Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In Defense of Eating a Gluten Free Diet

There have been quite a few articles going around lately (here's an example) decrying the benefits of a gluten free diet.  I've even been warned on a certain Catholic forum that gluten free is damaging for anyone who doesn't have celiacs, and has absolutely no benefit at all.
Now I don't go around telling everyone in the world that they need to be on a gluten free diet.  If you feel fantastic eating wheat and are healthy than I wouldn't change a thing.

But there's also a reason that gluten free is so huge right now.  It's because for a lot of people cutting out gluten is seriously life changing.

When I eat gluten I have regular migraines and asthma.  Without gluten both of those not-so-minor inconveniences go away.  Without gluten I feel better and have more energy.  And every time I cut gluten out of my diet I find myself magically at my pre-pregnancy weight within a few days.

So I really don't understand the rash of articles that I've seen that are generally quite hostile to the idea that anyone even try the diet.  I'm a little confused about why it matters so much that you'd try to convince others to avoid it.  It's not as if the diet is being forced on anyone.  The gluten police don't go from house to house forcing people to throw out their bread and pasta.  If you don't want to try a gluten free diet, don't do it!  Ignore your friends posts the way you ignore all the other posts online that don't interest you.  It's as simple as that.

Honestly, I'm very, very thankful for the people who I know (in real life and online) who shared their experiences with a gluten free diet with me.  I'm thankful that when Patrick's allergy was still a mystery we had an opportunity to try a gluten free diet and noticed that it seriously changed the way our house runs.

No one in our house has tested positive for celiacs, but if I were to add wheat into our nightly dinners it would be a disaster I don't even want to imagine.

And that disaster would drag on for two weeks.

It would start with itching and a rash for Mae.  It would turn into three hours of screaming starting at around 4 am.  The next few days would be sluggishly horrible.  We might end up at the doctor.  The last time she had a piece of bread I spent two days on the phone with doctors discussing whether or not we needed to head to the ER and that was after eight days on a prescription laxative (because that sort of thing always happens on a weekend!).  Once the first week was over it would be another week of teeth grinding and screaming, tears and non-verbal non-communication.  Somewhere around day 14 life would begin to shift back to normal, except that we would all be shake by the memory of what a single piece of homemade wheat bread can do.

Of course, it's not that dramatic for all of us.  I have no idea if Patrick has a wheat sensitivity because while he loves gluten free bread and cookies he turns down wheat every time I offer it to him.

I've already shared my migraine/asthma/general not feeling as good gluten experience.  Basically I just don't buy that you have to have celiacs to benefit from a gluten free diet. Sure not everyone needs a gluten free diet, but I feel like our experience is proof that there are people without celiacs that benefit too.

The other complaint I've heard is that it's hard to eat a balanced gluten free diet.  This makes me want to laugh. Hysterically.  You don't have to eat a gluten free diet to be healthy, but with just a tiny bit of common sense you can come up with a healthy gluten free diet.  

100% Gluten and Dairy Free...
One article I ran across said:  "If you embrace such a diet, you'll end up "eating a lot of foods that are stripped of nutrients," Tallmadge said. Studies show gluten-free diets can be deficient in fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc..."

Maybe I just think people have more common sense than they do, but honestly I kept a pretty detailed account of the nutrients I was getting when I cut out wheat (and quite a few other things) and the only thing I had a problem getting was calories. I was eating an insane amount, but without wheat adding in a ridiculous amount of calories, I felt like I was eating all the time.

We don't eat a lot of packaged food, I do cook from scratch most of the time out of necessity and I think that the problem has less to do with people eating gluten free and has more to do with people eating foods that have been processed to death.  Eat food that is food, with ingredients that are recognizable as food.  It makes a huge difference.

At this moment I'm not currently on a gluten free diet.  Maggie is.  Patrick basically is.  But at our current income level the rest of us are eating gluten because wheat is an inexpensive source of calories (along with rice and beans and potatoes).  To make Maggie's diet work (financially) the rest of us are eating a less ideal (but still homemade) diet since no one else has reactions that are nearly as severe.  

But as I look forwards to the future I do hope that someday we're back on the gluten-free wagon.  Because I've seen first hand why it's such a big deal to so many people and I've been convinced as a result that for some of us, it is absolutely and unquestionably worth it.


  1. My issue with people who promote a gluten-free diet is that they tend to tell you that no one should eat grains because even if you seem to be thriving, it is only an illusion and you are destorying your health. I have also been told that the cultivation of grain was the worst thing to happen to humanity. I would think if you were eating a balanced diet, there would be no reason you would need gluten. Unfortunately, diet choices get the priority of religion for some folks.

  2. I've also seen the negative feedback gluten free living has gotten and find it curious so many are vitriolic about it. Maybe because the evidence is anecdotal? Regardless, it irks me to no end when some folks attack other folks regarding theirdiet, parenting, schooling choices, etc.

    No matter what the naysayers say, you clearly see a drastic difference for the better when gluten is eliminated. Praying for you that it will be sooner, rather than later that you might make more permanent the diet change.

  3. People can easily be nutriment deprived if they buy the mass produced "glutn- free" food garbage that stores peddle. Most of it is junk food and will still make people sick and fat. Eating a gluten free diet with real food ingredients is much tougher, much more rare, and consequently, seriously misunderstood. I agree with all that you wrote, Cam. My family's health has so dramatically changed that I find it hard to.ignore naysayers. The only thing wheat does for my group is make us sick and make eating easier and quicker. Not everyone gets sick from wheat but most people suffer from stubborn weight gain pr some kind of chronic health issue.... I don't see the harm in encouraging people to find out if gluten intolerance could be the.root cause.

  4. I have to agree with everyone else. I just don't see why people would feel the need to get all upset about another person's food choices, and try to argue that people aren't seeing any benefits from gluten-free diets when they clearly are .

    I've never tried gluten-free, even though I've contemplated it, because I seriously love pasta, cake, bread, etc. And I get really overwhelmed at the idea of learning to make all of that with non-wheat products (I'm not the best cook). But I have a thyroid auto-immune disease, and it makes me wonder if going gluten-free would be good for my thyroid. I'd be almost willing to try it for that!

  5. It seems to me that non-celiac gluten sensitivity has been accepted by medical professionals as a real condition (I've seen estimates that up to 18 million people have it, as opposed to 3 million with actual celiac disease.) Perhaps some people are unaware of this.

    Though we aren't gluten-free, I make most of our baked goods myself, and have been using Kamut flour, a descendant of an ancient grain, for virtually everything. The gluten content is different, and lower, and some studies seem to indicate anti-inflammatory properties. We'll see. What I know is that it is delicious and does very well in everything I've made so far.

    If your diet has shown such clear benefits, then keep it up. It's no one's business.

  6. When my son tested positive for allergies to wheat, barley, rye, oats, rice, potatoes, and more this past year, the doctor suggested we eliminate gluten first as it is found in the first four allergens. So we went gluten-free for a month. I instantly dropped 4 pounds! My son's changes were amazing - his rashes and eczema went away, he stopped his skin-picking behaviors, his all-around behavior improved, and he became more social. That's enough for me & we are a gluten-free family now.

    I tried to eat a bit of cake after being GF for a few months and I experienced horrible cramping as a result. I can't see me going back. I also read an article (can't remember the source) that stated that a study found that gluten sensitivities are passed from mother to child in the third trimester and that many mothers don't find out that they are gluten-insensitive until they go off of it for their children's sake.

    In our house, we are gluten-free. However, I do not force my daughter to live a completely GF lifestyle. Our rule is that she 'sacrifices' in the house and eats like my son and I do. However, my son and I 'sacrifice' outside of the house and allow her to eat foods that contain gluten. It seems to work for us. Although, I am hoping she eventually decides to join us in our completely GF lifestyle :)

  7. Becky's first statement, I find to be very true of many people I know who are on the diet. I was told by a friend of a friend on facebook that I was poisoning and abusing my children irreparably when I mentioned something about my kids eating Pop-Tarts on someone's status. Yeah, that person got blocked.
    And, it is, in fact, becoming a fad diet for quite a few people. I watched it be only for celiacs I knew and a few parents within our local autism community (it showed no signs of improvement in my daughter) to being something that a lot of people are doing "to lose weight." I actually had an adverse effect when we attempted to being gluten free that I will spare you the details of because it was pretty awful, but if it works for you, go for it. There is a huge difference between sharing a positive experience and denigrating others and you're on the right side of that.

  8. I am another on the GF bandwagon - and I do it because I feel better. I eat no processed food, and I have no health complaints. I'm vitamin D deficit, but I was on a gluten diet as well. Which is to be expected given we don't get vit D from food typically.

    On the odd occasions I do eat bread (think toast with avocado - I still can't say no) I pay for it.

    Same reason I have cut out milk and milk products. Not everyone has to do it, but it does me a world of good.

    Nor have I ever heard anyone say everyone should cut gluten.

  9. I think it's a target because there always seems to be some unrpovable "illness" that (mostly White, middle-class women) claim to have and is not supported by science. Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia... Doesn't mean the gluten thing can't be true, it's just unfortunately lying in the middle of a long trail of psychosomatic "illness" that are sort of laughable. I think most wheat products are highly processed, and probably aren't that great for anyone. I have no doubt that people feel better and are slimmer when they don't eat processed wheat. If it works for you, great! Whether or not it's real or psychosomatic or placebo effect... It's like any diet people are on (and isn't everyone on some sort of diet? Vegan? Paleo? Atkins? GF? Don't be pushy, don't be rude, and don't insult people who are trying to feed you. Otherwise, what you eat is up to you!

  10. This comment is to respond to your Facebook post about melatonin and how you feel like you are "loading a tranquilizer gun." Since I don't have a Facebook account, I couldn't make this comment there, so I'm doing it here under the gluten post.

    I really smiled at the "loading a tranquilizer gun" remark, and I hope it was totally "tongue in cheek" because I hope you don't feel like you are doing anything but providing a nutrient that Mae needs more of to let her fall off to sleep. If she wasn't ready to sleep, or had enough melatonin, she wouldn't sleep, even if you gave her some. (I've tried it and it does absolutely nothing for me.) I guess the only thing I would worry about is if giving it to her makes her own body produce less. But please don't think you are drugging her. I think she probably is happy to get some rest!
    God Bless ~ Bonnie


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