Gluten-freedom: don’t be a slave of the food hype

glutenfree

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

bread-loaf

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.