Posted by: “Suzanne” email@example.com
Health Traps in Gluten-Free Diet
A few years ago, my daughter’s best friend was diagnosed with celiac disease and, following doctor’s orders, her mother eliminated wheat, rye and barley from her diet and replaced them with gluten-free versions of bread, pretzels, cookies and all the other foods Lily loves. She was pleased that there were so many gluten-free options and she expected that her daughter’s symptoms would quickly improve — but, she recently told me, it seems her daughter has more stomachaches than ever, not to mention some new complaints, including a chronic stuffed nose and a lump in her throat.
When I asked Daily Health News contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, what might be causing this, he nodded knowingly and said it is a surprisingly common problem. He explained that some people aren’t avoiding gluten as completely as they believe they are… some weren’t diagnosed correctly or completely.. . and some may have fallen prey to a trap where they’ve effectively traded one problem for another. We went through the various scenarios that could be causing Lily’s discomfort. If a low-gluten or gluten-free diet isn’t working for you… if your symptoms fail to improve… or if you develop new symptoms, as my daughter’s friend did, you may want to go through a similar exercise.
What’s The Real Problem?
First and most obvious, it may be that you are unknowingly still eating gluten. Besides the obvious, that you’re getting gluten from places you don’t expect it (such as sauces and medications) , Dr. Rubman outlined two other possibilities.
Celiac disease or gluten intolerance isn’t your only digestive issue…
It could be that you have other dietary sensitivities as well. One common problem is that many people who are gluten-intolerant also are sensitive to cow’s-milk protein, Dr. Rubman said. Symptoms of this intolerance include increased mucus production, postnasal drip, low-grade inflammation, trouble swallowing and a lump in the throat. Another possibility is that your digestive problems are of a different nature altogether. For instance, you may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or colitis. Rubman’s solution: See your physician for proper evaluation and treatment. Generally speaking, a good doctor will first try to improve overall digestive function and elimination and then, if that’s not the answer, test for various intolerances and allergies.
Or, the culprit may be an unhealthy diet.
Gluten-free is not necessarily the same thing as healthy, Dr. Rubman said. If the mandate to avoid gluten in your diet leads you directly to the gluten-free aisle in your supermarket where you buy the same types of processed, packaged and frozen foods you were eating before, you’re likely solving one problem and creating another. According to Dr. Rubman, many gluten-free products are loaded with unhealthy ingredients, such as sugar and saturated fat, which makes them taste better so that you will eat more of them. You’re not eating gluten, but you still feel sluggish, bloated, fatigued and irritable.
Also, Dr. Rubman notes, eating lots of carbohydrates (particularly simple ones) may further compromise an already sensitive gastrointestinal tract by encouraging the overgrowth of unhelpful bacteria and yeast, which in turn leads to acid reflux, stuffy nose and other ailments. Rubman’s solution: Even gluten-free products should be looked at carefully for their overall healthfulness. Sugar is still sugar… fried is still fried… salt is still salt… processed is still processed. The more you emphasize whole foods in your diet, the better you will feel — period. In place of wheat, barley and rye, experiment with nutrient-rich, tasty and naturally gluten-free alternatives, such as amaranth, buckwheat, millet and quinoa. Try eating this way and see — it’s quite likely that within weeks of making these changes, your digestive disturbances will abate and you’ll have more energy, focus and immune strength… all of which will leave you feeling great.
Andrew L. Rubman, ND, medical director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut. www.SouthburyClinic.com.