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Gluten is not the Enemy

I recovered from 12 years of gluten intolerance around 6-ish months ago. A common question or comment I got throughout the time I was gluten intolerant and even now after recovering is, “but isn’t gluten bad for you anyway?”

I usually answer that with, “it depends.” I think in the way these people are asking me, they believe gluten is like eating Maccas every day for the rest of your life. I could imagine your life would be pretty short if you did that.

When I say, “it depends”, I mean, gluten is bad for certain people, but not in general. If you are Coeliac, allergic, have a health condition, or are just temporarily gluten intolerant like I was, then yes, it’s not good for your body. Unfortunately, many people believe (due to false information) that avoiding gluten even though they don’t have any of the above issues, is better for their health.

If you cut gluten out of your diet “just because”, you may be setting yourself up for nutrient deficiencies if you’re not careful. Many gluten free packaged products are actually full of sugar and additives. However, if you choose to focus on increasing your fruit and vegetable intake, this will be much more beneficial. But if you don’t need to cut gluten out, why not increase your fruit and vegetable intake, while switching to whole grains and whole meal bread?

Often, many people feel great when beginning a gluten free diet, so immediately blame gluten for their issues. However, it’s usually because all of a sudden, they’re not able to eat a lot of the junk foods previously eaten. It’s not because gluten has been cut out, it’s because the extra sugar, fat and possibly additives has been cut out.

Of course, you should see a GP if you're having tummy issues. Make sure you do not have Coeliac disease, an allergy or any other medical condition that requires you to avoid gluten. There are other digestive disorders that may benefit from avoiding gluten, such as Crohn’s disease and colitis. But it may simply be gut health, like it was for me.

If you have poor gut health, you may experience all sorts of digestive issues. Depending on how bad it is, you can experience multiple food intolerances. For me, it started with gluten. Gluten-containing grains are harder on the digestive system compared to other grains such as rice. So, it’s no surprise that it causes problems for those with poor gut health.

As my gut health got worse, more food intolerances were added to my list. Dairy was next (another difficult to digest protein). Then over time, my health declined more and more and I started to have trouble with vegetables and fruits! This is when I began to pay attention to my gut health. A low FODMAP diet was beneficial for me, but I didn’t want to live like that. For years, I wasn’t making progress. Why wasn’t I getting better!?

What I found interesting was that high FODMAP foods are foods that contain high levels of the types of fibre that your good gut bacteria feed on. I couldn’t digest high FODMAP foods, which made me realise that I didn’t have the type of bacteria in my gut that is associated with good health. My gut health was stuffed.

After taking what I had learnt from university and researching more into gut health, I was sure the cause for me was stress and anxiety. Stress kills the good guys. But just getting rid of stress wasn’t going to fix my problem, just like focusing on the physical side wasn’t going to fix me. Even though it was initially caused by stress, overtime it had become physical, and I had to tackle both the physical and the mental aspects of it. So, I did.

I think that’s one of the major problems when it comes to fixing these sorts of problems. Doctors will only look at the physical, the symptoms. Although this is essential, if you don’t address the “non-physical” as well, you will find that your progress is either very slow, or you’ll get the “one step forward, two steps back thing.”

Now I saw a lot of doctors and had a lot of tests done. So I was sure there was nothing seriously wrong going on, and that’s important to do. You must rule out things first.

Gluten is not the enemy (for most). If you avoid gluten when you don’t need to, you miss out on a lot of important nutrients, and a lot of yummy cakes! I have been back on gluten for about 6 months now with absolutely no issues. Although my doctor did another coeliac test recently “just to be sure”. It was negative.

Gut health is so important. Poor gut health doesn’t just cause food intolerances but is linked to many diseases. For me, gut health is my main focus now, and I will not go back. It’s actually quite simple to maintain your gut health; however, it’s not always easy.

Gut Health Tips:

  • Focus your diet on vegetables and fruits.

  • Eat whole grains

  • Limit red meat

  • Limit junk food

  • Include some fermented foods

  • Remember, fibre feeds your microbiome

  • Reduce stress

  • Rest

  • If you have to take antibiotics, include a good probiotic afterwards

  • A Mediterranean diet/lifestyle is one of the best for excellent gut health

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