This article was published as my Holistic Outlook column in The Times Herald Record.
Maybe a friend lost weight and felt better. Maybe a health professional suggested it. Maybe you’re tired of feeling tired, bloated and achy, and want to see if it will make a difference.
For many reasons, people are exploring going gluten-free. A third of us have a genetic predisposition for gluten sensitivity.
But even if you don’t, eating gluten increases inflammation, and inflammation contributes to symptoms from eczema to joint pain to gastrointestinal distress, and to diseases from arthritis to cancer to Alzheimer’s.
I have been working with gluten sensitivity for about 15 years now and can tell you a lot about living a gluten-free life without deprivation or difficulty. It’s the transition that’s difficult. Once you learn what you can and can’t eat, it’s simple to stay gluten-free, even at restaurants, special events, and holidays.
To avoid common beginners’ mistakes, here are my three top tips on how NOT to go gluten-free.
1. Do not eat lots of food labeled “gluten free.” The first thing people usually do is load up on all sorts of gluten-free cookies, crackers, cakes, cereals, pretzels, pasta, etc. Beware: These are still highly processed junk foods made from high-glycemic, low-fiber flours, and most contain high amounts of sugar. “Gluten-free” doesn’t mean healthy.
2. Do not make “reasonable” assumptions at restaurants. You ordered a simple meal of fish, chicken or meat and vegetables. Why would there be gluten in that? Foods are dredged in flour, cooked with a “roux” or prepared with marinades that contain gluten. Many restaurants, even nice ones, serve french fries that are a reconstituted mix of dried potatoes and flour. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so be your own advocate, and always ask your server.
3. Do not do gluten-lite versus gluten-free. It takes up to two weeks for gluten to leave your system, so if you’re indulging once a week, you’ll never get the benefits of removing it from your diet. Moreover, recent research shows that even a small amount of gluten negatively impacts inflammatory markers for six months.
Try a regimen of lean protein, lots of vegetables, a little fruit, nuts and seeds. You really don’t need those grains at all, and you may feel a lot better without them.