I’ve been on a gluten-dairy-sugar free diet for four weeks. When I signed up to the challenge I told myself if I noticed any positive changes to my health I would permanently remove these ingredients from my shopping list. The verdict: I haven’t seen any improvements whatsoever. None, zero, nill.
This is disappointing. I have several friends that made an oath of allegiance to such diet and swear they got rid of their medical problems. Everywhere I go I hear people talking about paleo and the evil grains and how much better they feel by eliminating these items from their diets. And I did my research, both online and by reading these two books:
Brain Maker by Dr Perlmutter – the author makes a strong case for the connection between brain and gut health and the important of cultivating good intestinal bacterial for your overall health. He proposes a gluten and grain free diet supplemented by lots of fermented food.
A Mind of Your Own by Dr Kelly Brogan – the author advocates a gluten-free paleo diet through which you can cure your depression and anxiety and many other health issues without the need of medication.
I grew confident that diet was the answer to most maladies of our health, even though my new gained knowledge was contrary to my doctors opinions. When I spoken to them about it, doctor #1 a GP, said that unless you are allergic to these ingredients such diets increase the risk of you becoming mineral and vitamin deficient – her recommendation was to stick to a balanced diet. Doctor #2, a psychiatrist, said more or less the same thing but emphasised the importance of eating more nutritional food as opposed to eliminating certain food categories. But then, the resources I consulted warned that mainstream doctors are part of the system to keep us hooked on medication.
The issues that I was trying to address with a better diet were my slow digestive system and a tendency for anxiety and insomnia, but none of these conditions improved by restricting what I ate. I still wake up at 3am once a week and can’t go back to sleep and my gut mobility continues below the speed limit.
Some well meaning friends have argued that I already eat well enough so it would take much longer than four weeks to see a difference. But c’mon, my body and mind have not given me any signs that a month on a high intake of vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts, pulses and a small amount of organic meat have had any impact on my health.
Another thing I found troubling with this diet, specially the gluten-free part is that many people encourage replacing gluten with other refined grains. But if you do this you end-up worse off in terms of nutrition. See for yourself in this comparison of a gluten-free and a wheat bread loaf:
Baker’s Delight wholemeal loaf, ingredient list: Whole Grain Wholemeal Wheat Flour (65%), Water, Yeast, Iodised Salt, Vegetable Oil (Canola), Wheat Flour, Soy Flour, Vitamins (Thiamin, Folic Acid). Nutrition (per 100g): protein 10.9g, sugar 1.4g, fibre 6.4g, carbs 37.9g
Helga’s sunflower and quinoa gluten-free loaf, ingredient list: I couldn’t find the ingredient list on their website so here is an image from the package. Nutrition (per 100g): 6.3g protein, sugar 3.8g, fibre 4.2g, carbs 40.1g
Wholemeal wheat flour provides more protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals than the gluten-free alternatives like rice flour, tapioca and maize starch. I’d rather eat the wheat loaf, it’s much more nutritional. Unless you are intolerant or allergic I see no point in settling for a poorer alternative.
So what’s my conclusion from all this? Well, although food doesn’t seem to be the villain in my health, I feel that this is a better way of eating overall. Once you eliminate gluten, sugar and dairy you inevitably reduce the purchasing of processed and take-away food. You buy more raw and natural ingredients and cook more at home. And this is a better alternative for the environment as there is less packaging and chemicals involved. I didn’t start this journey with the planet in mind but for me this is now the one of the main benefits of changing my diet. The other take-away from this experience is that I became more aware of what I eat and the nutritional value of food.
I’m not going to ordinarily put sugar, gluten or diary back in my shopping trolley but I’ll put a few grains of salt on this food hype.
As someone who was diagnosed with late onset lactose intolerance in their late 30’s, I can tell you this – you only need 2-3 days to determine whether or not cutting out dairy from your diet will be of any benefit. It’s a matter of what’s in your digestive system, and once it’s passed through, you’ll either be better or not. And if not, dairy is not your problem.
Go have yourself a piece of cheese!
Thanks for sharing Anne-Marie. The one thing I can’t re-introduce is lactose, like you I am also intolerant. I was diagnosed 15 years ago. Initially my problem was only full cream milk but nowadays I’m sensitive to almost everything. Because my symptoms are not too severe I often have biscuits and cakes without checking the ingredient list. But now I removed all products that contain dairy from my diet.
Thanks for sharing your experience, I’ll check your blog. Apart from being lactose intolerant I don’t have other gut issues, but I’m curious about the impact of our diets in our health.
Hi Rosana, I enjoyed reading your article, I actually had been very ill in the past with digestive issues, im not too sure of what ails you or how serious it is, but I definitely think it is curable. I believe to start to heal the gut you not only need to avoid certain foods, but also introduce healing foods as well. Such as ginger, turmeric, lemon juice, bone broth and aloe vera juice (in fact i have a glass of lemon juice mixed with warm water every morning) it really clears out your system and alkalizes your body regulating your body’s PH levels. There are so many other foods that can heal your digestive tract i havent mentioned them all here. You can check out my blog http://buffbanana.com/ where im writing articles that try to help with problems like this, more articles come out regularly if you wanted to follow.
Also to heal my stomach it took along time, like months (although i was in a pretty bad way before) Im assuming your situation is not as debilitating. And now that im better i can eat lactose products, grains and foods with gluten in them without any issues, although i definitely have cut back on them, but Im not scared to eat bread or have a milky tea once in a while!
I hope this helps you in some way, good luck with your diet, Im going to follow because id love to hear how you get on!