There are so many misconceptions about gluten-free diets, why people voluntarily choose to strip gluten from their meals, and what the benefits are.
As I was flipping through the Amazing Wellness magazine (sent to me by The Vitamin Shoppe), I stumbled upon an article about gluten, gluten-free labels, and the difference between a gluten intolerance and a gluten sensitivity.
This is a subject a lot of people don’t understand (including my husband), so I figured it would be helpful to share some of the facts with you here on the blog, along with my personal story. If you’d like to read the article in it’s entirety, you can find it here.
I don’t consider myself to be one hundred percent gluten-free, but I do have a sensitivity to it. This is why you see me feature a variety of gluten-free options in my meals and snacks. Over the last few years, I have mixed “regular” and gluten-free ingredients in my meals, but I always notice a difference for the better when I leave the gluten behind.
By no means to I avoid meals like pizzas or pastas, but if there is a gluten-free option available, I am going to pick it 9 times out of 10.
Why? Here we go!
These days, going gluten-free is becoming more popular than ever.
Whether there are health issues surrounding why someone chooses to rid gluten from their diet or not, more and more people are avoiding gluten like the plague every day. For some (like those with celiac disease), it is essential to stay away from products that contain or even touch gluten. For others, going gluten-free is part of a fad diet to lose weight (not going to work, my friends), or an easy attempt to avoid bloating.
I am somewhere in-between those two extremes, minus the diet factor. I don’t order gluten-free pasta when out to dinner to be cool, but the night won’t end there if I happen to get regular noodles, either.
What is gluten, anyway?
According to the article, “gluten — the Latin word for ‘glue’ — is a protein found in certain grains (wheat, mainly, but also rye, barley, and spelt) that allows dough to rise. It’s the sticky stuff that holds stuff together.”
The problem, however, is that we can’t fully digest gluten like other ingredients.
“No human can digest gluten completely. We just don’t have the enzymes,” says gluten expert Tom O’Bryan, DC.
Everyone is different and experiences different reactions to gluten in their bodies, and you don’t have to have celiac disease to have an intolerance to gluten. Some don’t notice any effect when eating it while others feel sick immediately after consumption.
So, what is the difference between gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity?
According to Shari Lieberman, PhD, CNS, “gluten sensitivity can masquerade as everything from digestive disorders (irritable bowel) to skin disorders (eczema, acne, psoriasis), neurological disorders (behavior problems, headaches, brain fog), and even autoimmune diseases (MS).”
The biggest difference between the two is that symptoms with an intolerance appear quickly after eating wheat or other gluten-dense foods and include discomfort like cramping, gas, and diarrhea. Fun, right?
You can experience the same side effects with a gluten sensitivity, but they are normally less intense.
A couple years ago, I remember having severe stomach discomfort… all the time. It was so painful. I had no idea what was causing it, but I felt bloated the majority of my day, every day, and never got relief. I didn’t have a problem going to the bathroom, but I often felt heavy cramping, way worse than any menstrual cramping I had experienced before.
Some days were worse than others, and it affected me to the extreme of having to crawl into bed, hold my stomach, and do nothing but sleep to get over it. I eventually went to see a doctor over it, and she suggested I start monitoring the amount of gluten and dairy that made up my diet. I immediately started eliminating gluten whenever I had an option, and watched the temptation of having more than a little dairy. I felt like a completely different person after just a couple weeks of doing this! I didn’t feel bloated after eating a huge bowl of pasta, and all of my non-menstrual related cramping went away.
Like I mentioned before, I won’t ever claim to be one hundred percent gluten-free or totally dairy-free, unless I feel a need to completely remove both from my diet to feel my best in the future. If you are wondering if you have a sensitivity to gluten and experience similar symptoms to what I mentioned above, try removing it by substituting gluten-free products (like breads, pastas, and cereals) for two weeks and see how you feel.
The good news is there are plenty of gluten-free ingredients, menu options, and products out there that taste fantastic! Some of my favorites include:
Sweet potato with Amy’s (gluten-free) chili, spinach, and cheese
Barilla gluten-free noodles with peppers, onions, and chicken sausage in marinara sauce
Amy’s gluten-free burritos (<- a true obsession)
Gluten-free pizza and breadsticks from a local pizza joint
Van’s gluten-free waffles with Greek yogurt and blueberries
Van’s gluten-free pasta sides (with the addition of turkey sausage)
Some substitutions I’ve made since going (mostly) gluten-free include using veggie noodles, gluten-free noodles, buying gluten-free bread (I love Udi’s!), using almond or coconut flour for baking (instead of white or wheat), and drinking (mostly) almond milk. Also, gluten-free waffles and french toast sticks are my jam!
Van’s gluten-free french toast sticks, agave nectar, almond butter, and bananas
I still eat regular ice cream and yogurt from time to time, but it’s all within moderation and depends on how my stomach is feeling that day. If I consumed a lot of dairy or gluten earlier or the day before, I tend to back off.
Raspberry Greek yogurt with soft gluten-free granola
To be honest, I do notice a difference in the texture of most gluten-free foods, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I appreciate the absence of “glue”, and I really, really like them.
I will occasionally cook with wheat flour or “regular” noodles, but that’s only because my husband prefers it that way. If it were up to me, I would cook completely gluten-free!
This strategy of listening to my body and choosing my foods accordingly has worked really well for me, and if you are one who has experienced similar discomforts after eating, you may want to try eating somewhat gluten-free. It’s made a huge difference in my life!
I hope this little snippet helps those wondering what the fuss about a “gluten-free” label is all about. While some may fall into the trend of going gluten-free, others see it as a necessity. It is what it is!
Questions of the Afternoon
• Do you have a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten?
• If so, what are some of your favorite substitutions or products?
I just went to the doctor for heartburn and one biopsy was tested for allergies to gluten. I have been sick since Septemeber with Eczema. I will know more about what is causing it and if I am allegic in a few days. However, I was thinking about staying away from it even if I am not allergic just to see what might happen. If it was giving you horrible cramps then it is worth a shot to try avoiding it. Thanks for posting this!
Oh no, that process doesn’t sound very fun. I hope you feel better soon!
I always feel like I have more energy when I cut back on gluten and carbs!
The Lady Lawyer
Totally, me too! Every now and then I will crave “real” pizza… but it’s seriously once in a blue moon these days.
I am totally with you! I was diagnosed with IBS and ever since I have watched my gluten and dairy intake I have been feeling a lot better!
Same, sister! 😉
Carrie (This Fit Chick)
Personally, I don’t have issues, but my boyfriend can definitely relate to this!
Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie
I don’t have any sensitivity with gluten, but I do with dairy so I avoid it as much as I can. When I cook for myself, I always cook 100% dairy free, but if I am going out with friends and we decide to get ice cream, there is no way I am saying no to that! 😉 I will just have to deal with the stomach discomfort after.
You definitely have to allow yourself to live a little. We just have to keep in mind what our bodies can and can’t handle!
Thank you so much for addressing this! This is exactly what I try to tell people… I’m not 100% gluten-free and I don’t have celiac disease, but I just FEEL BETTER when I stay away from gluten. I had the same symptoms as you… My stomach was always in pain and I just thought that was how I’d be forever, but when I stopped my gluten intake, it was such a relief! Thanks for sharing your story!
Canyon Bakehouse gluten free bread is the best one out there, I think! Even if I could go back to eating gluten, I’d still want this bread.
Thanks for touching on this! I have lactose sensitivity, moving a little more towards intolerance (some times are better than others, but I’m convinced my diet before eating those products matter). Many people will say, “Oh, like an allergy?” and I have to explain that they are completely different things. I am going to experiment (again) with gluten, as I have realized my skin has been going a little crazy the past few weeks! Thanks for the reminder – sometimes I go gluten happen, and don’t even think about how it can be affecting my body!
Erin @ Her Heartland Soul
I think I have a slight dairy intolerance which makes me sad, mostly because I know I’ll have to live with it forever because there is no way I’m giving up dairy. haha
I notice more sensitivity with dairy than with gluten. I was vegan for 5 years, and so I think my body got used to not having dairy. Now, I just have it every once in a while, and if there is an almond milk option (especially for coffee), I definitely opt for that.
When I found out I had celiac disease, the doctor told me anytime I would have gluten products it takes at least 30 days to process out of my body.
Jill at Champagne for Everyday
This is a great article, I am totally with you!! I’m not a celiac, but I don’t like the way it makes me feel. Have you heard of the FODMAP diet? It’s one of the few scientifically researched diets that eliminates foods which break down into hydrogen instead of methane in the gut, and cause a LOT of discomfort for some people. This (not shockingly) includes gluten and dairy, but also apples and onions! Since eliminating some of these culprits, I’ve had the most gas-free stomach ever.
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Gretchen // Gretchruns
This couldn’t have come at a better time for me! This weekend I was talking with a friend who went gluten free 2 years ago and has seen amazing results. A few of his issues are things that I experience and I never thought going gluten free would fix, so I’m going to try it out and see what happens. Great post!
Great read here! I always feel a little “brain fog” when I eat a ton of gluten or dairy. I would have a reeeeeeal hard time cutting gluten out completely, but after reading this, I’m going to try to cut it out for a couple of weeks and see how my body reacts. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Chelsea @ Raw N' Toned
I have a gluten sensitivity. I can’t handly oats at all, it literally feels like I’m being stabbed on the inside. However, I found out about a month ago, my stomach does pretty well with rice cakes and 100% whole wheat bread. But because I feel super sluggish with a lot of carbs, I don’t eat them that often haha. OH, and about 99.99% of the time, I just tell people I’m gluten intolerant, for me it helps them understand that me and gluten just don’t go hand in hand haha.
Intolerance. I lived with painful symptoms for years and oddly just accepted it without explanation. Changing to a gf diet is one of the top 5 all time best decisions I’ve ever made. It was life changing. It always easy but so so worth it! No food is worth the way I was feeling.
Jenn - a traveling Wife
I love that you shared this. Bloating after eating is a normal reaction and everyone should just listen to what their body has to say, not the fad diets. Also, those french toasts sticks almost look like spam. I couldn’t figure out why you would want bananas with spam. 🙂
Traci @ waltz me to heaven
Great post! Very informative. I love your gluten free options! Thank you!
Simple Changes Healthy Results
Great explanation of gluten sensitivity and intolerance! I know I feel much better when I avoid gluten. I haven’t had any in the last 30 days and I feel so much better. Cauliflower is my new best friend!
Tricia @ A Couple of Dashes
Thanks for sharing this! I’ve been mostly dairy-free for years now but have just started dabbling in gluten free too because of all the reasons you mentioned here. I notice I usually get a headache with the stomach bloat so it’s really no fun to deal with!
There is some great information here! I have been backing away from gluten and dairy for the past few weeks, and have definitely noticed changes for the better. I have thyroid problems and my doctor mentioned that some people with an inactive thyroid do better without gluten in their lives. Thanks for posting this!
Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut
Thanks for explaining all of this! It’s crazy some of the things our bodies will do when we eat certain foods! I’ve heard of people eliminating allergens from their diet until their stomach (digestive system) heals (like a year?) and then slowly integrating them back in with great results. Definitely something to consider! 🙂
I’m exactly the same about my gluten and dairy intake. I went off dairy for a while but full fat, whole yogurt seems to be okay in moderation with all the probiotics and all. I had awful stomach cramping and exactly the same symptoms it sounds. I sounded crazy because it was so much pain and the doctor said it was nothing and gave me the catchall IBS diagnosis. I was just crampy and nauseous for weeks. I love beer and good bread and pasta too much to give it all up so I have it every once and a while. I try to do as much gluten free as I can, or at least not go overboard!
It sounds like we have similar issues. You really just have to listen to your body and decide what’s worth the risk. Every once and a while usually doesn’t do much harm for me. Good luck!
Em @ Love A Latte
I love so delicious brand of ice cream! I don’t strictly eat gluten-free but I try to eat lots of whole foods so naturally a lot of what I eat just is GF. I feel better without tons of gluten. Thanks for sharing the info. It was informative!
Tara | Treble in the Kitchen
Love this! I do not have celiac, but I think I am probably gluten sensitive. After being diagnosed with SIBO and IBS over a year ago, I cut it out almost completely (except for a couple Christmas cookies…!) and you know what cleared up the most for me? MY SKIN!! As I am studying to be an RD we learned a lot about gluten sensitivity and celiac, and current research shows that most people who are diagnosed with celiac are not experiencing any digestive issues at all. It’s the non-digestive issues they are struggling with (things like seasonal allergy symptoms, mouth sores, skin irritations, etc). It’s unique to each person (like everything else) and we are learning so much about this every single day! So interesting 🙂
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I love so delicious brand of ice cream,I feel better without tons of gluten. It’s crazy some of the things our bodies will do when we eat certain foods! I definitely dont opt for that and i do say by this gluten when may have some problem.I have taken up some action aganist these foods which have gluten in them.
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