Throughout history, Americans have fought for freedom, for territories, for religion, and for love. Nowadays, we seem to be fighting for healthier, longer, more fulfilling lives, bringing the revolution home to an internal level. One of the most recent fights on our hand is a confusing one, because it goes against much of what we’ve been taught our entire lives.
For decades, the food pyramid told us that we should get a hefty serving of whole grains every day. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, is emerging as a culprit for health issues. The removal of gluten from diets is gaining momentum as medical professionals are seeing incredibly positive results.
I can speak about this because my migraines have plagued me for five years. Now that I’ve gone gluten-free, they’re almost completely gone. Although that’s pretty compelling proof, don’t just take my word for it. Accordingly, I set out on a mission to find experts who could contribute information, opinions and research from different perspectives. Everyone from the doc to you, our readers, have weighed in on the subject. And the findings are pretty phenomenal.
What the nurse says:
Dani Williamson is a certified nurse midwife and family practice nurse practitioner at Cool Springs Family Medicine.
What are some of the benefits to removing gluten?
The vast majority of my patients respond so well that they refuse to put gluten back in their diet at all. Once they remove gluten, the bloating, fatigue, skin conditions, headaches, diarrhea, constipation, foggy headedness and hundreds of other symptoms begin to resolve.
Is there a difference in Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity?
It would be helpful to dispel the myth of the traditional medical community that you either have Celiac Sprue Disease, or you don’t have any trouble with gluten. It is simply wrong, and for too many people, it is dead wrong. Celiac is a genetic disorder that is very common as far as genetic disorders go, but remains ignored and undetected in many, in part because it is not easy to test for. Gluten sensitivity is much more common than Celiac.
Who are some good subjects that might benefit from removal of gluten?
Children with developmental disorders such as autism; adults or children with ADD or ADHD; adults with any chronic inflammatory condition such as Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain syndrome, thyroid inflammatory disease (Hashimoto’s); people that exercise yet still have trouble losing weight, and people with chronic infections.
What the nutritionist says:
Amber Robertson-Smith is a Certified Holistic Health Coach in Nashville. She teaches her clients to create positive life change, beginning with the food on their plates.
Why are we just now hearing more about gluten sensitivity?
As medical technology advances, we’re now better able to diagnose gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease than we were several years ago.
Are we using gluten more these days?
People are consuming much more wheat these days, often unknowingly. For example, gluten is commonly used as a thickener, and it’s added to so many processed foods like lunchmeat, candy, pudding and salad dressing.
Should everyone remove gluten?
I encourage my clients to experiment with food sensitivities by keeping a food journal. Recording what you eat and how you feel afterward will give you valuable insight into which foods adversely affect you.
Amber’s favorite resources:
glutenfreeregistry.com: Search for gluten-free restaurants by state
celiaccentral.com and celiacsolution.com: Great resources for beginners who want to learn more
purelyelizabeth.com: An excellent source for gluten-free baking mixes
easyeats.com: An online magazine devoted to gluten-free living
Visit Amber online at blissholistic.com.
What the restaurant owner says:
Meredith Jones is the owner and head chef of Butterbean Bakery and Bistro, the only dedicated gluten-free restaurant in Middle Tennessee.
How did you start your restaurant?
First and foremost, I love good food, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to follow a gluten-free diet if it wasn’t every bit as delicious as a diet full of wheat. The fact that it’s gluten-free is almost an afterthought; people always tell me that they don’t even think about what it’s “missing.” I love hearing that.
Some feel the gluten-free thing is a fad. What are your thoughts?
A gluten-free diet is not for everyone, but if you remove it from your diet and your symptoms resolve, no amount of naysaying from the critical crowd can take your experience away from you. And it’s absolutely worth a shot — before resorting to pharmaceuticals — to treat symptoms that could be treated with a lifestyle change instead.
What are some of your most popular menu items?
BBQ Shiitake Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Panini, Fajita-Nini, Mexican Guava Panini, Fire Roasted Poblano & Fresh Corn Chowder; Caramelized Fennel, Wild Mushroom & Yukon Gold Potato Soup; Kale, White Bean & Sweet Potato Soup, and cupcakes.
For those reading and feeling overwhelmed, or needing a simple starting point, what advice do you have?
Stick to the things that are naturally gluten-free at first. Fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs and cheese, and, if you eat it, fresh, unprocessed meat. Also, find a good flour blend, and don’t be afraid of experimentation.
Learn more about Meredith’s restaurant at butterbeanbistro.com.
What the mom says:
Elle Brassell, a Her Nashville reader, is a nutritional consultant specializing in gluten-free living, as well as a homeschool mom to five gluten-free kids.
How common is gluten sensitivity?
Research suggests that by the year 2019, over 60 percent of the population will be diagnosed with a definite gluten condition, including a rise in Celiac disease, which has doubled in the last 20 years.
So you don’t think gluten sensitivity is just a fad?
Gluten intolerance causes 200 health conditions, has 300 symptoms and is the direct cause of over 55 diseases. Many of my friends and clients — who are not Celiac — are removing gluten and finding it helps their arthritis, infertility, lupus, fibromyalgia, thyroid diseases and intestinal problems, to name a few.
Does this have the power to change the food industry?
I believe we are on the cusp of the very beginning of the gluten-free revolution. Our food industry has already caught on, making the gluten-free business the biggest in the industry!
Rumor has it that weight loss a possible side effect? If so, why?
Absolutely! Wheat causes an addictive appetite trigger in the brain. The vehicle we use to eat wheat is often carried with much sugar and fat, which causes various health issues such as diabetes, insulin resistance and candida problems.
It is not our fault, though, because we are taught that eating wheat is the way to lower our insulin and decrease fat because of the fiber. However, two pieces of whole-wheat bread have nearly twice the insulin load as a Snickers candy bar!
Many people lose about 10 to 15 pounds in the first month of being gluten-free without adding exercise.
Why is this important to you, on a personal level?
When I started this journey for my son 11 years ago, I had no idea that it would be a lifesaving gift for myself as well! I would have never believed that a food I was told was necessary for optimal health was actually the very reason I was feeling horrible! In fact, I didn’t even know how horrible I felt until I was gluten-free.
Elle’s suggestions on area restaurants — yes, even chains — that offer gluten-free options:
Mellow Mushroom • Margaritaville • Jason’s Deli • Wild Cow • Burger Up • Olive Garden • Maggiano’s Little Italy • Pei Wei • P.F Chang’s
The gluten revolution is upon us, and it looks like we can win if we open our minds — and our cupboards — and take a good, hard look. My quality of life has improved beyond comprehension. In addition to decreasing the frequency and intensity of migraines by 90 percent, I’ve experienced weight loss, increased energy, the reversal of arthritis in my knees, and the elimination of fatigue, stress and depression since I’ve removed gluten from my diet. I threw away the pill bottles and picked up the food labels. It honestly changed my life.
Photo by Sarah Bailey