Going gluten free has been a very popular motion in the field of nutrition over the past few years, with nutritionists and personal trainers advising you to completely cut gluten from your diet. It has become somewhat fashionable, and has not been helped by the trend of influential people recommending super high protein and fat diets for weight loss, scare-mongering people in to believing carbohydrates alone make you overweight- and consequently ruining peoples’ energy levels with minimal carb diets over a prolonged period.
We feel strongly that if you do not have coeliac’s disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, or if you are not gluten-sensitive, you shouldn’t have to cut out foods containing gluten altogether (unless advised to do so by a doctor). Gluten-containing food and drinks include whole grains, cereals, pastas, breads and alcoholic beverages, so cutting them from your diet limits your choices of food. Unless you opt for the gluten-free alternative produce which is often:
- Double the price of its gluten-containing brethren.
- More processed than their gluten-containing counterparts.
- Lacking in important vitamins, minerals and fibre.
- Contains added sugars, fats, alcohols and binding filler products (that will often cause stomach issues!).
I personally extremely rarely experience bloating, but recently when I started incorporating protein baked goods in to my diet, which contain the aggravating ingredients detailed in the final point above, I have had several bouts of painful bloating. Try eating 2-3 Quest bars and having a protein shake in the same day, and I am sure you will experience a similar problem due to the high fibre and binding products.
If you have IBS, type 1 diabetes or thyroid issues, respectable health associations suggest having tests for gluten-sensitivity.
Gluten itself has no real outstanding health benefits, but the foods in which it is contained do; whole grains, breads, cereals, etc. as they are often high in vitamins and mineral – which are lost as the foods are highly processed to remove any gluten (gluten free alternatives tend to be highly processed). Given so many celebrities have gone low carb, gluten-free or started promoting some crazy fad diet, lots of people have unnecessarily followed suit and this has led to a wave of people self-diagnosing themselves as gluten-intolerant. Self-diagnosis is much higher than actual prevalence of gluten intolerance or sensitivity.
If you do have coeliac’s you should most definitely go gluten-free in order to avoid damaging the small intestine, and if you are gluten-sensitive limiting gluten containing foods to your less carbohydrate dense meals would be wise. If you have self-diagnosed yourself as ‘gluten-sensitive/intolerant’ you should go to the doctors to have a professional test- as you could be unnecessarily partaking in a gluten free diet (potentially) deficient in vitamins, minerals and fibre at an unneeded cost.
Symptoms that you are gluten intolerant:
- Chronic fatigue or nausea,
- Chronic or common bouts of diarrhoea,
- Rapid and undue weight loss,
- Stomach pain,
- Chronic cramping or bloating,
- Commonly vomiting or feeling like you are going to vomit,
- Unexplained anaemia,
- Stunted growth as a child,
- At least one of the above symptoms become(s) strongly intensified around gluten-heavy meals- not simply a meal where you massively over eat.
Also, it is wise to try and realise when you are full vs. when you are actually bloated. When you are bloated you will likely become very gassy (flatulent), feel like you need to defecate and be very uncomfortable in general. Feeling full is totally different, which is what you will feel after a larger meal that contains a higher amount of carbs- rather than the upper portion of your abdominals being swollen as with bloating. We often get people stating how bloated they are after moving across from a diet plan where carbs where portrayed as the bad guy, but more often than not they are just feeling full from a decent sized meal- opting for lower volume carb sources here works very well. Higher volume carb sources include potato, cereals and popcorn.
Gluten containing foods will not inhibit weight loss in our opinion, just as carbohydrates will not cause fat gain alone (regardless of the time of day they are consumed). These need not be cut out by the majority of the population, and self-diagnosis is unwise- if you are concerned that you may be coeliac’s or gluten-sensitive see a doctor ASAP rather than performing your own exclusion diet.
One good thing to have come from gluten-free diets becoming uber-fashionable is that people are more likely to get themselves tested who actually have coeliac’s disease- improving their quality of life. Also, gluten-free foods are now more commonly sold in express-style supermarkets, and a very diverse range of previously off-limits foods can now be found in the larger supermarkets with more competitive prices.
Protein breads and pastas often used by those who are cutting out gluten as a ‘healthier alternative’ to bread and pasta, but these products are in fact not actually gluten-free. In some brands their main protein source is wheat protein (gluten), so opting for these over the normal wholemeal options would not be advisable! Something along the lines of a gluten free loaf with a shredded chicken breast and salad would be more optimal for someone with a true wheat allergy, and most probably cheaper vs. protein breads and pastas too.
We asked resident nutritionist Josh Silverman what he thought about going gluten-free:
“When looking at allergic or intolerant reactions, people will automatically pinpoint one thing in their diet to portray as the bad guy. This is true for gluten.
But is it gluten’s fault? We could technically blame it on our gut flora and enzyme balance. The enzyme DDP IV is responsible for the breakdown of gluten and those with diabetic disorders, IBS, coeliac disease are amongst 1-7% of the population who should actively stay away from gluten.
Why is it that 20% of adults looks to cut it out all together with such low numbers actually being affected? When you look at gluten containing products you will generally see biscuits, cakes, bread and others amongst the list. Very “moreish” food. Easy to overindulge and make you feel crap during the day.
People are confusing over indulgence with intolerance. It’s just not the same.
If you also really want to go deep into it then those without the strain of DDP IV should also stay away from dairy as it is responsible for breaking down casein too. But that’s for another time…”
In summary, we feel you do not need to go gluten-free in order to maintain a healthy diet, just as you do not need to ‘eat clean’ to enable fat loss. Enjoying the foods you like in moderation, and not over indulging on ‘bad foods’, will allow you to progress towards any goal just as smoothly as you would opting for a gluten-free lifestyle. For more on this topic check out our article on flexible dieting.
If you do go gluten-free, ensure you try to replace the lost fibre, vitamins and minerals from whole grains with naturally gluten-free grains such as buckwheat, quinoa and lentils. Higher fibre fruits and vegetables would also be good to incorporate in to your diet in moderation, as too much fibre (and sugars) can also cause gastrointestinal issues. Essentially, try to ensure you replace the nutrient-dense, gluten-containing foods with a healthy equivalent- not something that has been overly processed with lots of added sugars, salts and binding products!
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