Why Your Symptoms Aren't Changing, Despite Going Gluten-Free

Holistic Nutritionist By Mandy King, CNP
Holistic Nutritionist
Holistic Nutritionist and the founder of HEAL.

More and more people are adopting a gluten-free diet to try and improve their health. Some do it because they are fully diagnosed with celiac disease, others have a gluten intolerance, and still others make the personal choice. Before making the switch, they complain of fatigue, digestive issues, moodiness, and skin problems, to name a few. While some people’s symptoms improve drastically on a gluten-free diet, others do not. 

So what gives? Why are your symptoms not improving? The answer may lie in your gut health.

Your gut is inflamed. 

For those who have an issue with gluten, the gut is typically very inflamed. So, you go gluten-free and stock up on all the gluten-free packaged foods in your local grocery stores. Though gluten-free, many of these foods are still very inflammatory as they contain high amounts of sugar, refined grains, bad fats, and dairy. So, even though you may have cut out gluten, the gut has a hard time healing when it continues to have to deal with these inflammatory foods.

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You have leaky gut and don't know it. 

There's a reason the gluten intolerance or celiac disease was triggered in the first place, and intestinal impermeability, often referred to as "leaky gut", may be the culprit. Leaky gut it is not yet a widely recognized medical condition, and more research is needed to explain what it really is, and how to heal it. But many functional medicine doctors and holistic nutritionists (like myself) consider it a legitimate diagnosis.

Leaky gut is thought to occur for a variety of reasons, including poor diet, antibiotics, and gut bacteria imbalances. When this is the case, the body is more prone to other food intolerances and allergies. Chances are, if you have a problem with gluten, there are other foods, such as dairy, that may temporarily bother you as well and continue to damage the gut.

Your food has been cross-contaminated. 

More and more restaurants are offering ‘gluten-free’ options on their menus. Often though, this doesn’t guarantee that the food hasn’t come in contact with gluten while it’s being prepared.  For those that are very sensitive, any sort of cross contamination will continue to damage the intestinal lining.

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You're not advocating for your gut

Here's what you can do to help:

1. Get your probiotics. 

Probiotics help deal with inflammation and balance out the good and bad gut bacteria. The good bacteria found in probiotics will allow your body to rebuild its intestinal lining and heal the leaky gut. Look for a high quality supplement.

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2. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. 

Following an anti-inflammatory diet will also help the body’s gut to repair itself. This includes a diet primarily based on vegetables and fruit, lean protein like salmon, and good fats such as flax seeds. Many herbs are beneficial for inflammation, including turmeric. Avoiding dairy can also help, along with foods that are processed or high in sugar.

3. Speak up.

Don’t be afraid to properly question your server at the restaurant you’re eating at, to make sure the gluten-free menu items won’t have come in contact with any gluten in the kitchen. The more you educate your server on what a true gluten-free diet means, the more you will be helping other people who are struggling with this.

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Bottom line

If you've cut out gluten, but you're still not seeing any healing relief, talk to your doctor about another possible treatment option for your symptoms.

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