Gluten Free: Hype or Healthy?

HeidiSaladLR

Diet trends come and go, but one health-focused fad that continues to grow increasingly more popular amongst celebrities and average Americans alike, is going “gluten free.” Sticking to a gluten free diet claims to drastically improve general health as well as promote weight loss, but how well does it really work? Let’s dive in a little bit more to scout out real answers about this latest health and fitness craze.

So what the heck IS gluten??

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and any products containing any of these grains, some of which might surprise you! While eating gluten free foods is crucial for those who have Celiac Disease, gluten can also be bothersome for those who suffer from Gluten Intolerance or a wheat allergy. Common symptoms between the three are abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, etc – you get the point! If you’re experiencing any of these on a regular basis and you suspect you may have a gluten intolerance, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare team before starting a gluten-free diet.  A correct diagnosis requires medical testing while any gluten is still in your system.  Keep in mind, there are a lot of other conditions that cause these symptoms as well, so you gotta’ go see your doc to make darn sure!

It’s also important to know that other ingredients in gluten-containing products could possibly be the source of the symptoms you’re experiencing, so going gluten free might be unnecessary – and could be totally medically misleading. For nearly 6 years we thought Chris suffered from gluten intolerance, when all the while it was soy that was causing his issues! Go figure… 🙂

Now for the hot question of the day: Does going gluten free mean you’ll lose weight? Not necessarily. People who go gluten free might lose weight simply because they’re paying attention to what and how much they’re eating and cutting out all those not-so-healthy gluten-containing foods like cakes, cookies, refined flour breads, etc. Any lost pounds might not have anything to do with being gluten free! However, it’s just as easy to gain weight on a gluten free diet because gluten free doesn’t mean calorie free – and we are still bound by the basic laws of physics that dictate that we must consume fewer calories than we burn to lose weight!!

In fact, a good friend of ours and pioneer in body morphing, Drew Manning (@fit2fat2fit), intentionally gained nearly 30lbs following a gluten-free diet, and then lost it all – also following a gluten free diet.  Check out his journey, as well as his first jaw-dropping journey of weight gain and weight loss where he intentionally gained nearly 75 pounds to gain appreciation (and compassion) for those going through the weight loss journey.

When it comes to eating gluten-free foods, beware!!  Following the craze and demand, a lot of food manufacturers have been quick to jump on the gluten free bandwagon and often replace the gluten in their products with more fat, sugar, sodium, and/or calories, as well as highly refined fillers that can affect your blood sugar and increase cravings. Not good at all!

So what’s the solution? If you don’t have Celiac Disease, a confirmed Gluten Intolerance, or a wheat allergy, you will most likely be just fine eating whole grain and sprouted grain products with gluten in them (the less processed, the better!).  And as usual, you can NEVER go wrong with good ol real, whole, natural foods like vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts and seeds, reduced or fat free dairy, and healthy fats, like we do in Carb Cycling—that’s how the Powell Pack rolls! And if you do decide gluten free is right for you, carefully read those food labels to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your calorie and nutrition buck!

Xoxo,

Heidi

For more info on gluten, Gluten Intolerance, and Celiac Disease, check out these resources:


35 Comments

  1. Sherry - July 1, 2016

    So if you want to do extreme carb cycling what healthy options do you suggest for someone with celiac?

  2. Theresa - October 24, 2015

    I think I have always had Gluten intolerence. I have not been tested but I am an RN and read a lot about health and nutrition. So at age 52 and since age 51 ( menopause symptons) my irritable bowel has been so bad that I had to do something and I looked like I was 5 months pregnant the bloating really got bad over a 2 week period. I cut out all gluten , eating fruits ( nothing tropical , like pineapple or bananas ) vegetables and stuck with lean meats or fish.
    I have no more cravings , I have more energy and lost 8 lbs quickly and no more bloating or any signs of IBS..
    It has worked well for me.

  3. desi - February 24, 2015

    I appreciate this article. One symptom I’d like to mention is migraines. I’ve suffered from migraines since age 7. Tried every medication in the book. Every neurologist, injection, holostician, chiropractor, etc. But i had to become more aware of what I was using to fuel my tank. I gave up gluten once to no avail. Than i tried it 3 years later, more committed, and discovered i have an allergy to wheat. It’s nice to wake up without a headache for the first time in 15 years. I still get migraines, but I’m not living in a day to day migraine.

  4. Teresa - February 6, 2015

    Hi, been reading and I see that Chris has a soy intolerance. I am pretty sure I do and I feel better now that I am trying to keep soy out of my life.

    I want to do your Low Carb High Carb day. How do I figure the right amount of carbs for any given day low and high.

  5. carole - January 26, 2015

    Recommend reading GRAIN BRAIN by Dr. David Perlmutter. He’s a neurologist/neurosurgeon who wrote a book about the compelling scientific research/evidence linking gluten and dementia. He uses the phrase “diabesity” to describe the American epidemic of diabetes (type 2), obesity, and describes Alzheimer’s dementia as Type 3 diabetes. Fascinating, compelling information – bottom line message: consuming gluten, carbs and sugar links to a significantly higher risk for developing dementia. Check it out!
    http://www.drperlmutter.com/about/

  6. Amy - January 23, 2015

    Thank you Heidi for posting this! As someone who is Celiac and HAS to eat G-free, I think people are just plain crazy when they choose to attempt to follow this lifestyle without having to. Although I do buy some g-free breads and such, they are actually, more often than not, higher in calorie content due to the density (the light airiness of bread comes from the gluten), and as my husband (not g-free) will be ready to tell anyone, unless they are packed with sugar and “bad” stuff generally they taste pretty bad! Not to mention, most people do not understand that if you truly want to go g-free then you have to look so much deeper than simply if a product contains wheat flour. And you have to seriously analyze everything you not only eat, but use to cook with, put on your skin, and for some even their shampoo, etc.
    I am glad to hear a fitness professional have a good understanding of the “fad”! Thanks!

  7. Julia - January 21, 2015

    Hello! What are suggestions for creating meals geared towards carb cycling? My issue is that I’m awesome at putting together pieces to make sure I get a protein and/or carb/fat at my 5 meals a day…but how do I become better at making a meal out of it? For instance, for a general LOW CARB day I eat:

    Low carb: meal 1) eggs with whole grain english muffin and sauteed spinach with onions, meal 2) protein shake with a string cheese and raw bell peppers dipped in greek yogurt ‘ranch’ dip, meal 3) sliced fresh deli chicken (plain) with cherry tomatoes and a tbsp of natural peanut butter, meal 4) protein shake with veggies roasted in extra virgin olive oil, meal 5) spinach salad with a protein on top and other veggies dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

    I’m sure I can find carb cycling recipes, but what are your thoughts on things like if a recipe has cheese or olive oil and I’m on a high carb day with no fat? I have trouble putting things together when extra elements might be involved.

    Thank you in advance if you have an answer!

    • Team Powell - January 21, 2015

      Great question! It sounds like you’re on the right track! It can be a bit tricky at first, but it can be done. There are lots of great recipes in both of Chris and Heidi’s books (“Choose to Lose” and “Choose More, Lose More for Life”), and you could start there. In “Choose More, Lose More or Life,” each recipe has options to make it either a low or high carb dish, so that would definitely be helpful. For other recipes, if it has cheese and it’s a high carb day, then save it for a low carb day or for a reward day/meal (or leave out the cheese) and vice versa if a recipe has a carb in it. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be good to go! Happy carb cycling!

    • Dwight - January 26, 2015

      There’s a free app you can get with Chris and Heidi guiding you. They have a 90 day body transformation program that is all about carb cycling. Go to http://www.ichoosetogethealthy.com for more info. The app is totally free and you eat real food.

    • Team Powell - January 26, 2015

      Thank you for sharing this link! This app is sponsored by Vemma, and not Chris and Heidi – so happy you like it!

  8. Karleene - January 21, 2015

    I would recommend the book “It Starts With Food” by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig for people who have any symptoms that cant be explained. The “Whole 30” is a process of elimination of inflammatory foods and then adding these back in one by one to figure out what is causing your issues. I would say this has been life changing for me and I want to shout it out to everyone out there who wants to change their lives and relationships with food!!!! Never felt better in all my years 🙂

  9. Rebecca - January 21, 2015

    I’ve been gluten free out of necessity for 5 years and I would not wish a gluten free diet on anyone! I have Celiac Disease and Chron’s Disease and even a crumb of gluten can make me very sick. Having to follow a gluten free diet makes traveling and everyday life very challenging at times. A lot of people actually gain weight after going gluten free because gluten free products usually have more sodium, fat, and sugar to compensate for the lack of flavour. When people talk about the gluten free diet for weight loss, I cringe, and as a personal trainer, I do get asked. I always give the same recommendation as Heidi: if you need to be gluten free as per a doctor’s recommendation then absolutely, otherwise don’t put yourself through that! Instead focus on making healthy eating a lifestyle!

  10. susie - January 20, 2015

    The Registered Dietician says — “No Gluten No Dairy for autoimmune” and no soy. Most soy today is gmo and ge as well. Regarding the “no dairy” part of it — that’s literally a glass of cow’s milk she’s referring to – however when it comes to cottage cheese and cheese and Greek Yogurt the molecules are different and so if you don’t have sensitivities or issues with those, those are not included in the exclusion. These days many MANY people are finding reversal, remission and/or huge help for the autoimmune thyroid disease called Hashimoto’s Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and cutting gluten (and likely gliadin) is one of the steps involved with the success of many. While many people find this discussion controversial and say that it is a genetic disease and once you have it you have it for life; yet person after person are proving this kind of talk wrong by getting their disease in either remission, reversal — and some have been able to either reduce or altogether stop their thyroid medication — Clearly no one should do this without being under the care of a physician. Some great resources to help with this are the book “The Root Cause” by Isabella Wentz — she herself has found great success regarding Hashimoto’s and as well – the Facebook Group called Hashsimoto’s 411 has had numerous people finding success in either reducing, reversing, getting into remission and finding great health once again. So — I think the article above could use a bit more discussion regarding autoimmune diseases, the point of view of the Registered Dietician, and a helpful talk on gluten/gliadin from Green Medicine Radio might prove to add a little more helpful information.

  11. Stacey - January 20, 2015

    Hi Heidi,

    I want to be on the show extreme makeover weight loss edition.
    I need help losing more of my weight and I am having trouble.
    I have had the lap band surgery on 8/9/2009. I am down to about 290lbs.
    I need some hard like your husband Chris and I need someone kind like you. I do cheat on my lap band diet… I need help.
    I have ankle,knee, and back problems.
    Will you please help me get on the extreme makeover weight loss edition. I am telling I do cheat. I need someone everyday…
    If you can please help me do a video so I can be on the show, so Chris will consider me as a contestant.
    I am also worried about my friend Amanda she weighs close to 700lbs, and she needs a lot of help losing weight.
    Amanda has been over weight since I have known her.
    I would really like to see her on extreme makeover weight loss edition to lose her weight and feel good about herself…
    My phone number is (480)257-6603 and my friend Amanda’s phone number is (623)363-7085…
    When the new episode of extreme makeover weight loss edition starts can we be one of the first contestants on the show so much can have your help…
    Please call me at (480)257-6603.

    • Team Powell - January 21, 2015

      Hi Stacey: ABC initially handles all applications for EWL, and you can find all the application info here: http://www.extremeweightlosscasting.com. In the meantime, let’s get you some tools you can use to begin your transformation journey today! Check out Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program in their book, “Choose More, Lose More for Life.” The book contains their complete nutrition and exercise program, and it’s the same one they use on the show. It will teach you everything you need to know and do to achieve your own transformation! Learn all about it here: http://heidipowell.net/9060/how-to-begin-your-transformation-journey-step-by-step/. And please be sure and discuss this, or any nutrition and exercise program, with your healthcare team first. You both can do this!

  12. Erica D. - January 20, 2015

    Thank you so much for a factual post about gluten-free, and how it’s not always the answer! I am a celiac, for me, it was definitely the answer. But people need to listen to their bodies, and then consult a medical professional before undertaking any dietary massive overhaul! Also, thanks for including a link to the Celiac Disease Foundation!

  13. Lori - January 20, 2015

    My husband and I have been on a gluten free and dairy free diet for a year now. It was a choice we made after a sad medical diagnosis one of us received. We learned that gluten is one of those foods that can open up the gut and allow “food” into the blood stream. Now, with someone who is healthy it might not be that bad of a situation to have this happen, your body will eventually flush these items out of your bloodstream. However, there is a lot of research out there that states that if you have an auto-immune disease (Crohn’s, psoriasis, Multiple Sclorosis, etc) that having gluten in your blood stream can awaken and aggrevate the symptoms of your disease (the reason is very scientific, so do some research in the gut health, and blood brain barrier, and autoimmune diseases to find out more) Now, I’m not a doctor, but my husband and I have done so much research on this subject that we feel like a doctor. I believe there isn’t a one size fits all lifestyle out there, it’s the more knowledgeable you are the more educated decisions you can make. To be honest, I haven’t noticed much of a difference with going gluten free and dairy free except less allergies, weight loss (probably due to not too many food choices), less joint pain in my knees (may be do to weight loss). The one huge difference I have noticed is that I used to get irritable bowls almost every time I ate out. I still eat out, and my portions are about the same as before, and I don’t get sick anymore. When I do, it’s rare and I wonder if some gluten and/or dairy slipped in somehow. One thing I will say about the gluten free bandwagon is that it’s probably better to go more naturally gluten free than just replacing your favorite things with gluten free versions. It’s about balance and getting in the healthy stuff and less of processed junk. Even gluten free can be junk. Just know that no one is perfect and it’s always a work in progress. Just get educated, and just when you think you know everything, learn some more! 🙂 good luck to all of you wherever you are in your journey!

  14. Kendra - January 20, 2015

    Although I appreciate the information at the beginning about Celiac disease relying on a gluten free diet I must admit I always cringe when I see articles like this. My five year old daughter and husband have Celiac and when words like “just a fad” are included in an article about the diet they rely on to stay healthy and alive it is hurtful. I get the point of the article I guess but with any kind of diet that excludes a certain group, that’s never good. So I’m just confused as to why this gets so much negative attention. There are a lot of us who are actually thankful this has “caught on” in mainstream so that my daughter has a chance to feel normal at a friend’s birthday by the new products being offered. Any negative attention fuels the people who already think I’m just being an overbearing mom and have no idea what gluten does to her body. Believe me I would give anything for her to be able to eat what other kids can.

  15. Dawn Lowe - January 20, 2015

    My husband is a vegetarian by choice, and eats gluten free by necessity. He doesn’t have the intestinal symptoms of gluten intolerance, but instead deals with very bad joint pain. Our doctor, who recommended reading “The Wheat Belly” suggested he try going off gluten when his joints became really, really bad. After being off gluten for about two weeks, he ate a handful of crackers at a co-workers wedding. (Wasn’t much in the way of veggie options!) The response was instantaneous. His joints became swollen and red within ten minutes. If we had needed convincing, we no longer did.

    The book “Wheat Belly” does caution you that if you eat a lot of the substitute gluten free items like cookies, breads, etc you aren’t going to lose weight. My husband does eat some of those things, mainly bread which I bake myself, and a gluten free pasta I get from the store. As an occasional treat I’ll bake gluten free cookies, brownies or banana muffins.

    I don’t eat as much gluten as I used to, except for low carb pita’s or tortilla’s on my high carb days when I can have them. I don’t have an intolerance though, cause I’ve never noticed a difference when not eating gluten.

  16. Sandy Burton - January 20, 2015

    Thanks Heidi, I was afraid to read your post. I’m a Registered Dietitian and get so tired of people jumping on the latest and greatest bandwagon. Going gluten free isn’t for most and I’m so happy to see you mention following your MD, being tested for any intolerance.
    Keep up the good work and just curious, do you and your spouse consult with a registered dietitian regularly?

  17. Jamie - January 20, 2015

    My family of 7 has gone gluten-free. As well as cut out extra sugar, msg & artificial color. My 8 yo has leukemia and my 6 yo has oppositional defiant disorder (O.D.D.) and from what I am finding out all of these things are behavior triggers. I feel like the Cancer diagnosis has gotten out of control. And this helps me be hyper aware of what my family is putting in their body. And it also cuts out the fast food.

  18. Carrie - January 20, 2015

    I’m sorry but I just don’t understand carb cycling. Read Chris’ book but still don’t get what a high carb is and what is a low carb?

    • Team Powell - January 20, 2015

      There’s an awesome graphic (as well as some other great info) in this post that will outline how to put together every meal – both low and high carb. Check it out!

    • Ashlyn - January 20, 2015

      Im in the understanding that high carb days mean you can consume foods with carbs, and low carb days means you watch the amount of carbs you intake. Cutting out carbs all together is not healthy, but alternating the days you eat lots of carbs and the days you don’t eat many carbs is the best option.

  19. Leslie - January 20, 2015

    THANK YOU!!! Genuine, sincere, thanks!
    As the wife of a wheat farmer, I was hesitant to read this because I was worried that you would support a gluten-free diet for everyone. There are so many trends when it comes to diets, and (aside from allergies) it is usually best to stick to everything in moderation. It is hard to see the popularity of a perfectly healthy product to be tarnished by the general opinion without a lot of science behind it!
    Thank you again for a science-backed post!

  20. rachel reber - January 20, 2015

    I agree with everything you said however would live to share that i went gluten free to helo my weight loss journy. While i cant say that that one change was the magic to my sucesss gluten increases your food cravings i wanted less craving. It worked i didnt realize it until i hadn’t been eating wheat and one day snitched something and became aware really quickly that i wanted to eat everything in sight. So for food adicts like me it does help a great deal to eliminate wheat. Also if you eat processed or packaged foods read the labels some of them are loaded with calories. We eat 95% fresh or homemade. Makes a difference.

  21. Jodi - January 20, 2015

    This was good information, I have been gluten free for the past year for medical issues, needs to be looked at a way of life not a diet. It has taken a year to get my body back to a healthy state. People need to remember to eat healthy and stay away from processed foods and limit their eating out and decrease soda consumption. They to can lose weight.

  22. Lisa Malone - January 20, 2015

    This was an awesome diet…I was going to look into Gluten free, not for health reasons just to try something different….I just need to clean up my diet and exercise more…I see that now…thanks Heidi

  23. Gary Schaefer - January 20, 2015

    I inadvertently was gluten free as of the type of cycle diet I did. I realized I had less sinus issues, so I remained relatively gluten free. With further knowledge of nutrition, I thought gluten free items were just better carbs. What are your thoughts?

    • Team Powell - January 20, 2015

      Heidi and Chris recommend eating healthy carbs (whole grains, fruits, legumes, veggies) in the right amount, but to follow your healthcare team’s recommendations for you and your health.

  24. Melissa - January 20, 2015

    People really just need to calm down on the gluten-free thing. I don’t consume a lot of grains, and that’s my choice, because it’s what my body likes. When I eat a lot of grains I gain weight like Regina George in Mean Girls on Kaltene bars. But when people hear that I don’t eat a lot of grains, they automatically assume I’m gluten-free and start bringing gluten-free snacks to parties for me and stuff and I just want to *facepalm*. Whew. Okay I feel better.

  25. vannes - January 20, 2015

    I eat gluten free, because I am allergic to them. And it is no fun!!! I loved sandwiches with turkey, cucumber, tomatos, lettuce. Now I have to eat gluten free and it tastes awful! It is also very expensive… I really don’t get why people are eating like this, because they think it will help lose weight. You are so limited in your food choices..

  26. Alicia - January 20, 2015

    This is awesome. I just started gluten free becaise i am trying to narrow down some of the things i eat to determine if its dairy or my soy allergies. This was an awesome article!

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