal tracts are not able to process modern grain proteins, especially in their high availability in contemporary diets.
The concept of a "leaky gut" has taken off. The theory behind a "leaky gut" is that gluten reacts with your intestinal walls and opens up some of the tight junctions in your small intestines. This minor opening of the intestinal walls allows large particles and toxins to enter the bloodstream.
People with NCGS claim that they do not experience any of the symptoms of Celiac disease such as bloating, abdominal pain, and lack of energy when they remove gluten from their diet.
Is gluten sensitivity real?
So far, medical research cannot confirm that gluten sensitivity is a real condition. I will link one article below that shows various studies performed to validate the presence of gluten sensitivity. Those with this condition will claim that removing gluten has significant positive effects. However, when their claims are put to the test, the data does not prove their point.
One philosophy that I have with health trends is to give everything a try for 30 days. Sometimes the best way to know if something is right for you is to give it a shot. And that's exactly what I did.
So I began my gluten free journey. No more pasta, bread or cookies for one month. I also wanted to challenge myself to not just buy gluten free versions of usual foods. As in, I didn't want to simply buy gluten free bread.
At first, the most challenging part of saying no to gluten was the change in the overall framework of my diet. I usually ate two pieces of toast and two eggs for breakfast. I swapped that out for gluten free oatmeal. For lunch, I typically had a turkey sandwich. I changed that for a turkey salad with a half cup of quinoa. At dinner time, I might've made pasta with meatballs. I started making a lot more potatoes and rice as my side for an evening meal.
After the first day, I lifted my shirt to see how I was looking the mirror. Usually I start the day with a flatter stomach but once my day comes to end, I've got some bloating. I was shocked to see my stomach as flat as it was in the morning. I had zero bloating. Well, this motivated me to stick with the gluten free lifestyle.
By the seventh day, I noticed that my mid day energy slump never happened. It felt like I had been drinking coffee all day. I thought that the 2pm sleepy feeling was the normal curse of being an adult. But each afternoon, my energy level was just as high as when the day started.
Once I hit the 30 day mark, I learned a few lessons:
I learned how to diversify my carbohydrate sources. I haven't packed a sandwich for lunch ever since my gluten free diet days. Instead, I make a dense salad with a good ratio of carbs, fat and proteins. I'm more comfortable making rice and a baked potato as a side.
Removing gluten from my life had significant positive effects. My symptoms were never bad enough to make me consider Celiac disease but I could be one of those people with an undiagnosed and potentially, unreal gluten sensitivity.
It is really hard to avoid gluten. It is EVERYWHERE. And when going out to eat or having dinner at a friend's house, you may request gluten free but it could still sneak in. Also, am I honestly never going to have a beer or piece of cake again? Not so much.
This is my anecdotal experience. I'm sharing my story for those who may have a gluten sensitivity and notice positive changes by removing gluten but the research doesn't support these results.
Currently, I do not adhere to a gluten free diet. But I do eat far less bread than I did before the 30 days which can be beneficial simply by lowering carbohydrate intake.
If you think you may have Celiac disease, please contact a physician. Receiving a positive or negative diagnosis can help you confirm whether you truly have an issue processing gluten.
If you are confident that you don't have Celiac disease or have received a negative diagnosis but want to give the diet a try, I say do it! I will give you a few requirements if you want to give this gluten free diet a shot:
No gluten. Seriously. You can't occasionally have a bread roll or a cookie. The supposed effects of a gluten free diet can only happen with complete and total restriction.
Watch your fiber. Many people already do not consume enough fiber. Whole grain breads offer a lot of fiber per serving. Keep an eye on this micronutrient.
Journal your feelings and effects. You can notice minor changes in your mood or body if you briefly log any changes every day.
I hope that you found this post useful and if you know anyone else considering a gluten free diet, please share with them!
Thanks for reading!