Take it from someone who was wrongly diagnosed with celiac disease; gluten-free is no picnic. Especially since you can’t even have a picnic. Going gluten-free is by all means the way to go if you have celiac disease. In fact, if you don’t go gluten free, you can develop life-threatening autoimmune diseases later in life. Also, if you find going gluten-free actually makes you feel better and less bloated, then perhaps you do have a gluten intolerance and could also benefit from this traumatizing restriction. But let me tell you this: hearing that you will never be able to eat birthday cake again in a voicemail from your doctor can be devastating. And cause you to cry uncontrollably on the subway during rush hour.
Gluten-free eating is not the way to lose weight. In fact, many gluten-free products actually have more calories and less nutrients than the gluten-containing alternatives. For instance: a slice of Udi’s™ gluten-free bread has 70 calories, while one slice of Pepperidge Farm® (light) whole wheat bread has 45—and it is more delicious, nutritious, and fulfilling. If you do lose weight by going gluten-free, it is likely because you have eliminated an entire class of food from your diet and are eating less overall.
And, sorry to break it to all the gluten-free groupies out there, but it is likely you aren’t even going entirely gluten-free. Most people don’t even know what going gluten-free means, because they don’t actually know what gluten is. [See video: This is the End – Gluten – Seth Rogen & Jay Baruchel] They think it’s Passover and just forego all carbohydrates and high fructose corn syrup. Well I have news for you, gluten is more than just a trend.
Gluten refers to the proteins gliadin and glutenin, which are found in wheat, rye, and barley. These ingredients are commonly hidden in many items you may not realize, such as soy sauce, salad dressing, and your new MAC lipstick. Oats, while not naturally gluten-containing, may become cross-contaminated in the field during crop rotation. Therefore, unless you are buying a brand that is designated gluten-free (ex: Bob’s Red Mill), chances are you’re contaminated as well. And if you’re going to go gluten-free, go all the way. Like Lindsay Lohan on a date.
There is no reason to go gallivanting around town claiming to be gluten-free while liberally dipping your sushi in soy sauce. You’re only lying to yourself.
Medications may also contain gluten. After I was diagnosed with celiac disease I wouldn’t put anything in my mouth unless I was 100% sure it was entirely gluten-free. This led to some awkward Googling on third dates. Just kidding Dad. I did call many a pharmaceutical company as well as refuse attempts made by my Duane Reade to give me the generic form of any medication. Word of advice: When it comes to medications, always go brand name. The generic form can often times contain gluten (or lactose).
In my opinion, I say that if it isn’t actually necessary for your health (and trust me, it is never necessary for your waist line), then going gluten-free is ill-advised. Why would you deny yourself the glorious taste of moist vanilla birthday cake with sweet, creamy frosting on it if you don’t absolutely have to? Trust me, if you were told you could NEVER actually have it again, you would think twice.
In conclusion, trust your gut. If you have gastrointestinal symptoms that do not resolve on a gluten-free diet, you must go for further testing, because it is likely there is something else wrong. If you were never sick (read: bloated) to begin with, and remain that way without gluten, you also have something wrong with you. Because who would get rid of an entire food group if doing so had no measurable benefit to their health and/or physical well-being? Eat some Honey Nut Cheerios and make an appointment with me, or a Registered Dietitian in your area, for a healthier road to weight loss, or whatever your nutrition goals may be.