Is gluten-free a healthier option?
Is a gluten-free diet a healthier diet? Thats a question I get asked often, and one that I see debated over and over online. Turns out it totally depends on who you ask.
For example, if you follow the Elizabeth Hasselback way of living gluten-free, you will simply replace your previous gluten-ful life with the now readily available gluten-free counterparts. Gone are your gluten-ful muffins, and in their place is a delicious Udi’s gluten-free version. No more cake? No problem, simply substitute it with a recipe from Bob’s Red Mill, or even Betty Crocker which now offers some gluten-free goodies on the store shelves. Find yourself with an upset tummy? Simply grab some delish rice crackers and you’re sure to settle that pesky little problem.
Not according to this girl, and it turns out I’m not alone. There are a growing number of healthcare, fitness and nutrition experts that are touting the values of living a grain and gluten-free life.
Truly, I get so frustrated when I watch a celebrity like Elizabeth Hassleback on The View tell us all that gluten-free doesn’t equal living without. Look at all the wonderful gluten-free options that are available she says as she sweeps her arms across a table filled with store-bought gluten-free goodies like cookies, bars, cakes and crackers. I honestly get so frustrated when I see things like this because I feel like it dishonors the reason you’re gluten-free to begin with. Your body is trying to tell you something; that its bad for you, that you can’t break down the processed crap, and that you need to avoid it. But what do she and many others promote? Simply replacing gluten for its similar counterparts. This is exactly why certain labs are now offering cross-reactive testing so that you can determine if you have an allergic reaction to foods which are similar to gluten, as many Celiac and Non-celiac gluten sensitivites are unable to process foods which are similar to gluten. The reason? Again, I’m not a doctor, so this is just an experienced girl’s opinion, but I believe that our bodies are telling us that all of this processed crap we’ve been led to believe is good for us for so many years is slowly destroying us. And given that we are lucky to live to our 80s and 90s, if you spend 20ish years being sick, that’s a big part of your life spent feeling like crap.
So why do you hear that it’s a healthier diet?
For one, it’s because the presumption is that you are not only avoiding gluten, but are avoiding the readily available gluten-free products as well. If you do, you will find yourself focusing on lean meats, fish, fruits and veggies (think Paleo!) and give your body the break it needs from trying desperately to break down the ‘food’ you ingest which it’s not meant to handle. If you honor a truly gluten-free diet, and the reason you’re pursuing it, you will allow your body to heal from the many years of damage you have ensured; remember, it takes the average celiac and/or non celiac gluten sensitive (NCGS) patient 11 years to be diagnosed so there’s typically a lot of damage done which needs time to heal.
I personally didn’t fully begin to heal until I removed all grains from my diet after taking the cross reactive test from Cyrex Labs, and discovered that I was having a cross-reactive issue to many other grains. The reason? When I was diagnosed as NCGS, I fell victim to the marketing messages of not “living without” and such that I have grown to hate now, and simply replaced my gluten-ful foods with gluten-free versions. And so although I was living gluten-free, I wasn’t truly experiencing the benefits of a gluten-free life for a person with a gluten sensitivity. I was reading posts online about people who removed gluten from their diets after being diagnosed with Celiac or NCGS and I couldn’t figure out why they were feeling so good after only a few weeks and I was still dealing with an onslaught of health issues. Unfortunately it took me 2 more years to learn that I was having cross-reactive responses to almost all other grains and it wasn’t until I removed all grains from my diet that I was truly able to heal. I finally understood what it meant to live without pain, without headaches and fatigue and mood swings. I was finally able to get my Hashimoto’s (auto-immune hypothyroid condition) under control, and am starting to feel the benefits of living a healthier lifestyle. As I journey down this new Paleo path, I can appreciate foods in a new light, and I am discovering so many incredible recipes! On that note, I will begin building out the recipe section in February so you will be able to enjoy the many delicious, healthy and natural/native foods we are blessed with.
As I’ve said throughout previous posts, we have the luxury of enjoying a healthy and delicious life thanks to the many wonderfully abundant fresh meats, fish, nuts, fruits and veggies, however, if you have the urge for the occasional salty or sweet treat, I would encourage you to switch to nuts, and dark chocolate to satisfy those cravings. And on the note of cravings, when you remove all the starchy carbs and processed sweets, they will fade quickly, making it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As I continue down this healthier path, I think often of the acronym from my childhood; GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out. It applies in science and nutrition, people; whatever you put into your mouth has to provide energy, fuel and guidance for your every need. So feed your body, mind and soul and live (and love living) a healthy and natural gluten-free life!