I love living in Los Angeles, a mecca of healthy fitness and nutrition innovation and practice, but yeah, lotta uniformed people jumping on fad diets here. Despite only 1% of the American population having Celiac disease, or allergy to gluten, marketers have quickly made gluten free the go to diet for all to lose weight. We applaud writers at Jimmy Kimmel Live for delivering a giggle at the expense of a few well-intentioned but ignorant Angelenos while pointing out that you probably should evaluate a diet on a functional level before adhering to it.
a substance present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. A mixture of two proteins, it causes illness in people with celiac disease.
When a Celiac consumes gluten their immune system responds by attacking the small intestine and inhibiting the absorption of importantnutrients into the body.
While celiac disease itself actually affects only 1 in 133 people and about 1% of Americans, large scale commercialization of grain products particularly in the US, has resulted in exponentially larger frequency of people developing gluten intolerance and/or symptoms mimicking those of celiac disease, most commonly those of the uber-sexy digestive nature (abdominal bloating, pain, gas, diarrhea or constipation). The average Celiac suffers for four years before officially being diagnosed; dangerous, as untreated, celiac disease can lead to other autoimmune disorders, osteoporosis, infertility, neurological conditions and in rare cases, cancer. So if these symptoms regularly afflict you following bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, cake, cookies, etc, it’s a good idea to get checked. However, as we know, the more processed any food is, the more byproducts it typically contains. Clearly, it’s a substantial process to make any of the items listed above at home, and the number of processes magnifies when produced on a commercial scale. Many will find they are not diagnosed as Celiac and thus, reacting to the gluten, but the byproducts, fillers and preservatives in these products, and/or just consuming far too much of these. If you’re consuming processed foods containing lab-created additives that your body, which thrives on natural foods, cannot identify, your body will react to these foreign contaminants like a Celiac consuming gluten. Over time, if we ignore the digestive signs long enough, such daily poisoning can affect us on a cellular level manifesting in hormonal issues, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and a number of other seemingly unrelated diseases.
Clearly, our genetics have a huge affect on whether or not we develop a plethora of issues, but we can’t just blame the cards we’re dealt. Over a lifetime responsible choices at meals also has a tremendous impact on our susceptibility to diseases, simple flus and those kill. My father has Parkinson’s, Mom’s got RA, grandma had Alzheimer’s, got cancer on both sides of the family… I could consider myself genetically fucked and gorge myself with economy sized boxes of (UN) Lucky Charms, Oreos and nuclear-resistant Twinkie’s, but knowledge is empowering. My family members with these issues haven’t made a shred of an effort to consume an organic diet and eat (ate) copious amounts of processed foods. A reformed Carbosaurus, my parents caved to picky eating, indulging me with requested Spaghettios, Hamburger Helper, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Bagel Bites, Totinos Pizza Rolls…ew, my stomach is churning, but this is fact. Nobody cooked much in our household, likely because it was easier to just give us brats what we wanted. Seeing so many friends pack on the Freshman 15 dining at the communal all-you-can-eat college dining hall and grab n go convenience foods, pure vanity prompted me to workout like a fiend, read every nutrition book I could find and teach myself to cook healthier meals. While I wouldn’t wish any disease on anyone, it frustrates me to see even my own family members, refuse to make the connection between their diet and their respective affliction. Despite Byron and I buying fresh organic produce, fish and meats and creating and teaching delicious, satisfying and surprisingly simple meals for them whenever we’re together on our coast or my family’s, my family always reverts back to choosing the easiest cheapest path to fill their bellies. Unfortunately, you can’t help someone who doesn’t truly want to help herself, but I’ll keep trying! I can’t change my genes or undo the utterly craptacular diet I ingested in my youth, but as an adult I embrace nutrition as an opportunity to make yourself feel and look better not only today, but for a long healthy future.
Plus, as the bright girl says in Kimmel’s video, “gluten makes you fat.” Not 100% true, but not exactly false either. Look at the list of foods again. Gluten free or not, none of them are good food choices to eat in large amounts. What’s the first thing most any legitimate diet for weight loss will tell you to do? Eliminate calories from least nutritive sources. Processed carbohydrates like these contain little to no food value and when unused for fuel, those nutrient-devoid calories are converted to fat and stored. So, while I am diagnosed as a mild Celiac, and follow and promote a gluten free lifestyle, you can quote me on this, just as not everything in Whole Foods is organic or healthy, you can also trash theory that everything marked gluten free is healthy, and/or healthier for you than the same product not containing gluten. Many huge manufacturers have jumped on the gluten free products add more sugar, fat or artificial fillers to make up for volume and/or to replicate the chewy texture that gluten provides, but I applaud the few who have maintained a simpler ingredient list for the educated health-minded consumer. Assuming you are not a Celiac, if you want to lose weight avoiding gluten will only help you lose weight if you are also eliminating non-nutritive processed foods. For some people “going gluten free” means they stopped eating crap and started making effort to consume more organic unprocessed foods, so yeah, that’ll work!