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Why I Eat Gluten Free for My Health, but that Doesn’t Mean You Should
Why I eat gluten free for health
5 years ago I wasn’t diagnosed with any of the problems I suffer with today. My health was OK, most of the time, but let me down more than most people. I also suffered with IBS (as it had been diagnosed at the time). These things were starting to get me down and something had to change.
The first obvious place to start was my diet. My mum has coeliac disease so gluten seemed like a plausible culprit. A little research brought up that dairy was also a common irritant and so I planned a mini elimination diet (my husband usually takes over at this stage, he’s a scientist and loves making me test subject 0001). For a couple of weeks I cut out dairy and gluten entirely and I did start to feel a bit better over that time. Not miraculous, but noticeable.
After several weeks I reintroduced dairy. Nothing happened. Thank F***! Life without tea for me is heartbreaking. I was relieved. Next I introduced gluten, a little sooner than planned actually, my mother in law thickened the gravy for the roast diner with wheat. I didn’t think about it at the time; it wasn’t until it made me desperately ill and running for the toilet, that I questioned what I had eaten?! Turns out the answer was wheat. I did a proper trial to confirm my findings later on, and the evidence was conclusive. Goodbye wheat, it’s time to go our separate ways.
Over the coming months my diet had hardly changed, in fact I was probably eating slightly less as wasn’t eating wheat (and few GF substitutes as they were harder to get hold of), however I put on weight and felt much healthier. Apparently common signs if wheat has been causing you real problems, as you actually start absorbing more nutrients from your food.
I did talk to the Doctor about coeliac testing at the time, but the only way to get a positive result is to eat wheat and I didn’t fancy that again, so I just kept going on my own wheat free path.
Over the years I’ve tried reintroducing gluten slowly, and whilst the reaction wasn’t as extreme, it would increase fatigue, headaches and make me feel sick and bloated. And so a couple of years ago I decided to just avoid gluten completely.
Is an extreme diet necessary for health?
Diet has become a big focus for health and for good reason. You are what you eat, therefore eating crap, well we all know where that leads! But the trend for extreme diets for health that has taken off over the last few years, is that what’s required for wellness?
My instinct (based on quite a lot of reading on the subject) is no. I’m not sure extremes of anything are the healthiest way for our mind and bodies, even extreme healthy eating! Just because a little bit of something is good for you, doesn’t necessarily mean more is better.
Currently research is showing more and more that the best diet for our bodies is actually quite individual to us, and there is no one size fits all. So just because gluten doesn’t work for me, doesn’t mean you should gluten free for health, it might be absolutely fine for you and your body.
I think dramatic diet changes often lead to health improvements in many, for 2 reasons:
1. More of the good, less of the (potentially bad):
If you’ve been eating pretty badly and you suddenly swap to a diet that contains a huge amount of plant based products full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, then of course you will feel better. You’ve given your body more of what it needs and that is no bad thing. Also eating no meat is probably better on balance than eating way too much, so again if you’ve had a meat heavy diet you may start to feel benefits.
Evidence is also growing that our microbiomes (the life force of bacteria that lives in our gut) do appear to be struggling more in processing certain foods that they were able to hundreds of years ago. We develop our microbiome from our mothers, when we’re born. Every generation that sees a deterioration in diet and eating habits, sees a future generation of microbiomes becoming less diverse and therefore less able to cope with our digestive needs. In short each generation is getting less able to process certain proteins such as those found in dairy and wheat.
All of this means that if you follow a radical diet that cuts out all animal products (which includes dairy) and gluten, and you happen to be one of the many people who is intolerant to one of these things, it is likely to make you feel better. However, it may be a case that you’re cutting out more than you need to, which means you could also be removing nutrients that could make you feel better!
Finally, a lot of extreme diets cut out processed foods and cut down sugar. Again there are known benefits to our weight and health from reducing sugar, not to mention helping to stabilise our insulin levels and therefore our energy. We also know that processed foods can be full of sugar and some other nasties that aren’t contributing to the perfect conditions for health.
In other words there are benefits to many of the things that an extreme diet can bring, the only problem is that not all of them are probably necessary for you and your health. Therefore there are probably better ways to reach your own personalised best diet.
2. Taking one big action for your health, has a knock on effect
If you read my blog regularly you’ll hear me banging on about taking back control. Well that’s because I think it’s important and really want to encourage you to do it.
When you think about it, making a decision to follow an extreme diet is in itself an act of taking back control. Right or wrong as a decision, the mental process of taking your health back into your own hands is very powerful and has knock on effects across your health and your life.
It shouldn’t be underestimated the effect that decision alone can have on your health regardless of the action it leads you to take.
Take action for your health:
Find out more about diet and health
If you are thinking about changing your diet or going gluten free for health, then I cannot recommend enough that you get plenty of information under your belt before you make a decision. However, at the same time I realise that the world of information about diet for health, going gluten free for health etc. can be a confusing rabbit hole. A place that is easy to fall into and then very difficult to find your way back out of. (I talk more about this in my blog post ‘Chronic Confusion’).
If you do want to find out more I recommend the books by Dr Michael Mosley who always has a very sensible, science based approach to all of the information which he summarises concisely and accessibly before giving helpful hints and tips for incorporating the advice into your own diet. Most useful for chronic illness sufferers is probably ‘The 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet’ (which can reverse type 2 diabetes and be very beneficial for weight loss and other conditions such as endometriosis) and his most recent book ‘The Clever Guts Diet’ which talks about the microbiome, intolerances (including going gluten free for health), and the most current food and health research.
If you’re not so keen on reading through it all yourself then consider consulting with a dietician, who can do a lot of the detective work for you and support you with making the changes you need.
Talk to your doctor
If you genuinely think you may have coeliac then as an autoimmune disease, rather than merely an intolerance, it is quite important to discuss with your doctor and aim for proper diagnosis. As you can see in my case, once you have gone gluten free for health, it’s too late to test and if it does make you feel ill, you may be reluctant to have to eat it again just to get the test results.
Try a moderate elimination strategy
Just like I described at the beginning of this post, a moderate elimination diet is quite easy to carry out on your own at home. There are a lot of useful articles and posts out there about how to do this and some of the most common irritants you may want to experiment with.
The key is making sure you are aware of where these things may be hiding in your food, as without that knowledge you may end up inadvertently failing to remove the potential irritant from your diet.
For more extensive work, consult an expert
As discussed above, if you want to go deeper into this, or don’t want to do piles of reading on the subject then there are lot’s of people out there who can help including functional medicine doctors, naturopaths, dieticians, nutritionists, and the list goes on.
Reaching out for support can not only increase your chances of success but will also help you more towards a more specific diet that is tailored to your needs, rather than a catch all diet that works for everyone but that may be cutting out things you do need (or like a cup of tea that you just might want and there’s no reason you can’t have!).
You can also use my Diet Blocks coaching workbook (below) to help you towards making any changes to your diet more successful.
I’d love to know if you have tried any diets for health, gone gluten free for health or tried any other diet related experiments, extreme or otherwise. Let me know in the comments below how you found them and what you’ve learned along the way.
Until we meet next time, eat well Wellness Warriors 💪 ,