Should You Bother Going Gluten-Free?

by Maria Rickert Hong, Certified Holistic Nutrition Counselor

A lot of people are going gluten-free these days – is this just a fad or a real and growing trend? I would argue that it’s a real and growing trend, and it’s not just because the number of patients diagnosed with celiac disease is growing.

A host of publications have come out recently against gluten in the diet, mainly because the gluten we eat today, which comes mostly in the form of wheat, is not the same as what our grandparents ate. Wheat has been hybridized and genetically manipulated to the extent that our bodies recognize it as foreign and unfriendly.

As more people discover that their allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders are exacerbated by food allergies and intolerances, these people learn that removing allergenic foods, such as gluten, from their diets makes them feel better.

Removing gluten from your diet can relieve a lot of symptoms for which you might typically take an over-the-counter medication. These symptoms include bloating, headaches, constipation, diarrhea, inability to focus, fatigue and joint pain.

The best way to know if gluten is affecting you is to be a food detective. Eliminate all forms of it (including wheat, rye, barley, soy sauce and non-gluten-free oats) from your diet for at least a week, and then add each back in.  Beware of hidden sources of gluten, such as those found in salad dressings, soups, puddings, processed meats and ice cream.

Keep a food journal and keep an eye out for any unusual symptoms. They might not just be a coincidence, and they might take two or three days to reappear, so be patient.

Working Gluten-Free Foods Back Into Your Diet

I don’t recommend that you replace all of your gluten-filled foods with their gluten-free counterparts. Doing so will get you a lot of gluten-free junk food. Typically, these pancakes, cookies, waffles, breads, etc. are loaded with corn and potato starch as dough softeners, and adding more of these high-glycemic starches to your diet can adversely affect your blood sugar.

Instead, I recommend adding in gluten-free whole foods into your diet: brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, non-GMO corn and potatoes are great starting points. If you’re baking, my favorite grain-based gluten-free flour is sorghum, or you could try non-grain flours made from coconuts or nuts.

Here are some easy gluten-free recipes: