There has been a lot of buzz about eating gluten free lately and whether or not you should try this “fad diet”. But is this “diet” really a fad? For many people, such as those with Celiac disease or a gluten allergy, gluten must be removed from the diet completely to establish health. Many other people, however, are noticing they too have improved health when gluten is removed from their diet. But why is that?
Modern-day lifestyles can be hard on our digestive tracts. Poor sleep, processed foods, alcohol, medications, infections, and an imbalanced gut flora can all cause damage and inflammation to the lining of the GI tract. Additionally, everyday stress can compromise our ability to properly digest food leading to further irritation. Chronic GI inflammation can lead to a breakdown of the tight junctions that are intended to keep foreign materials out of our bodies. This breakdown in the gut lining allows undigested food particles to enter into the bloodstream, producing a systemic inflammatory response. This can manifest in a number of symptoms within the gut such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation; as well as outside the gut including acne, allergies, asthma, headaches, joint pain, fatigue, brain fog, depression and more.
In order to reduce inflammation, the integrity of the gut lining needs to be restored. Much of this restoration can be done through elimination of common GI irritants in our diets. While symptoms will often improve within a few days/weeks after removing these irritants, an eliminating period of at least 30 days is necessary to allow healing in the gut. Probiotics and supplements such as Glutamine can be used to support and improve this healing process. After at least 30 days, foods can often be reintroduced, and if they gut is healed, symptoms should not reoccur.
With gluten being one of the most common food irritants to cause damage in the GI, its removal is a great place to start when working to lower overall inflammation. Other common irritants include dairy, sugar, egg and soy. Elimination diets or food sensitivity testing can be done to determine other, less common foods that your body may be reacting too. While it may not be necessary to remove these foods from your diet forever, it’s a good idea to give your gut a break and allow it to heal if symptoms associated with inflammation start to develop regularly, and like all thing, enjoy them in moderation. Contact your Naturopath or health care provider if you think you’re experiencing symptoms of inflammation!
Written by: Christine Schoenek, ND