Is it worth eliminating gluten from your diet?
One of the most common questions I field is this: “Jillian, how do I know if I have a gluten sensitivity? How do I know that I should avoid gluten?”
This is a great question, and one that for the most part lacks a super-fast, blanket-statement type answer.
If you even moderately keep your fingers on the pulse of the news dropping in the health, wellness & fitness worlds, quite likely you have heard the debate rage on about gluten. It goes something like this:
“Gluten is a toxic molecule that should be avoided by all human beings!”
“Removing gluten from the diet is a mistake, you might develop nutritional insufficiencies!”
“Gluten sensitivity is a hoax! The only people who should avoid gluten are those with Celiac disease!”
“Being gluten-free is just a fad!”
“Gluten is the antithesis of health, stay away!”
At the very least, this type of commentary is enough to make one scratch their head in wonder and often leaves more questions than it answers.
I’ve got a little secret to share with you, and I will share it with you freely because it was hard won: the answer to the question “should I eat gluten?” is It Depends. Is this satisfying? Maybe not to those who want their world in easily compartmentalized boxes and black and white concepts, but it leaves a lot of room for those of us wanting to explore. (If you want to explore, be sure to check out my Gluten Free Lifestyle v2 Program!)
Because the truth is, saying everyone should avoid gluten is just as silly as saying that no one should avoid it except those with Celiac disease.
This secret which truly is not so secret is something that I have stumbled upon clinically, while working with thousands of people with a variety of health issues; personally, as I discovered, with much kicking, screaming and gnashing of teeth, my own sensitivity to gluten; and by carefully watching the research.
Journals such as the super-conservative Journal of Gastroenterology have coined the term “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” (NCGS) as a real phenomenon, though they concede that there aren’t great tests for it as yet (barring an elimination diet, the gold standard) and acknowledge it is a very heterogenous conglomeration of conditions, as there is more than one way to react to gluten.
In the field of autoimmunity, much has been doing teasing out the connections between gluten consumption and autoimmune disease. Research into gastrointestinal disease, neurology, dermatology and even cardiovascular conditions has begun to illuminate the “it depends-ness” of gluten consumption. Some should avoid it, and some don’t need to. Clear? Yeah, didn’t think so!
Broadly speaking, you should consider avoiding gluten – or at least do a trial elimination for a specified time – if you fall into one of these categories:
- You know you are sensitive to it because you can explicitly connect consumption to symptoms
- You have symptoms related to your gastrointestinal tract, especially gas, bloating, reflux, indigestion or abdominal/intestinal cramps
- You have been diagnosed with a disease of the digestive system
- You have SIBO, IBS, dysbiosis or are sensitive to FODMAPs
- You have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease
Some may say that there are a lot more symptoms that can go along with gluten sensitivity, especially if it is as-yet-undiscovered, and they would be right. Other non-digestive symptoms that can be connected to gluten sensitivity are: headaches, joint pain, skin rashes, itchiness and inflammation, acne, heart palpitations, frequent urinary tract infections, brain fog, fatigue and inability to lose weight.
Especially when these problems go on and on and it seems like nothing you do helps them.
If you think this is a long list that can be attributed to other things, you’ve really hit the nail on the head of the crux of the problem. Gluten sensitivity can look like dozens of other things. It’s sneaky. Well, not intentionally, it’s just that it’s often overlooked.
This is exactly why it is important to discover for yourself if gluten could be an issue for your particular, unique and highly individual body.
I have created the six month Gluten Free Lifestyle v2 to address these exact concerns. As a complete nutrition, exercise and lifestyle solution, the program makes you through everything you need to know and do to not only be successfully gluten free, but to determine what foods are contributing to your symptoms, and what underlying issues in your digestive system or lifestyle could be contributing as well. Enrollment is only open until this Saturday, December 10th, so check it out now ;)
A lot of you savvy readers will ask the next logical question – “why now? Why is all of this gluten talk coming up now?”
Gluten – which loosely speaking is a protein complex found in wheat, barley and rye – that we eat today is not the same as it was even a generation ago. Over the past couple decades, the agriculture industry wanted to increase its yields of protein per hectare of wheat and other grains. This was a very noble intention, to get more bang for the buck and deliver more nutrition to the people. Yet it had unintended consequences. The hybridization of wheat and other gluten-containing grains has actually changed the molecule of gluten, making it bigger, denser, more difficult to digest and more stimulating to the immune system.
Our immune systems already are a bit more on the provoked side than they were a generation ago. More environmental pollutants, exposure to toxicants and chemicals, the over-sanitization of our lives and indiscriminate use of antibiotics and other medications has altered the landscape of our immune system and our gut flora, making our bodies less able to easily process molecules like gluten.
What we are observing in our health and every day culture is the result of those decades, very much as we are also seeing the high levels of obesity and heart disease as a result of the decades-long push for a high carb, low fat diet to prevent cardiovascular disease. Hindsight is 20/20, and we can often glean what is going on now by looking at what was done in the past.