Goodbye Gluten (Part 1): What I Think About Gluten-Free Diets and Why I Reduced My Gluten Intake

I’ve been experimenting with gluten free products lately. Have I gone gluten free? Not quite. Have I significantly reduced my gluten intake? Absolutely.

(source)

The rise in popularity of gluten-free diets is a double-edged sword, in my opinion. Truthfully, I think some of it is a fad. I recognize that there are millions out there dealing with Celiac disease (an allergic– i.e. involving the immune system–reaction to gluten) and I’m so glad that there is more research being done and gluten free products available to help make their lives easier. I also recognize that there are even more people dealing with a legitimate gluten sensitivity (a digestive reaction to gluten rather than an allergic one).

However, a lot of people have jumped on the gluten free bandwagon (IMHO) because it is a lifestyle that offers what all diet fads offer: the elimination of an entire food group. I’m not saying it might not be good for them in some ways, but it’s a slippery slope to bacon binging a la Atkins, if you ask me.

How many of you have I pissed off thus far? ;) Ok, so here’s the other edge of the sword: I do think that Americans are eating more gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) than ever before because it is found in so many processed products. This increase in consumption is bound to have some sort of effect, and perhaps that’s why we’re seeing so many different manifestations of gluten sensitivities these days. I don’t truly know, I’m not a scientist conducting controlled experiments on this matter. But it seems like a cause and effect thing to me.

That’s where my gluten-reduction trial comes in. See, I’ve been having some problems that a healthy, active 26-year-old female who is within her recommended weight zone and eats tons of veggies shouldn’t be having. It isn’t always pretty either so I’ll spare you the details, but there was clearly something wrong with my digestive tract, and I was getting frequent headaches. None of my symptoms were awful, they were certainly very manageable. But after several months of experiencing them, I decided something had to be done.

I decided to reduce my gluten consumption because gluten is a known problem-causer. It is, by nature, an inflammatory substance because it takes so much for your body to break it down. Inflammation can manifest itself in the body in myriad ways: joint pain, headaches, IBS, digestive upset, bloating, skin rashes… you name it, it can happen, or so it seems. After doing a little bit of research, it became pretty clear to me that, if you have an undiagnosable problem, you should try going gluten free (I’m generalizing here, don’t burn me at the stake for saying that).

Tomorrow: the results of my gluten “free” trial. What are your thoughts on gluten and gluten-free diets??

Of Possible Interest:
Gluten-Free, Whether You Need it or Not (New York Times)
Gluten and Inflammation (Mission Hills Physical Therapy)
The Boy With a Thorn in His Joints (New York Times)
Gluten-Free Diet: What’s Allowed, What’s Not (Mayo Clinic)