Should you go gluten free?

Should you go gluten free?

There are so many ‘free from’ diets out there now and ‘free from’ food aisles are becoming increasingly larger.  There are also many tests to detect food intolerances or sensitivities.

There unfortunately isn’t a simple yes or no, it depends on your level of inflammation and tolerance. The same goes for dairy free or indeed any other type of restrictive diet.  

What I’ve learnt from my own experiences:

My son and I unfortunately do have quite a few intolerances. However if I had my time again, when I ‘first’ began getting food intolerances, I would have gone about it very differently.

When I started experiencing symptoms my Nutritionist suggested that I eliminate the foods from the diet and gave a few supplements (e.g. probiotics). Unfortunately, this is not enough. All the organs work TOGETHER. They weren’t tackling some of the underlying issues of actually trying to ‘heal’ the gut and helping other areas such as the liver. Food intolerances (as opposed to food allergies) can sometimes occur when the liver is not happy.

Instead our intolerances became worse, as underlying issues weren’t being fixed. As we eliminated foods from the diet, nutritional imbalances then begun, which then caused other issues. We are now starting to improve, but it has taken much longer as there were more issues to fix.

Disadvantages of eliminating foods:

  • By restricting certain foods, you start to reduce the variation of nutrients that you would be getting from different foods. 
  • Many of the free from, dairy or gluten free foods have sadly caused other problems for us. For example, buckwheat flour is very high in oxalates. We used to have buckwheat pancakes as a gluten free alternative. We have since experienced problems with oxalates which is a whole other topic in itself! So by eating ‘free from’ alternatives continuously, sometimes you can start other problems!
  • Free from foods often contain other problematic foods (for example eggs), that some people can’t tolerate.

Possible symptoms of food intolerances

  • Abdominal pains/discomfort
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pains
  • Nasal congestion

Typically symptoms can begin about 2 hours after eating food, but they can happen sooner or even a day or so after. So it is hard to pinpoint. It may be worthwhile keeping a food diary for at least a week to see emerging patterns.

IgG Food Intolerance Testing

There is much debate about whether skin prick IGG tests are helpful. In my case, they were spot on, they picked up on all the foods I was intolerant too, even those I hadn’t eaten for ages like kiwi! However for some client’s they are not helpful and the results don’t seem entirely accurate. So I would say, depending on your symptoms and budget, it maybe a possible route to go, but not imperative if you wish not to.

Should you eliminate foods?                            

Many people have strong views on whether to eliminate these foods or not. I believe if a food is causing issues on a regular basis it should be eliminated, as it’s causing some sort of irritation or inflammation in the body. However ideally ONLY on a temporary basis, while you really heal yourself.

So what’s the solution?

Before you start cutting out a group of foods, whether it be dairy, gluten or any other foods, I really suggest consulting with a nutritionist. Many of these symptoms can just be a symptom of poor digestion, nutritional imbalances or poor liver health for example and you may not even need to cut out that food. An experienced nutritionist in this area can help you to see what your specific issues are.

If you experience symptoms from eating a particular food, I do think the body is trying to let you know something is not happy and needs a bit of help with extra support or to be healed. It is so much easier to heal at this point, rather than further down the line when more issues have been caused (like ourselves)!

My approach would be:

  1. Find out carefully what foods are causing issues (either elimination diet or working with a nutritionist or dietician).
  2. Remove the foods from the diet TEMPORARILY that are causing issues.
  3. Do lots of fixing and healing. Looking at the health of the gut, but also liver, lymph, adrenal and colon health depending on your symptoms. It is important to look at ALL of these organs, as they all work together.
  4. Once these are fixed, you should hopefully be able to reintroduce the food/s you were intolerant to, maybe even keeping the problem foods on a long term rotation.

Obviously, for some they may need to keep eliminating a food on a longer term basis, depending on symptoms. However at this point, I would suggest checking your nutrient status and replace nutrients into the diet that you maybe lacking.  

Treatment is so individual and different for each person depending on the type and severity of your symptoms. It’s very easy to get it wrong when it comes to eliminating foods, so I would highly recommend the importance of working with a qualified nutritionist, who specialises in this area.  

If you would like a chat about this or any other nutritional issue, I offer a free 15-minute call. Email me at kathryn@routestonutrition.co.uk if you are interested in this offer.