As a Holistic Health Counselor, I’m not interested much in mainstream nutritional recommendations. For my clients, I rely more on very therapeutic food choices, rather than macro-nutrition which goes that fats, calories, protein, fiber, etc. are most important when deciding what to eat. Food allergen elimination is almost always one of the techniques I rely on.
For many people in America (and beyond!) going gluten-free can be a very effective nutritional choice. In eliminating gluten — the protein found in certain grains like wheat, rye, barley, and spelt — many illness symptoms often clear up for those who are chronically sick. From cancer to autoimmune disease, muscle and joint problems, hormonal issues, hair, skin, and nail irregularities, even infertility and weakened immune systems — going gluten-free is largely beneficial for all of these. For one, it takes a huge load off of the immune system (food allergens suppress the immune system, and often cause confusion to where the body mounts a self-attack instead of fighting true pathogens and invaders). Going GF also eliminates digestive upset and helps you absorb, process, and release food more efficiently. Whereas, eating foods you’re allergic to will actually cause intestinal villi to become blunted, thereby allowing essential nutrients to literally pass right through you.
But in a society where most of our meals are comprised of processed wheat flour (ie: white bread products), eliminating gluten can seem extreme. A major question I’ve gotten over the last few weeks: Can’t going gluten-free actually be unhealthy and cause nutrient deficiencies? The answer is no.
It would be virtually impossible to go gluten-free and drive oneself into deficiency. First, eliminating white bread products is actually healthy, as they are high glycemic index, cause blood sugar spikes, and also clog your colon. Secondly, going gluten-free causes you to get creative and seek other forms of nourishment, like fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and seeds, and spices. Thirdly, grains (all grains, when not properly soaked and prepared) actually draw nutrients out of the body. Yes, although whole wheat is promoted as a health food, even in those people who are not intolerant to gluten, whole wheat products will be pulling zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin D, and iron out of the body. And lastly, when going gluten-free, people are usually forced to give up unhealthy processed foods, and rely more on whole foods that they cook themselves at home.
For anyone worried about getting proper nutrition while on a gluten-free diet, stick to these points: eat whole foods, experiment with other grains and starches like quinoa, rice, and sweet potatoes, cook for yourself and enjoy experimenting with foods that aren’t wheat-based. Your body will probably thank you for it.
For more information and resources, see Melissa Diane Smith’s book Going Against The Grain: How Reducing and Avoiding Grains Can Revitalize Your Health
Written By: Liz Schau, Holistic Health Counseling