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Fact or Fiction: Is Gluten Free really for you?

September 11, 2017

Disclaimer: This is not aimed at people who suffer from celiac disease (CD), which is an autoimmune disease with no other therapy available. This is for those who do not have CD and yet buy into the gluten-free diet. 







Gluten free diets have become popular in recent years and it's a shame that it is mostly because of actors, actresses, political figures and sports icons who serve as the role models in our culture have decided to go on a gluten-free diet and to publish articles and books about its benefits. People then think "if it worked for him, it must work for me" and follow the trend. Unfortunately, it is not that simple and gluten-free diets are not and should not be considered weight-loss diets. 

Actually, very little is known about the motives of people - who do not have CD - who buy gluten free products. Research has shown that many people confuse eating gluten-free items with being a "healthier option" and "better for digestive health" and the most common reason being "I have a gluten sensitivity". 



So let me break it down for you. 


Fiction: The gluten-free diet is a healthy lifestyle choice. 

Wrong. Research has shown no evidence of health benefits associated with being on a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free foods tend to be higher in sugar and fat content than gluten containing foods. It has also been shown that obesity, overweight and new onset insulin resistance have been shown in those who consume gluten-free foods and do not have CD. Actually, a gluten free diet for non CD sufferers can cause vitamin B, folate and iron deficiencies as many gluten-free items are not fortified in nutrients like their counterparts. That's other than the higher groceries bill, social isolation due to their strict diet. 


Fiction: Gluten is toxic. 

Again, there is no data available that states that gluten is toxic to healthy people. What is gluten? It's one of the many protein components of wheat and for the majority of people, gluten proteins pass through the gastrointestinal tract without leading to disease. Gluten contributes to the elasticity of breads. In those with CD consuming gluten triggers the innate and adaptive immune systems and causes an increase in cytokine release and mucosal damage - bottom line it's not good for them! However, none of those reactions were shown in non-celiac individuals who consume gluten. 


Fiction: Gluten bloats me and makes me feel uncomfortable - I am definitely better without it in my diet. 


When I was a kid my mum used to make me have fish oil, the actual oil and not in a pill form. It was disgusting and it made me want to barf. Was I better without it in my diet? No. 

There is an ongoing discussion about the role of FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). They include foods such as dairy, wheat, beans and fruit with pits or seeds. The fructans (which include wheat) can cause intestinal distress and bloating. So can the amylase trypsin inhibitors (ATIs) found in wheat products. So if someone feels better by skipping bread to avoid gluten, those physical improvements may actually be related to the absence of other wheat components. Interesting! 

There also needs to be a better understanding of the difference between food ‘intolerance’ and food ‘sensitivity.’ Being intolerant of FODMAPs, for example, will lead to gastrointestinal distress as a result of fermenting sugars in the colon. But in those with real food sensitivities, there is an immune component that leads to systemic effects — flushing, sweating and malaise — beyond the gastrointestinal symptoms. These are not caused by FODMAPs fermenting in the colon, though people often mistakenly think they are. Say what?! 


And finally, if your reason is:


Fiction: I lost weight when I went on a gluten-free diet.

Well, it is not fiction. You might have, but no sh*t! It's like people who say "I lost tons of weight when I stopped eating dairy" or chocolate or anything! You are cutting out many foods out of your diet and that means many many calories. 

If you are on a gluten-free diet you can't eat the following:

- Wheat in all forms including spelt, kamut, triticale (a combination of wheat and rye), durum, einkorn, farina, semolina, cake flour, matzo (or matzah) and couscous. Wheat is found in many bread, cakes, cereals, cookies, crackers, pretzels, pasta and pizza crusts, but it can turn up in other products, too. Most ingredients with “wheat” in the name including hydrolyzed wheat protein and pregelatinized wheat protein. Buckwheat, which is gluten free, is an exception.Barley and malt, which is usually made from barley, including malt syrup, malt extract, malt flavoring and malt vinegar.Rye, which is most often found in bread products. Breaded or floured meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables, when the breading is made with wheat. Also meat, poultry and vegetables when they have a sauce or marinade that contains gluten, such as soy and teriyaki sauces.Foods that are fried in the same oil as breaded products are not considered to be safe on the gluten-free diet.Licorice, which is made with wheat flour, and other candies that contain wheat or barley.


Long list right? So why do this to yourself and deprive yourself of nutrients when you don't have CD. Certainly, diet is something that largely comes down to choice. Regardless of actual physiological benefits that may not be occurring, moving to a gluten-reduced or gluten-free diet should come with consult by a reputable nutritionist. There are, after all, downsides to such a diet. A healthy and balanced diet is what I recommend and not one that is full of restrictions and exclusions. 



Happy Healthy Living, 


The Gymcess x





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