How was everyone's weekend? We had an extremely busy weekend over at our house with Friday being an very important day since two of our very best friends got hitched! It was a long awaited celebration and we couldn't be happier for the two of them! We love you Ben and Randi :) I was having so much fun that I didn't get to take many pictures but here are a few I did end up with!
After I was finished there, my husband and I headed out of town for my uncle's 60th birthday / retirement party. There was quite a bit of rain coming down most of the day Saturday so instead of the party happening at the lake, we ended up moving it to the garage which worked out just fine! My aunt sure did a lot of work preparing food for the large crowd that showed up including a variety of salads, BBQ sausage burgers, hot dogs, cupcakes, deviled eggs, fruit and veggie platters, and the list goes one! No one ever leaves her place hungry that's for sure!
Sunday we spent the day with my parents and also took my dog over to my grandparents place since they have a huge yard that Lou loves to run around in. Finally, we hit the road and headed home and had a pretty quiet evening since both of us were exhausted! All-in-all it was a fantastic weekend and I'm a little sad it's over!
Now the media coverage about gluten-free eating has been extensive. From the publishing of Wheat Belly to the numerous news articles posted online, it seems that the gluten-free craze is here to stay, at least for a while. Now the spreading of information regarding celiac disease and gluten-free eating is both a fortunate and unfortunate event. Fortunately, for people with celiac disease the growing interest in gluten-free eating has resulted in a large influx of commercially available gluten-free products making it a little easier for those required to stick to this, at times, restrictive diet. Also, with more demand for gluten-free products comes more choice and a slightly lower price tag (though still quite expensive compared to many other products).
Unfortunately, along with more exposure on celiac disease and a gluten-free lifestyle, comes a lot of misinformation. Many people have no need to follow this expensive and restrictive diet but are under the impression that it is inherently healthier and will help them lose weight. I have talked to many people with celiac disease who often ask me "Why would anyone VOLUNTARILY want to eat gluten-free?" And they have a valid point. For some people with celiac disease, they've expressed to me that they find it frustrating that people really don't understand their plight and are just following the diet as a trendy thing to do, which can feel a little like a slap in the face. For others, I think they just don't understand why anyone would want to restrict themselves to the extent necessary to diligently eat gluten-free, especially when there is no evidence to support that it helps with weight loss.1
Yes. You heard that right. There is no evidence suggesting that eliminating gluten will improve your health or make you slimmer.2
So why does your friend or neighbor look so great after eliminating gluten from their diet?
The most likely explanation is that by eliminating some of the common gluten-containing foods such as bagels, muffins, pastries, cakes, cookies, etc., your friend has opted for alternatives such as fruits, vegetables, or other filling grains such as gluten-free oats, quinoa, or buckwheat. These foods may help a person eat less calories, feel more full, and ultimately lose weight - but it's not due to a lack of gluten. It's due to adopting a more healthful way of eating that includes more whole, natural foods and fewer high calorie, sugar-laden snacks.3
The less likely, but plausible explanation is that your friend or neighbor had celiac disease (an allergy to the protein found in many grains including wheat, barley, and rye) or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (a sensitivity to gluten that does not cause intestinal damage) that was undiagnosed. They may feel a whole lot healthier now that they are avoiding gluten because they actually needed too. Most people that have celiac disease however, gain weight after adopting a gluten-free diet since their ability to absorb nutrients and therefore calories, increases as their gut heals.
There are also some concerns with adopting a gluten-free diet without a proper diagnosis of celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Mainly that without proper monitoring by a physician and/or dietitian, someone with celiac disease that is not diagnosed may not be educated on some hidden sources of gluten (ex. sauces, soups, baking ingredients, etc.), and will be at higher risk of malnutrition and osteoporosis.
A few other concerns I have for clients who adopt a gluten-free diet without a diagnosis, include the fact that many gluten-free products are nutritionally inferior to their gluten-containing counterparts. In fact, many individuals with celiac disease have to take extra measures to ensure they are getting all of the nutrition they require to meet their needs.
For example, many gluten-free foods are higher in salt, sugar, and fat. When companies manufacture gluten-free foods out of alternative grains such as amaranth, millet, teff, or sorghum, the resulting product often has a taste and texture different than those traditionally made with wheat. In order to make products more palatable, companies often add more salt and sugar to improve flavor and more fat to improve the texture of otherwise very dry, dense products. This means that not only are the 'healthy' gluten-free foods such as bread or wraps often more calorie-dense, but the the gluten-free snacks such as cookies or granola bars that are often viewed as healthy alternatives to other snack foods actually include more of the stuff we generally encourage people to limit.
Another issue is the lack of protein and fibre in many gluten-free products. Unfortunately, for those with celiac disease they are unable to consume the vast array of wheat containing products that are the main source of fibre and a good source of protein in many people's diets. People who are well versed in gluten-free nutrition are well aware that when the gluten is removed, most often the protein and fibre go right along with it (read more about Fantastic Fibre HERE). Companies are doing a great job of trying to improve this problem, but many people required to follow a gluten-free diet need a fibre supplement and have to take extra care to get enough protein everyday. If you remember from my previous post on this topic, protein and fibre are your FRIENDS and essential to good nutrition.
And last, but certainly not least, there is the issue of fortification. For those of us consuming the regular old, gluten containing products, we take for granted that many of our foods are fortified with iron and B vitamins that are essential to good health. Many gluten-free products are not fortified the same way and therefore further increase the risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in those opting to go gluten-free.
So in a word, is gluten-free really healthier? No.
The media, celebrities, and pop culture love to send sensationalized messages that demonize one food component or another, but the reality is that non of these people are usually health and nutrition experts. Instead, let's trust the science that tells us gluten is not the enemy.2
If you haven't been diagnosed with a gluten allergy or sensitivity but expect that you may have one, it is important that you visit your doctor to get properly tested and work with a dietitian to ensure you are getting all the nutrition you need to live a happy, healthy life!
Please leave your comments down below - I would love to hear from you! If you are in the Winnipeg, MB area and are looking for a dietitian to help you manage an allergy or intolerance head on over to the website to book an appointment today!
2. "New Research Debunks Gluten-free Diet for Weight Loss." Gastroenterology Week 3 Sept. 2012: 26. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 8 June 2015.
3.Lowenstein, K. (2011). The Burning Question: Is going gluten-free the secret to weight loss?. Health, 25(9), 24.