At this point, it is likely that either you or one of your friends has tried a “gluten-free” diet. While I’ve seen first hand that reducing or eliminating glutinous foods in the diet can be a real game-changer for patients, it’s often enough that many come in having tried it with no noticeable difference.
That is, they were still tired, still having digestive upset, and still finding it difficult to lose weight.
The obvious response is: well, you’re likely not sensitive to gluten. But why do they still feel so epically awful? Surely, there is a big difference between sensitivity and allergy, and whether one would notice immediate changes when taking gluten out of your diet.
Clinically, I’ve figured out that these are some of the first things I should consider when someone says that they tried gluten-free and observed no changes.
5 Reasons Why Gluten-Free Isn’t Working For You
1. Didn’t Follow Elimination Long Enough Or Completely Enough
Again, this is where we really have to distinguish between sensitivity and allergy.1 If we are honest about it, lab work (particularly food allergy tests) aren’t consistently reliable. However, even certain lab tests searching for specific conditions like Celiac disease depend very heavily on exposure.
In addition, when a person is exposed to an assaulting agent over a long period of time, that means a lot of damage is done.
Not only does it take a while for your body to rebuild its tissues, but it’s not stupid, either; it’s not going to just trust every other food that looks similar to a glutinous grain. In fact, when someone has Celiac Disease, damage repair can persist for years after gluten has been eliminated.2
Now, completely eliminating gluten is not an easy feat, particularly if you are still eating any packaged foods. It’s everywhere, and we can even find it in shampoos and other body care products.3
If someone has a cumulative sensitivity to gluten, getting so strict may not be necessary, but for those that potentially have Celiac Disease, even the smallest of contamination can cause significant gut damage.
Bottom line, not seeing changes in a 3-week period after gluten is eliminated (even in its entirety) is not uncommon. If it’s been 2-3 months and you’ve seen absolutely no difference, then the reason might not be easily plausible.
2. Increased Intake Of Other Things
Humans are funny creatures. You tell them they should avoid something with gluten in it and suddenly all they can think about is what refined carbohydrate snacks they can eat. Even if they didn’t eat much of that in the first place! Feast or Famine.
Sometimes what I see is that when people go gluten free they end up eating way more packaged food than they ever have, which can make you feel even worse than before! Which leads me to the next point.
3. Gluten-Free Packaged Foods Are Crap
Seriously, some of the most processed, additive filled, novelty-food items I have ever seen are of the gluten-free variety. This is part of the reason why when I ask a person to eliminate gluten, I ask that they focus more on eating whole foods as opposed to gluten-free.
Typically, when you are eating whole fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy oils, and unrefined grains, you are avoiding a large majority of glutenous foods.
To be honest, I think it helps people psychologically to spend more time focusing on what they can eat rather than what they can’t. Packaged food is packaged food, no matter what the grain or sweetener source is. Be it organic, free trade or sweetened with stevia.
If it’s got tons of packaging and you didn’t find it in the perimeter of your grocery store, it should not be a main part of your diet.
4. Reaching Out For Corn And Sugar
In my years of clinical practice, I’ve come to the conclusion that corn and corn-derived ingredients are a much bigger threat to the digestive tract than gluten. Unfortunately, when we go gluten-free, we usually gravitate toward tortillas and corn cereals to get our grain fix.
From what I can tell, even GMO-free and organic corn can be really irritating to people and should be avoided.
Also, refined sugar is one of the most inflammatory things people can eat. If you are reducing gluten but not getting sugar out of the picture, it will take you much longer to see results.
5. Have Underlying Issues That Dietary Modification Can’t Fix
Our food and diet greatly influence our energy, mood, weight, etc, but food changes may not be all that needs to happen for your body to rebound from these symptoms. This is when you have to consider getting professional support to figure out what’s really going on.
I know; Dr. Google is accessible 24/7, but Dr. Google will also tell you that your symptoms are due to either gluten sensitivity….or cancer.
It’s a harsh reality for us humans that in attempting to do the right thing by our bodies that we are potentially doing ourselves even more harm. Really, we can only change our behavior according to what we know to be true about food, and in the world of the internet it is hard to know what’s accurate for you as an individual.
So if you try gluten-free, remember to pay really close attention to how you feel, and if you aren’t noticing any changes, consider some of these options, and build relationships with people that can provide you individualized advice.