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There are so many misconceptions about what it means to go gluten-free. This new trend has really only gained popularity in the past couple of years, so there is definitely a lack of education surrounding gluten-free diets. I got the chance to sit down with Sandra Dubrov, a health coach, diet expert and homotoxicologist, to get the complete scoop on gluten.
The goal was to demystify the "g word" and enlighten readers on what it all means. I came away from the conversation with some really eye-opening, new knowledge, including the fact that gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean healthy. Like any diet, there's a right way and wrong way to do it - so read on to find out if this is the lifestyle change for you.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a composite of proteins, glutenin and gliadin that is found in certain grains. It is the glue, of sorts, that holds baked goods and pastas together. Wheat, rye, triticale, spelt, barley and sometimes oats contain this hard-to-digest composite that can cause an immune reaction in some people.
Why go Gluten-Free?
Some people have a hard time digesting gluten, and similarly, soy and casein. These undigested proteins can cause gastric distress and immune reactions and affect the brain by attaching themselves to opioid receptors and causing foggy-brain and difficulty concentrating.
Optimizing the Diet
Going gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean doing so is healthy. If you are going to take the time to get rid of hard-to-digest proteins such as gluten, soy and casein, then you might as well ensure that the rest of your diet is healthy, too.
In recent years, increasing numbers of companies have jumped onto the gluten-free product bandwagon, reinforcing the notion that these foods are daily must-haves, and providing those of us with various forms of gluten intolerance with altered forms of the Standard American Diet (SAD) fare with which we were raised and have grown to love. Now gluten-intolerant folks can have their pretzels, nuggets and cakes, and yes, eat it too… but perhaps too much!
Removing gluten from the diet should be the number-one priority when these proteins are causing serious health issues. However, I am finding is that many people needing to make this shift are doing so in an unhealthy manner by consuming processed non-gluten versions of what they were eating prior to diagnosis or discovery-it's still the Standard American Diet, only without the gluten.
Therefore, one can eliminate these problematic proteins and feel better, or make a proactive shift by eating a whole food diet, and feel outstanding.
Benefits: Once you pass the initial detox within three to five days, you'll experience less gas and bloating. Your sleep and digestion will improve, and you'll experience increased energy, focus and a general sense of well-being.
How do you know if you are allergic or intolerant?
People who are allergic to wheat or gluten have an immune reaction that can be diagnosed with a blood test and a biopsy. Those who are allergic are frequently diagnosed with celiac disease and must completely eliminate gluten from their diets. Unfortunately, food allergy testing is not a perfect art and frequently there are false-negative results. People who are intolerant or sensitive to gluten experience slow-onset reactions such as gas, bloating, digestive distress, abdominal distension, skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis, migraines, difficulty concentrating and chronic fatigue.
Food intolerances are not life-threatening, but if left untreated, can result in tissue damage, malnutrition and chronic illness. There are no standardized tests to diagnose food intolerances, but eliminating suspect foods for a minimum of 14 days and then bringing them back individually for a day each may help expose the sensitivities.10 Questions You Need To Ask Your Doctor
- Go slow: Eliminating these proteins can create detox reactions that can be uncomfortable. I see many people who experience symptoms of detox and conclude the diet is not working. It's important to go slow and have a gradual, systematic plan for elimination, which will reduce the negative reactions and help with an easier passage to a healthier diet. My clients find it helpful to have readily-available guidance, meal plans and recipe ideas to help in the initial stages of the transition.
- Re-focus: My best tip is to switch your focus from the no-no list to what youcan have. Create a list of foods you love, foods that make you feel good and foods you aren't eliminating, and learn how to enjoy them safely! Be adventurous and experimental. There's a whole new world of good eating and better health out there waiting for you.
- Make it count: These dietary changes provide a natural opportunity to switch to a healthier, whole food diet that is much more significant than just switching from one cracker to another or from one type of bread to another type of bread. Since going gluten-free requires more careful selection of food and some cooking, take advantage of the momentum and learn how to make better choices as a part of your metamorphosis.
- Be prepared: Traveling and eating out comes with a whole new set of challenges. Instead of avoiding social events and making your diet the focus of every outing, be prepared with appropriate questions, requests and substitutions. Gluten-free should not mean life-free.
Some detox or withdrawal reactions are to be expected during the elimination process. The symptoms can be similar to those experienced by people undergoing withdrawal from addictive substances, and may include headaches, irritability, mood swings, severe cravings, brain fog, loss of energy, interrupted sleep, and sinus congestion.
It is important to incorporate digestive and detox support during this phase of the elimination. Herbs and homeopathic remedies can be very helpful in supporting the organs and minimizing withdrawal symptoms.
Oops, there's gluten in it!
Although strict adherence is essential for success, and, at least initially, there can be no cheating, you can expect to have incidents where you may accidentally eat foods that contain gluten. Allow yourself an adjustment period of a week where you take the time to learn the ropes and gradually alter your eating habits.
Sticking it out
Gluten remains in your system for up to six months, and it may take that long to see meaningful results. It is advisable to eliminate gluten, casein and soy protein for that period of time. My clients see improvements in skin tone, cholesterol, migraines, digestion, energy, mental focus, allergies and symptoms of chronic illness.
Why sign up for Sandra Dubrov's "Gluten-Free 123" Workshop?
GF123 helps people recover, detox, heal and live a healthy, whole food lifestyle, free of health damaging foods.
- Three-week web-based program provides structure, support and guidance for a smooth elimination that helps clients redefine and rebuild their food repertoire and diet.
- Offers reliable guidance to structure your diet, so you don't feel deprived while maximizing the benefit of your altered eating habits.
- Provides food guides, menus, recipes and cooking tips.
- Helps minimize withdrawal symptoms with herbal teas and homeopathic remedy recommendations.
Sandra Dubrov, CHC,AADP is an integrative health coach, diet exert, and homotoxicologist. She is the onsite health and coach at Chelsea Piers and Jack Rabbit. She is also an avid blogger, a slow foodie and seasonal eater, loves to cook, and a triathlete.Photo: istock.com
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