It has only been a short amount of time since I owned the fine dining restaurant, ARAKA, and when anytime a guest would request or mention the term “Gluten Free” when ordering, it would elicit a visceral response from the kitchen. Fast-forward to today, and I have a greater understanding of the “Why” that my diners were requesting those items, but I remain curious as to the main reason people land on this decision, outside of celiac and gluten-sensitivity.

I have erred towards a Gluten Free diet over the last year, mostly because of body awareness, which has helped me to realize that my body doesn’t respond favorably when ingesting most items that contain wheat. I experience abdominal discomfort and bloating, that can sometimes last for up to an hour. If you are sensitive, or intolerant, then other effects would include:

  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Skin problems(Gluten is a trigger for eczema)
  • Anemia
  • Depression/anxiety

6% of the country is gluten sensitive(16-18 million people) and only 1% have celiac.

Although I have substituted GF alternates into my diet as of late, I went into this food journey knowledgeable about the significant drawbacks to doing so.

Going gluten free has become faddish over the years, with weight loss being one of the top benefits touted, although studies point to the contrary, that a GF diet may actually add to weight gain. When you abstain from gluten, your body can better absorb nutrients, which coupled with an improvement in abdominal symptoms, can lead to an increase in quantities of foods consumed. GF foods are also typically higher in fat and calories than their gluten-containing counterparts, while also being lower in fiber and whole grains.

Another consideration of abstaining is that gluten-free processed grain products (breads, cereals, and crackers) are often lower in fiber, iron, zinc, and potassium. This increases the risks for nutritional deficiencies, especially in B vitamins, iron, and trace minerals, which is why I now supplement with a GF Vitamin B Complex daily.

Our consumption of fiber is already low on a Standard American Diet(SAD), so eliminating whole wheat from the equation makes this challenge even greater. I source fiber from other GF grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, oats, or from fruits, vegetables, and beans.

Americans will spend more than $7 billion on GF products this year. Gluten-free bread and bakery products were on average 267% more expensive than gluten-containing breads, and gluten-free cereals were found to be 205% more expensive than gluten-containing cereals

My 9-year old son who has acute body awareness and sensitivity to foods, recently proclaimed he was going down the GF path, and has been impressively disciplined with his adherence. The genesis of his decision came from the recognition that he had a skin condition that would surface when he ate gluten, coupled with an experience of abdominal discomfort.

Both wheat(gluten) and dairy(casein) cause inflammation in the body, which can lead to constipation, which in turn exacerbate ADHD symptoms. These components also cause an opiate-like effect on the nervous system, which creates difficulties for children to navigate challenging situations, transition smoothly, sit still, or tend to everyday cognitive tasks. For those that are battling with dialing in and balancing prescription meds for ADHD children, eliminating gluten and dairy is a natural way to aid in the process outside of these drugs.

ALTERNATIVES: The amount of GF options that are currently available are plentiful

White Bread: Little Northern Bakehouse Millet and Chia Bread at Whole Foods(WF)

Italian Bread: Trader Joes

Wraps: Kontos GF 9” wraps available at Dierbergs

Panko: Aleia’s Panko or Italian bread crumbs/Ian’s panko crumbs – Dierbergs

Pasta: My oldest hasn’t missed a beat with any of the GF pasta alternatives available. I like Rice Ramen which is also available at all grocery stores.

GF Granola – Paleonola – all flavors are great.

SUPPLEMENT: And if you are gluten-sensitive, and you know you are going to consume something with gluten in it, take Gluten Guardian prior to eating to prevent the uncomfortable side effects: