More restaurants are showing "GF" on their menus. Grocery store aisles are stuffed with gluten free products. Book stores stock shelves with gluten free cookbooks. And our friends are eating their "sandwiches" wrapped in lettuce. Is bread really that bad for you? Is "gluten-free" just the "low-fat" fad of the new millennium? Will it fade out in a few years and everyone will be searching for "healthy gluten" like everyone is now focused on "healthy fats"? For someone to suggest we give up our Sunday spaghetti dinners, it better be for real!
A year ago, I met with "Annie" who was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, among many other ailments. After getting a clear picture of her history, we discussed going gluten-free as part of an anti-inflammatory nutritional program. Annie's reaction was just like 80% of the people with whom I have worked. Through tears, she told me that pizza, pasta and garlic bread were her favorite foods and she couldn't imagine giving them up. Considering life without something we love can sometimes be too much to bear and prevent us from ever even trying.
72% of people on a gluten free diet are "PWAG"s (People Without celiac disease Avoiding Gluten) according to the Mayo Clinic. So why are all of these people going without their favorite foods if there is no scientific proof that we should avoid gluten? Though some research says gluten has no negative affect on a person who doesn't have celiac, other research claims that eliminating gluten can: improve cholesterol, digestive health, immune functions and quality of sleep; regulate hormones; lower stress, anxiety and depression; increase energy levels; reduce risk of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes; promote healthy weight loss; clear up skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis and rashes; decrease food cravings; eliminate headaches and migraines; and even relieve symptoms of autism. The science is still inconclusive and the studies continue.
So what should we do in the meantime? Try it! Do your own experiment. Go 30 days without gluten. Avoid packaged foods and replace your gluten with non-glutinous starches like brown rice and quinoa. Eat healthy fats like nuts, seeds and olive oil. Enjoy a few servings of fruits each day. Devour platefuls of vegetables. Then one month later, ask yourself, "How do I feel?"
"Annie" did just that and within one year, she reported that she "never felt better in her life." Her labs proved it. "Annie's" inflammation markers which always hovered around 60 were showing up as 13. Her red and white blood counts were in the normal range for the first time in her adult life. She lost 39 pounds. Her kidney functions were normal. Her doctors declared "Annie" in total remission. Additionally, "Annie's" quality of life improved. She was getting 8-11 hours of quality sleep each night. Her sinus infections disappeared, as did her other symptoms, and all of her pain. She told me that she had never had so much energy. On medical advice, she went off all of her medications. With her new lease on life, she could exercise, take time off work to vacation (vs. to manage the pain) and spent lots of fun time with her husband. "Annie" told me she was still going to have lasagna once a year on her birthday but because it was life changing, she planned to stick with it for the long haul.
- Kimberly Hasenberg, H.C