Going gluten-free can transform lives — I've seen it in my practice. After years of suffering from fatigue, digestive complaints and immune troubles, reaching a diagnosis of celiac disease or gluten intolerance is the starting point for a healthier, happier life. Removing gluten from the diet begins the process of allowing the gut to heal, calming inflammation and restoring energy.
Of course, being truly healthy is not just about what you remove from your diet, but also about what you put in. So give yourself time to adjust to the new, gluten-free you. Once you're there, it's time to go beyond just gluten-free to gluten-free and healthy. Check in with these common pitfalls on the gluten-free path and how you can remedy them.
1. You only eat "gluten-free" foods.
The gluten-free marketplace has exploded in the last five years, making it much easier for those on a gluten-free diet to enjoy a normal eating pattern. The trouble is, many of these gluten-free foods are actually filled with refined flours and sugars … and not a lot of nutrition. Take a close look at how much of your diet is made up of gluten-free convenience foods. If your cupboards are filled with them, it might be time for a change.
2. You're afraid of bulking up.
When going gluten-free, it can be challenging to find fiber unless you know where to look. The health benefits of fiber go way beyond regularity and luckily, all you need is a concerted effort to get more plants on your plate. Beans, nuts, seeds and gluten free pseudograins like buckwheat offer fiber to help tone the digestive tract, stabilize blood sugars and feed the beneficial bacteria living in your colon. Start slowly and allow your fiber intake to increase over time as your digestive system adjusts. The rewards will be plentiful: increased energy, cleansing elimination and less risk of chronic disease over the years.
3. You're not a fan of veggies.
Vegetables are the foundation of a stellar diet. They allow you to eat heartily without taking in more energy than you need. Vegetables are packed with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory phytochemicals that defend your body against the aggressors of modern life such as stress and pollution. Make veggies the star of every meal, not just a garnish. Double up on vegetable portions in recipes, consider a daily salad and have fun swapping in veg for less healthy options. Eat sliced kohlrabi instead of crackers, wrap sandwich fillings in collard leaves and blend up veggies in your morning smoothie.
4. You have a massive sweet tooth.
When making dietary change, we might cling to indulgence as a way of softening the blow. Yet a diet filled with added sugars can spike inflammation, alter gut flora and create ongoing digestive troubles that you might mistakenly link back to gluten. Eat whole fruit as your healthiest sweet treat. When a more intense craving strikes, indulge a sweet tooth healthfully with raw date truffles, banana "ice cream" or frozen grapes. Try to limit sweets to the end of a meal to ward off blood sugar spikes.
5. Going gluten-free is leading you down a more restrictive path.
As someone who understands the negative impact of food sensitivities, I'm also very aware of how unnecessary restrictions can have the same effect. Each food you remove from your diet has to be carefully replaced by another nutritionally exchangeable food or you risk deficiencies that will move you further away from optimal health.
You might not realize that self-diagnosing additional sensitivities can be a self-fulfilling prophecy! When we remove a food from our diet for an extended period of time, our bodies can actually lose tolerance — so further retrials will "confirm" your suspicions. If going gluten-free hasn't resulted in improved health, check in with your doctor so they can guide you down the path that is right for you.
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