Drew Brees, Chelsea Clinton, and Lady Gaga are doing it. Should you? Eating gluten-free is more than trendy, says Family Medicine Physician Omer Ansari, M.D. “Eliminating gluten from your diet may be a benefit to your health.” Dr. Ansari shares the following about going gluten-free:
What is gluten?
Dr. Ansari: Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains. It’s been in the human diet for thousands of years. The difference is that today’s wheat is different than it was 50 years ago. Today’s wheat has been genetically modified to make it easier to grow. Wheat used to have 22 chromosomes, but modern wheat is up to 42 chromosomes. This modern wheat is difficult to digest for many people, causing harmful inflammation.
Who might benefit from a gluten-free diet?
Dr. Ansari: People with celiac disease are intolerant to gluten and should not eat gluten at all. Your doctor can test you for celiac disease with a simple blood test and tissue sampling. But many other people – up to 80 percent of the population – are hypersensitive to gluten and could benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet. For these people, gluten is indigestible and causes inflammation inside the gut. Your fatigue, depression, bloating, diarrhea, weight gain, high blood pressure, arthritis, foggy brain, and diabetes may be related to gluten. Some experts even feel there’s a connection between gluten and ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease.
How do I go gluten-free?
Dr. Ansari: Focus on what you can eat, which includes healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, dairy products. It’s preferable to cook your own food rather than eat commercially processed foods. Watch packaged foods labeled as “gluten-free,” as these are often unhealthy alternatives. You want to avoid products that replace the gluten with more corn starch, potato and rice products, all of which can be dense in ingredients with a high glycemic index, leading to high blood sugar and bad cholesterol.
Will I feel better immediately?
Dr. Ansari: It can take some time. Some people go through withdrawal symptoms when they eliminate gluten, experiencing headaches, nausea, and irritability. They immediately think they should go back to gluten. To minimize the effects, I recommend to my patients that they begin supplementing their diet a week or two before eliminating gluten, adding more water, some sea salt, iodine supplements, magnesium maleate, vitamin D and probiotics. These can help fight the cravings and the withdrawal.
Have you seen patients improve their lives by going gluten-free?
Dr. Ansari: Yes! You can’t imagine how many patients who say it’s a 180˚ change for the better. I’ve seen patients lose 60 pounds in six months just by eliminating gluten. I’ve seen patients come off of their medications, suffer fewer medical problems, and have more energy – all because they’ve removed gluten from their diets. In fact, I often see patients less frequently after they’ve eliminated gluten because they become healthier.
Where can I learn more?
Dr. Ansari: Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and how gluten-free eating might improve your health. I also recommend reading Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D., and Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride, M.D. Both offer great glutenfree recipes.
You may be surprised, gluten is hiding in more places than you realize. Click here to learn about the many places gluten can be found!