It’s the new fad. "Everyone’s doing it!" The question is,
“Is going gluten-free worth the sacrifice?”
You might say, “I love pasta, pastries, cookies, cakes, hamburgers, & hot dogs! It’s un-American to not eat those things. And I definitely can’t deprive my kids of those basic childhood treats! That would be cruel!”
Or would it? Maybe it’s actually unkind to let your kids eat whatever junk food they want. Ever thought of it from that angle? Ooooh. Touched a nerve. :)
We (as Americans) are such a culture of comfort. We’re so used to getting whatever we want whenever we want it. Why would we deprive ourselves unnecessarily? And why in the world would we deprive our children of freely enjoying their childhoods?
Maybe, just maybe, these are the wrong questions. Instead, let’s consider the current state of the union. Just start with the basics.
According to the CDC, nearly 70% of adults are overweight or obese! WOW!
What about our children? More than 30% of U.S. kids & teens are overweight or obese!
Something’s got to change! This is not just an aesthetic issue.
"The obesity epidemic is one of the country's most serious health problems. Adult obesity rates have doubled since 1980, from 15 to 30 percent, while childhood obesity rates have more than tripled. Rising obesity rates have significant health consequences, contributing to increased rates of more than 30 serious diseases. These conditions create a major strain on the health care system. More than one-quarter of health care costs are now related to obesity."
Obesity isn't a simple, single-solution problem. There are many factors to blame. Gluten isn't to blame for all of the world's obesity, but it's definitely a contributing factor. Limiting gluten is one way many have found success in losing weight & improving their health.
People have various motivations for going gluten-free. The purpose of this article is to help you consider some of the benefits of a gluten-free lifestyle.
First of all, for anyone serious about going gluten-free, it's ideal to get adequately tested BEFORE removing gluten from your diet, if you can afford it. We chose for me & my daughter to be tested thru Entero Lab & I highly recommend their services. Entero Lab offers extensive stool testing. It’s gross, but the testing is accurate & research has shown that it's less likely to produce false negatives. (see: “Early Diagnosis of Gluten Sensitivity: Before the Villi are Gone”)
I’ve also been tested thru Genova Diagnostics/Metametrix. Those results matched my results with Entero Lab, I trust their company too. But they only do serum (blood) & saliva testing.
Cyrex Laboratories is also an option, but I don’t have personal experience with them. They specialize in testing for food sensitivities, but they don’t offer stool testing.
To learn more details about testing, please read:
POOP & SPIT!...THE BEST WAYS TO DETERMINE IF YOU’RE GLUTEN INTOLERANT
THE PROS & CONS OF A BIOPSY
If you test positive for gluten sensitivity, your doctor might recommend an endoscopy to obtain a biopsy (tissue sample) of your small intestine. Many experts in the field of food intolerances believe that biopsies aren’t always necessary. The procedure has risks, is expensive & can require general anesthesia. The pros often don’t outweigh the cons.
The main advantage of a biopsy is that you & your doctor get to see the state of your esophagus, stomach, & duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). Peace of mind is a nice “pro” if you're able to determine that you don't have Celiac Disease or another illness. Unfortunately, the lack of a celiac diagnosis does not necessarily let you off the hook, as far as gluten is concerned.
The purpose of this type of biopsy is to determine if you currently have damage to the villi of your small intestine. If your villi are completely flattened, then you’re diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
If you've already received a positive blood, stool, or saliva test result indicating a gluten sensitivity, then you already know that your body is having negative reactions to gluten. But if you’re the type that wants to see severe damage already done before you'll commit to being gluten-free, then a biopsy is for you. For those already committed to a gluten-free lifestyle, there’s not many advantages of undergoing a biopsy.
I eventually had a biopsy but only because I needed an endoscopy for other health concerns related to my esophagus. Thankfully my biopsy of my small intestine came back negative, but I had already been on a gluten-free diet for a couple of years. Either I never had damage to my villi or my diet reversed the damage. I’ll never know.
Not having a celiac diagnosis is not a good enough reason for me to test the odds & try to eat gluten again. Waiting until you develop the worst form of gluten intolerance before taking control of your health is not a safe plan. Prevention is the goal. My disturbing array of symptoms are enough proof that gluten is not good for my body, at least for now.
Many physicians recommend undergoing a biopsy before removing gluten from the diet. The danger of this approach is that normal results might cause you to think you can continue eating gluten without detrimental effects. If you don't have the diagnosis of Celiac, you might minimize the symptoms you're having &/or you might falsely assume that you're protected from developing Celiac in the future.
GLUTEN SENSITIVITY IS ON A
What does that mean?
You may still have a gluten sensitivity even if you never develop Celiac Disease & if your body overreacts to gluten, continuing to eat it may lead to consequential results.
There are varying degrees of gluten intolerance & various consequential results of eating gluten, with damage to the small intestine being only one possible reaction. Typically, someone is only diagnosed with Celiac if his/her villi in the intestine are severely damaged. Just because you don’t have complete damage to your small intestine now doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. The villi might be slightly flattened & possibly headed towards complete damage. There are so many variables at play: age, length of time eating or not eating gluten, other illnesses, genes, etc.
Be careful how you respond to normal results of a biopsy. Just because you’re not diagnosed with Celiac doesn’t mean you can freely eat gluten. Become aware of your body & trust your symptoms.
One way to relieve your worry about developing Celiac is to undergo Gene Testing at Entero Lab. I found out that I have 1 gene for Celiac Disease. Because of my symptoms & my Type 1 Diabetes, I’m convinced it’s in my best interest to avoid gluten like the plague. (To learn about the Celiac/Diabetes connection, please read: WHAT MY DOCTORS NEVER TOLD ME)
My daughter's gene testing revealed that she does not have a gene for Celiac Disease. Yipee! But, she does have 2 genes indicating Gluten Sensitivity. Bummer! Because of all of her symptoms & all of her other concurrent food intolerances, it makes sense for her to continue avoiding gluten.
SO, IS IT WORTH IT?
YES! In BOLD, with CAPITAL LETTERS!
I don’t have to worry about developing Celiac Disease & I no longer suffer regularly from these annoying symptoms:
- Abdominal Pain
- Scratchy Cough & Frequent Clearing of My Throat
- Suppressed Immune System that lead to Frequent Viruses & Bacterial Infections
- And one of the most important ones…Painful & Stinky GAS!
This last one is enough to motivate me to be gluten-free! :)
People often think,
“Awww, poor Mendy! And her poor kids!”
But actually, I’m the one thinking,
“Awww, my poor friends! If only they realized that they could get rid of their bloating & those awful symptoms if they would just change their eating habits!”
Not too long ago, I enjoyed a fun, Mexican food dinner while out with some friends. My friend had to use the restroom & came back pinching her tummy & bemoaning the fact that she could feel the food in her belly. She had eaten queso & cheesy tacos & flour tortillas. I stuffed myself probably more than her, but without the wheat & dairy. She was feeling discomfort & I was feeling contentment! My friends were feeling sorry for me having to be on a restricted diet & I was feeling sorry for them not realizing how good they could feel. I definitely miss splurging sometimes, but you don’t need to pity me. You can thank God with me that I found a solution to so many of my ailments!
MY HUBBY’S RECENT CONFESSION
My husband joined the GF bandwagon with us, simply because it was easier planning, cooking, & eating the same foods. Plus he felt bad eating gluten in front of our kids.
About 6 months after limiting gluten in his diet, Craig reluctantly admitted that I was right:
”Remember a long time ago when you tried to convince me that taking gluten out of my diet would help my acid reflux? Well, I have to admit [long pause] I hardly ever have reflux anymore.”
Craig is what we call Gluten-Lite vs. Gluten-Free. He's the only one in our family who occasionally eats gluten & LORD, HAVE MERCY, often when he does, we all know it! He can’t hide it & neither can the air freshener!
Thankfully he doesn't have a negative reaction to gluten every time, but once he ate 1/2 of a donut at church & by the afternoon he was busted! While covering my nose, I hid & cried, “What did you eat!? 'Cause you stink!”
BENEFITS FOR OUR KIDS
Our children definitely have less frequent, less intense & shorter-lasting tummy aches & tantrums than before. And most importantly, I can feel confident that I’m doing everything in my power to give them the best chance for good health.
I feel obligated to forewarn you that many people have more noticeable reactions to gluten after being off of it for a while. If you have a gluten sensitivity & try to sneak it back into your diet, a noticeable reaction seems to be your body’s way of saying, “No way am I letting you feed me that again! I’ve enjoyed the break from that intruder & we’re not going back to that old way of eating.”
Despite the possibility of developing more noticeable reactions to gluten, the short-term & long-term health benefits of avoiding gluten outweigh the costs of eating a typical SAD diet (Standard American Diet). Go gluten-free & you'll most likely be HAPPY with the results!
Has it been worth it for you? Please share your biggest benefits of going gluten-free!