Happy Friday! Before I get into today’s post I want to wish my beautiful sister a happy 17th birthday! She is the Anna to my Elsa (Frozen reference), my best friend and deserves an amazing day!
Today I want to talk about some of the misconceptions surrounding gluten-free life via a true and false game. I feel like I’ve read a million articles titled “gluten-free myths” but either people don’t read them or they don’t take the information to heart. I’m constantly debunking these myths and while I feel like gluten-free life is pretty mainstream, I’m stunned by the number of people who are uninformed, whether intentionally or not. I’m only going to
vent about address a few topics because the list is pretty extensive.
*Note: I am by no means a professional in this field. I linked to some articles for more information.*
Debunking Gluten-Free Myths
1. Gluten-free food is healthier than non-gluten free food. False. A gluten-free cake is still a cake. While naturally gluten-free foods like fruits and vegetables are very healthy, packaged gluten-free products are not inherently healthier than their gluten-filled counterparts. Labeling something “gluten-free” doesn’t mean it’s calorie or fat-free by any means. Actually, sometimes gluten-filled foods give you more “bang for you buck” regarding vitamins and nutrients. Most gluten-free products have added sugar (to improve taste) and less fiber than “regular” products.
2. I will lose weight on a gluten-free diet. It depends. If eating gluten-free means you eliminate all wheat, barley and rye and don’t replace it with other GF grains or food, then you probably will lose weight. That’s usually what happens when you cut an entire food group out of your diet. But when many people are diagnosed with celiac disease, myself included, they gain weight. This is because eating gluten causes malabsorption of nutrients in those with celiac. So when people begin absorbing the nutrients from food, it’s natural to gain weight.
3. If I order the salad and pick off the croutons I will be fine. False (if you have celiac). If you are avoiding gluten for other reasons this may be OK depending on your severity. For celiacs, cross-contamination is a major red flag. If something we plan to eat touches gluten, it is contaminated. Sound high-maintenance, I know. I’ve had to send many salads back to the kitchen because of croutons and bread on top. Cross-contamination also goes for toasters, jars of foods that people put utensils into (peanut butter!) and some cookware (ex: I feel better about not sharing a cookie sheet with my roommates, but I use the same bowls and plates…that have obviously gone through the dishwasher).
4. If my stomach hurts after eating bread, I should immediately avoid gluten. False. Many people are quick to blame gluten for any stomach and digestive issues, but don’t jump to conclusions. Did you eat too much pasta in one sitting? Did you eat too many pastries and sugar-filled foods this week? Have you been drinking enough water today? Consider other possibilities. The answer could be as simple as, “I overdid it on heavy food today.” However, if you are considering getting tested for celiac it’s important to know that for an accurate diagnosis, you must be following a normal diet with gluten-containing foods.
5. If someone with celiac eats gluten they will break out in hives. FALSE. Eating gluten does not result in an anaphylaxis shock like a nut allergy would, and for that I’m grateful. I don’t need an Epipen and my throat won’t close up if I eat gluten. While having celiac may suck, I’m thankful that one mess up isn’t life-threatening. Back to the topic…when celiacs eat gluten the effects are internal and the worst damage can’t even be felt. Gluten tears apart the small intestine (can’t feel this!) which prevents the absorption of nutrients, like we talked about earlier. If this continues it can lead to osteoporosis, anemia and malnutrition. What celiacs can feel pretty soon after ingesting gluten are the awful symptoms felt pre-diagnosis. This typically includes usually bloating, constipation, migraines, fatigue and general stomach pains.
These 6 myths are just a handful of the misconceptions floating around…and enough to cover on a Friday! There are many more that deal with the legitimacy of gluten sensitivity, the cost of gluten-free products and the taste of gluten-free food. I think that no matter how many times they are debunked, some will always stick around (like the weight loss/healthier idea), but hopefully time (and society) will prove me wrong.
What do you think of when you hear “gluten-free”?