Many of us are asking ourselves, “What’s the deal with this gluten-free thing?” The specialty diet’s sky-rocketing popularity in the last couple years has caused many people to take note of this latest and greatest diet trend. The newest celebrity to tout the gluten-free diet, Miley Cyrus, attributes her recent weight loss to going gluten-free, something only those with celiac disease were concerned with not too long ago. So now we’re not only wondering what the deal is with this gluten-free thing, but we’re also asking these questions: “Can this diety really help me lose weight?”, “Is gluten bad for everyone or just people with Celiac Disease or a gluten sensitivitiy?” and “Do I have a sensitivity?” The list goes on.
Americans, myself included, are finding themselves lost in a confusing sea of celebrities, studies and conflicting suggestions. When trends like the “Gluten-Free Diet” are supported (and not supported) by loads of reputable medical sources, it can be a daunting task to sift through all the information to determine whether it’s a fad or a fact. When my nutritionist suggested that I go gluten-free, I thought, “Here’s another one of those trend chasers! Can bread really be that bad for me? What about my pasta addiction?!” But my nutritionist, no doubt used to that kind of speculation, immediately backed up her position. She believes that gluten isn’t really the issue – the issue is wheat. American wheat, to be precise.
She bases these ideas about a wheat-free diet on the New York Times Best Seller, Wheat Belly, which was published last year by cardiologist, Dr. William Davis (@WilliamDavisMD). His basic position? Over the last 40 years, wheat in America has been gradually genetically modified in order to increase yield per acre. Dr. Davis suggests that this modification is responsible for a lot of health problems in American society and that the removal of wheat from the diet can not only improve a person’s overall health, but also help a person get rid of what he calls the “wheat belly.” While what Dr. Davis suggests is based almost soley on success stories of his patients on the wheat-free diet over the last 25 years, there have been studies to suggest that the genetic modification of wheat has made it increasingly difficult for people to digest properly. Check out this video to hear what Dr. Davis has to say about his wheat-free diet in an interview with CBS This Morning.
In his book and on his blog, Dr. Davis makes many assertions about his diet, saying that it will dramatically decrease calorie intake and therefore help people lose weight. He also, surprisingly, discourages the intake of “gluten-free” products, saying that certain products could actually increase blood sugar more than products including wheat! For me, that was a bit of a shock. It seems that those tasty Udi bagels will no longer appear on my weekly grocery list. But in the end, while his position may seem extreme (no wheat…ever?!), there is something to be said for his focus on returning to real, whole foods. Foods like eggs, vegetables, meat and unprocessed dairy items.
It can still be difficult for me to wrap my head around whether going wheat-free is good or bad – it’s a relatively new idea and will take a few more years to gain credibility. But I can tell you from my own experience, being wheat-free for the last month has made me more conscious about what I’m putting in my body and that, in turn, has helped me make better food choices. Eating and buying whole, unprocessed foods definitely requires more thought to be put into the grocery list, but I think that’s a small price to pay for feeling better and healthier.
Have any of you had experience with a gluten-free or wheat-free diet? Do you think it’s a fad or a fact?