It’s hard to walk through a grocery store of any kind these days without being bombarded by gluten-free foods. But, unless you have been prescribed a diet by your doctor or nutritionist, you may not understand why going grain free or gluten free is better for your health.
We talked to Dr. Laura Crane, Chiropractic Director of the Chiro One Wellness Center of Huntley, who shared great advice about making the switch.
BW: What is "grain free or gluten free" diet?
Dr. Laura: Grain-free and gluten-free are slightly different. A grain-free diet is similar to the Paleo diet where you eat primarily fruits, vegetables and lean meats including poultry, fish and lean beef. Gluten free is focused more on avoiding gluten, but allows for some other grains such as quinoa, rice and buckwheat.
BW: Why should people consider going grain- or gluten-free?
Dr. Laura: Often people choose to eliminate grains and gluten because of allergies or what is referred to as intolerance. That means the body doesn’t actually have an allergic reaction, but it cannot process grains or gluten properly.
More and more, people are realizing that humans are genetically not meant to process grains or gluten. So when we eat it, our body has a response and can start attacking the tissues in the gut. This can result in a condition called ‘leaky gut’, which has been recognized as an issue in places like the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center. Leaky gut can cause all sorts of issues like bloating, joint pain and even autoimmune issues. While the connections aren’t yet understood, leaky gut is also linked to more serious conditions such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or asthma.
BW: Is there a process for going off grains and/or gluten? It seems as though it might take some time.
Dr. Laura: If you have a health condition that requires you not to have gluten, you can move into a restrictive diet right away. But for most people, it can take six months to a year to transition to grain-free or gluten-free, where you know how to cook, understand what has gluten and feel comfortable with the change in diet. In the beginning, I recommend substituting foods to help make the transition. For example, if you are still eating grains or gluten in moderation, have something healthy before the grains that will fill you up.
BW: What other tips can you share?
Dr. Laura: Eliminating simple carbohydrates from your diet will probably cause an emotional response because our bodies are so dependent on them. Expect to go through withdrawal symptoms, like cravings and mental fogginess, until your body gets comfortable breaking down more complex carbs. Also, if you travel or have a busy schedule, living grain-free or gluten-free requires some amount of preparation and planning.
If you’re interested in learning more about grain-free or gluten-free living, check out the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo on April 20-21 in Chicago.