May is celiac disease awareness month, so it seems fitting to discuss what I think are the top five facts about the gluten-free diet that are misunderstood by the general public. The gluten-free diet seems to be the ‘diet du jour’ and one that is taking a lot of criticism due to misinformation from celebrities and the media.
I was diagnosed with celiac disease more than 16 years ago. Back then, it was relatively unheard of in the U.S., but now more and more people are getting diagnosed and following a gluten-free diet that is giving them back control over their lives and their health. Some of the newly diagnosed are subjected to so much misinformation that it is troubling.
During this month of celiac disease awareness, please take these facts to heart and spread facts, not myths about the gluten-free diet.
- The gluten-free diet is not a fad diet – the gluten-free diet is a medically necessary diet for those who are diagnosed with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or have a wheat intolerance. Those of us who have been diagnosed with celiac disease/non-celiac gluten sensitivity will need to eat only gluten free foods for the rest of our lives to maintain our health.
- Everybody should not try the gluten-free diet – unless you have an intolerance/sensitivity, or an allergy to wheat/gluten, there is no need for you to ‘try’ a gluten-free diet. Eating gluten-free isn’t like eating low carb, or sugar free. Most of us who eat gluten-free free do so for medical reasons and because it is the only ‘cure’ for celiac disease/non-celiac gluten sensitivity. There are some other autoimmune diseases that benefit from a gluten-free diet like Crohns, and some children who are Autistic benefit from a gluten-free diet. This means gluten-free products will be consumed by people who need to eat this way for their lifetimes, so for us it isn’t a trend, but a way of life.
- Going on the gluten-free diet will not help you lose weight – in fact; I gained about 15 pounds once I was diagnosed with celiac disease and started following a gluten-free diet. Everyone who follows the gluten-free diet for medical reasons has a different reaction. Some of us were very thin when we were diagnosed, so we tended to gain weight, others remain thin and have issues gaining, and still others who were overweight may lose weight.
- Following a gluten-free diet will not boost energy levels– there is no need to follow a gluten-free diet to feel more energized. Eating healthier and cutting out processed foods, overly processed grains, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, and dyes is the key. Change your daily intake to include lean meats, leafy greens, vegetables, beans, whole grains, fruit, etc., and watch your energy level soar.
- The gluten-free diet is not dangerous – the replacement gluten-free products do tend to have a higher amount of carbohydrates/sugar, but no more so than eating wheat-based sweets or fast food. It may be necessary to supplement with vitamins if the foods you are eating are lacking in fiber/protein, but no harm is being done to your body by eating foods that are free of: wheat, rye, barley, and contaminated oats.
I am not suffering, rather I am striving and living a full and complete life since my celiac disease diagnosis and my transition to the gluten-free diet.
Happy celiac disease awareness month. What are you doing to promote awareness?