We all have a friend (or many, if you live in Los Angeles) that has gone gluten-free for some reason or another. Said friends always claim that they “feel so much better” and “have so much more energy” and “don’t even miss bread that much” (LIES) because of their gluten-free diets, but here’s the big question: Do gluten-free diets actually have an effect on your body or is it all mental?
2. The Distinction Between Gluten Sensitivity And Celiac
First things first, let’s talk about celiac disease. This genetic disorder causes severe gluten intolerance in about 1 percent of the population, so if you are one of the few people afflicted with celiac, you should absolutely avoid gluten.
The photo represents the intestinal linings of one person without celiac disease and one person with celiac. Clearly, someone with celiac is not "faking" their symptoms just to join the gluten-free fad.
Now, onto “gluten sensitivity,” which is what most of your gluten-free friends claim that they have. This is the idea that your body is sensitive to gluten in the way that some people’s bodies are sensitive to lactose — the consumption of gluten can cause gastrointestinal distress, skin conditions and foggy brain.
Before we talk about why most people feel better on a gluten-free diet, let’s acknowledge the fact that some people are actually affected by gluten. Every body is different. Some people can’t tolerate cheese, others can’t tolerate cruciferous vegetables and some can’t tolerate gluten.
However, most people that adopt a gluten-free diet and claim to “feel better” aren’t lying — they actually do feel better, but it’s not because they’ve eliminated gluten. Something funny happens when you are forced to cut bread out of your diet...you start eating a lot healthier.
Peter Gibson, professor of gastroenterology at Monash University, believes that the real reason people feel better on gluten-free diets is because their overall diet is much, much healthier.
“I've noticed [this] lots of times, even with family members," Gibson told Alan Levinovitz, author of The Gluten Lie. "They've decided they're eating a lot of takeaway foods, quick foods, not eating well at all. They read this thing about gluten-free, and then they're buying fresh vegetables, cooking well, and eating a lot better."
8. So Are You Experiencing Psychological Benefits Of A Gluten-Free Diet?
In his book, Levinovitz wrote, “When it comes to food sensitivities, people are incredibly unwilling to question self-diagnoses. No one wants to think that the benefits they experienced from going gluten-free…might be psychological.”
So are all of the glowing effects of your gluten-free just in your head?
No! If you find that you're feeling bloated lethargic, consult with your doctor. That's the best way to assess whether or not you have a gluten intolerance, or if there's something else behind your symptoms.
Eat more real food. As in, food such fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains that hasn't been processed (fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains). Ditching your fast food and late-night pizza habits and choosing instead real, whole foods is the best way to a healthy, happy body.
If you're afraid of not being able to go out to eat, there's still a lot of options for you out there. Most places nowadays know that there's a lot of talk about gluten in the air, so they offer you gluten free options (if you really have to.) And you can go bunless at most burger places, so that's not going to be a problem.
Are you going to die if you eat bread? Probably not. But is it going to make you feel better if you stop? Yes, probably. You'll just have to decide if it's worth not eating bread, or shoving that sweet, sweet gluten in your mouth. It's your choice.