Last week we were closing up for the day, and I looked at our community wall in Kickshaws Kitchen and noticed someone had written a questioned scrawled in chalk: “why gluten free?” Rather than take it as a personal affront, this little message got me thinking.
There is one obvious answer to that question; first and foremost, celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that effects one percent of the population, with a whopping estimated 83 percent of people with the disease going undiagnosed, according to the Canadian Celiac Health Survey.
Symptoms vary greatly, which makes for difficult diagnosis. On average, it takes someone with celiac disease six to 10 years to reach an accurate diagnosis.
Celiac disease can lead to many other conditions, disorders, and even other autoimmune diseases. There is no medication to treat the disease. The ONLY cure is a 100 percent gluten-free diet.
But what if you are not diagnosed with celiac disease, and your doctor has suggested a gluten-free diet? Before you get all up in arms and think your “new world” doctor is full of it, let me tell you a few things I have learned about food sensitivities and gut health.
Our guts (you have lots of guts!) are pretty much the epicenter of much of your body’s health regulation. When we teach classes at Kickshaws, I use a lot of metaphors, and one of my favorites is of the balloon. Think of your stomach as a balloon filled with water. As it is, the water sits in the balloon until you empty it. But what if that balloon was speckled with pin holes? Of course the water would seep through.
If that balloon is our stomach, and the water is the food we place in it, where does the food go when it leaks from our stomach? It goes to many places, but largely places that your undigested food has no business visiting.
This balloon metaphor describes leaky gut syndrome. What happens is that foods that otherwise you may not have an issue with, when introduced directly into your blood stream, now forces your immune system to react, often overreact, as in the case of autoimmune disease.
The very bottom line of autoimmune disease is inflammation.
Believe me, there is a very long list of inflammatory foods (most of which I can’t eat or drink), and when those guys go right into your blood stream, they begin to wreak havoc.
After some time in pain and discomfort, you find yourself in your doctor’s office looking like a deer in the headlights when they tell you to go gluten-free. Like most of us, you will bargain with yourself and everyone around you about why you do NOT need to be gluten-free, especially if you are not diagnosed with celiac disease.
When your doctor tells you to go gluten-free, what they are telling you is that your body is inflamed, and you need to work on reducing the inflammation.
Gluten and a number of other foods are very inflammatory, so by eliminating them for a period of time we are giving our bodies a break to heal. In some cases, all our bodies need is time and some good TLC (healing foods like bone broth, fermented foods, gut healing supplements etc.). We may even be able to reintroduce gluten on one fine day in the not too near future.
But in other cases, gluten is just a food item that your body may never be able to tolerate again (*raises hand*).
So if your doctor told you to eliminate gluten, don’t be too hard on them or yourself. Being gluten-free today for any time period is TONS easier than it was even seven years ago, when my family first went gluten-free.
There are lots of great products on the market, as well as awesome supportive blogs and websites that can truly help you navigate with relative ease. Just give your body time to do what it needs to do; our bodies have the miraculous ability to heal, if we simply get out of the way.
Medical Disclaimer. The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Part I: A Whole Life: The Cost of Eating Naturally
Part II: The Cost of Eating Naturally: The Benefits
5 Tips for the Chronically Ill During the Holidays
Can I Eat That? Dining Safely When Gluten-Free