Guest post by nutritional medicine pracititioner Cindy Lee Kennedy
There are many reasons why people choose to go gluten-free beyond a Coeliac diagnosis which “affects approximately 1 in 1— people in Australia, but 75% people do not know they have it.”
While many have jumped on the bandwagon, seeing it as the latest way to lose weight, a plethora of medical research exists showing it to be beneficial for a large number of conditions such as non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, the full suite of autoimmune disorders and even Autism.
When embarking on a gluten-free lifestyle to improve your health, it’s essential to do it properly. Unfortunately, without adequate guidance, many people fall short of the full benefits by making a few simple, yet avoidable mistakes.
Note from Victoria Heath: I want add that it’s important to get tested for coeliac disease BEFORE you cut out gluten – just ask your GP for coeliac antibodies testing . Even if you don’t seemingly react to gluten, you can still have coeliac disease. Get tested first, as the test is only accurate if you are actually consuming gluten. And coeliac is not just a gluten free diet , you need regular check ups (colonoscopy’s and bone density checks) to ensure you’re healthy.
Mistake 1: Not Going All-in
Unfortunately, for a gluten-free diet to be successful, you have to stick to it 100%. It’s not something you can dabble in, or just cut back on. Once you make the decision to go ahead with it, you need to fully commit.
Research has shown gluten to be one of the most powerful stimuli that produce a protein in the body called zonulin. Zonulin controls the tight junctions that hold the cells in your intestines together. When the tight junctions lose their integrity from increased zonulin, they allow food particles and bacteria to pass through the gut wall that would not normally be able to.
This causes a reaction in the immune system which has been implicated in “the induction of autoimmune features such as autoantibodies and the destruction of a specific tissue type” leading to autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes.
As a result, cutting back on gluten is not enough, neither is abstaining for a set period of time. If you have an autoimmune disease, or autism spectrum disorder, just as with coeliac disease itself, lifelong abstinence from gluten is recommended.
The good news though, is that intestinal cells are constantly regenerating, so once you completely remove gluten from your diet, you will produce less zonulin and your tight junctions and intestinal cells can repair.
Mistake 2: Not Reading Labels
Shakespeare may have coined the phrase “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, and likewise, gluten by any other name is just as damaging to your health. It lurks everywhere!
In Australia, it is mandated by law that gluten be labelled as an allergen in all products at levels greater than 20 parts per million, however it is still good practice to check the ingredients as there have been instances where warnings have not been updated immediately when recipes have changed.
Food is not the only culprit either. Many personal care products such as shampoo and conditioner, shower gels and makeup also contain gluten, so these labels need to be checked also. Our skin is a very absorptive surface (think of all the medications administered in a cream), so this needs to be taken into account.
When it’s a child that needs to be gluten-free, it’s important to remember that thumbs get sucked, bath water is drunk, and lip gloss gets licked off, so it’s essential to be vigilant. If you have a glue or playdough eater – there’s another source to consider!
Mistake 3: If it’s gluten-free, then it must be healthy…right??
Oh, if only that were the case! When we first went gluten-free (and dairy and soy-free too, so it was a huge adjustment in a very short space of time), my Mum was feeling overwhelmed by it all. She is one of those doting grandmothers that loves to bake up a storm to spoil the grandkiddies.
We were over at her house one day, and the girls had a couple of biscuits that she had made for them. She was really excited to be trying out a new packet mix that she had found that ticked all the boxes (no gluten, dairy or soy). Within half an hour, my youngest was climbing the walls and bouncing all over the place. What was in those biscuits??? I pulled the box out of the bin and read the ingredients and to our horror, they were 60% sugar! No wonder she was off her tree!
The moral of the story, is that gluten-free foods can be just as unhealthy as other processed foods. Going gluten-free can be a fantastic way to improve your diet and the health of your family if you replace what you remove with healthy, whole-food choices such as fresh fruit and vegetables, seeds, nuts, eggs and meat. Leave the processed foods on the shelf.
Mistake 4: Overly Restricting Your Diet
I see this happen all the time. People become scared of food because they are trying too hard to be careful, that they start to really restrict what they eat beyond what is necessary.
As with anyone, a varied diet is essential to make sure you are getting enough fibre, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats. When you initially go gluten-free, chances are you already have some digestive issues, such as constipation, diarrhoea and potentially intestinal permeability. This means that your body is struggling to break down and absorb the food you are eating, so your nutrient requirement is actually higher than that of a healthy person.
To help your body heal, make sure you are getting a good range of foods in your diet. I love the motto “eat a rainbow every day”. Not a rainbow of artificial colouring though!! Just a good range of veggies in as many colours as you can manage.
Another mistake I often see, is that because the usual standby of toast or cereal have suddenly disappeared, or a quick sandwich can’t be grabbed for lunch, people start skipping meals. Again, it’s so important to make sure you are optimising your nutrient intake to help you get back on your feet again as fast as possible.
So there you have it. Going gluten-free is one of the best things you can do to improve your health if you have any digestive issues, are coeliac, have an autoimmune disease, or are on the autism spectrum. Make sure you get off to a great start by going all in, reading labels, making healthy choices, and eating a varied diet.
Bio: About Cindy
Cindy Kennedy is a Nutritional Medicine Practitioner who lives and breathes Hashimoto’s on a personal and professional level. Raising two daughters who have both been diagnosed, she has made it her mission to thoroughly understand this complex condition. Her compassion and intrigue ensure that an individual therapeutic approach is taken for each and every one of her clients to enable them to make the transition from suffering with debilitating illness to living a healthy and fulfilled life.
Her true passion lies in turning gluten and dairy-free living from a restricted diet into a delicious and abundant family-friendly lifestyle.
Cindy is the best-selling author of Help! My Child Has Hashimoto’s and has been featured by UK Thyroid, Stop the Thyroid Madness and Change Your POV.
You can find out more by visiting her website at CindyLeeKennedy.com
Antvorskov, J. C., Josefsen, K., Engkilde, K., Funda, D. P., & Buschard, K. (2014). Dietary gluten and the development of type 1 diabetes. Diabetologia, 57(9), 1770–1780. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-014-3265-1
Fasano, A. (2012). Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1258, 25–33.
Hechtman, L. (2014). Clinical naturopathic medicine. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/book/ehsnm
Sollid, L. M., & Jabri, B. (2013). Triggers and drivers of autoimmunity: lessons from coeliac disease. Nature Reviews. Immunology, 13(4), 294–302. https://doi.org/10.1038/nri3407 Hechtman, 2014
 Fasano, 2012
 Sollid, & Jabri, 2013
 Antvorskov, Josefsen, Engkilde, Funda, & Buschard, 2014; Fasano, 2012