Gluten Free - for everyone?

The New York Times just ran a story on gluten sensitivity. Different from both celiac and wheat allergy, gluten sensitivity is being looked at by doctors and researchers more closely because of the large numbers of people who claim anecdotal health benefits from following a gluten free diet.

Like me.

Last year, I got really sick. After multiple ultrasounds, a colonoscopy, an endoscopy and a biopsy of my small intestine, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I lost a lot of weight, got terrible acne, suffered migraines and sinus infections that landed me in the ER, and had every kind of bowel symptom you can imagine. In short, I was a pretty miserable mess. I looked, and felt, like crap.

I ended up on a gluten free diet after following this elimination diet. When I hit the "challenge phase" I noticed a return of my symptoms when I reintroduced gluten. I've made a concerted effort to avoid gluten since then, although sometimes it sneaks in. I can usually tell because my skin breaks out and I get some GI symptoms.

One of the things the article discusses is the use of "gluten free" foods, and how they may not be the most nutritious, mainly because they have less fiber. You may have noticed this label popping up in the grocery store all over the place. Rice Chex, for instance, has always been gluten free and makes a fantastic substitute for bread crumbs. Gluten free breads that actually taste like bread are pretty widely available (usually sold in the freezer section, I like Udi's the best). Trader Joe's has a wide variety of cheap gluten free pasta.

However, one of the changes in my diet that may have helped me to become healthier is that I increased  the amount of vegetables I was eating. Instead of toast with my egg, I made a sweet potato. Instead of pasta side dishes, I ate steamed vegetables or a big salad. Or both. When we have a lot of kale or spinach from our CSA I drink lots of green smoothies.

We've been experimenting with gluten free flour blends and can make some pretty outstanding cupcakes, muffins and waffles. However, if you eat a lot of bread, pasta and baked goods, and you simply replace your glutenous food with GF products you will 1) Spend LOTS of money and 2) probably not be healthier.

There's not yet a blood test you can take to see if you have a gluten sensitivity. Doctors urge patients to rule out celiac disease before trying a gluten free diet, since the tests for celiac only work accurately when the patient is actually consuming gluten.

I suspect that modern, genetically modified varieties of wheat might be to blame for this epidemic. Or it could be the carb-happy diet of the modern American.

I don't care if this is a fad, if celebrities are using it to lose weight, or if there's no current medical research to support it. I'm sticking to my GF ways for the time being.

No comments: